“Peace I leave with you,
my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives
do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled;
be not afraid.
~ John 14:27
What is peace? Jesus promises to leave us with it–not just any peace, but His peace. It’s something we all know we need. Something we crave. Something we spend money searching for and trying to grab hold of. Something we tout.
But do we really understand it? Like, really understand it?
What is peace? Is it the absence of strife? Of conflict? Of war? It is “the state of tranquility or quiet” like the dictionary says? Or “a state of security within a community”? Is it just “freedom from disquieting thoughts” or “harmony in personal relations”?
Maybe peace is, in a way, all of those things. But that is peace as the world knows it–as the world gives it.
The peace of Christ is something different. It’s something more…but also something more fundamental. Whole books can be and have been written on the subject, and it’s one I’ve really wanted to lean into from the biblical perspective. I’ve read about it. I’ve talked about it. I’ve studied it. Not enough, but enough to get started thinking it through in words here (no doubt I’ll have more on the subject later!).
A few weeks ago, my husband was speaking with a board of directors. He’d been nominated to be the new president of this board for a non-profit, and one of the others asked him, “Do you feel peace about this?”
Now, my husband is a man of deep and thoughtful faith, but he’s also a man who has taken great pains to separate his faith from mere feeling or emotion. So this phrase–do you feel peace–has long grated on him. He will say that never once in his life did he “feel peace” about a decision before it was made–though he frequently feels it after it is made. To some, this seems like a lack of faith.
But it isn’t. It is, in fact, a very true and primal kind of faith: the kind that says, “I will trust you, Lord. I will trust who you made me to be. I will trust that when I’m chasing after You, even if I make a mistake, you will redeem it. I trust that even if my fallibility, I can’t possibly undo your will…even if I’m not 100% sure what that is.”
Because how often are we really 100% sure? More, how often are we supposed to be? A couple years ago a friend sent me a book called Searching for and Maintaining Peace. She sent it “just because,” but it arrived while we were in the hospital with my son, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It took me a while to get around to reading it, but it became one of those books where I had to underline and highlight insights all over the place.
One of the things the author pointed out which really resonated with me was that true faith, true peace isn’t about always hearing God perfectly. It’s about knowing that, even when we don’t, He is still there at work. That part of this journey of faith is training ourselves in His ways enough that, even when He’s silent, we can still act. We can still choose good things. Just like as kids grow up they have to learn to make decisions without parental input, so do Christians have to learn to live, making day-to-day decisions whether they’re absolutely certain about the “rightness” or not. God is there, He’s watching, He’s comforting…but He’s also saying, “Go ahead, beloved. Step out. I’m right here if you falter.”
That is true peace. Not a lack of conflict. Not security from your community. Not harmony with others. True peace, the peace given by Christ, is trust. True peace, the kind our Lord and Savior gives us, is knowing that we cannot possibly outpace His love. We cannot fall so far that He isn’t there to catch us. We cannot undo His will. True peace is knowing that even when circumstances are terrible and our world is crumbling around us, nothing can take away the most precious thing in the world: our salvation. True peace is knowing that the only identity we really need is Child of God.
When we can really claim that, when our prayers and contemplation are not about what we need or want or hope to do, but in who we are in Christ, then we’ll also be able to claim exactly what Jesus instructs. Our hearts will not be troubled. We will not be afraid.
Are you troubled? Afraid? We’ve all been there, or are there right now, or will be in the future. But the more we focus on the truth that we’re not defined by our jobs or our place of residence, by our marriages or our children or our families, by what we’ve accomplished or where we’ve failed, the more we’ll find that fearless peace.
Because we are God’s. And He is our master. And Christ has left us with something the world does not give and the world cannot take away. He has given us a gift of peace that stills our hearts and girds our minds with courage.
Be not afraid. Be not troubled. You belong to the Lord.