This is a guest post by Susannah Cafardi, NCC Barracks Row Saturday Small Group Director.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
-Jesus (John 14:27)
When we started this week on peace, I found myself wondering what my interactions would look like if I really embraced His peace. Like all the time.
If I’m being honest, I’d say that fear is much more of a natural response for me. I like to think that if I intellectually prepare for what might happen I won’t get caught off guard, but how many times have I missed a moment of loving or praying for someone or just genuinely listening because I’m contingency planning about a “What if…”?
When I take a step back, I am fairly certain that my time is far better spent pursuing Him as compared to relying on my own strength (because that’s really what my “intellectual preparation” is – a fancy way of saying that I like to rely on myself). Yeek.
In those moments of stillness that I’ve taken over the last few days (and, I’ll admit, there haven’t been as many as there should have been), I’ve learned two things of note.
First – when I spend time pursuing Him and digging in, the likelihood of my embracing His peace amidst the curveballs of my day increases immensely. I’m pretty sure that’s not a coincidence.
Secondly – if I find myself slipping into fear and worry, that’s not the time to consider my day a failure and throw in the towel, but instead to go back to prayer and Scripture and worship and actively pursue Him and the peace that only He gives.
There are two ways that we can be at peace.
The first happens when everything externally is okay. Our lives are undisturbed. Nothing bothersome is going on. Nothing is uncertain. No one we love is sick. Us and ours are safe, secure, and happy.
This is the type of peace that the American dream pursues. If we work hard enough we can buy security and stability.
The problem with this kind of peace is that it never lasts. People die, jobs are lost, friends betray, spouses cheat, economies crash, and disasters happen. No matter how hard we work or how much money we have, we’re ultimately not in control.
The second way to be at peace is to recognize that in spite of these things, everything will be okay. I don’t mean this in a patronizing way. You know, when things are really bad and we tell people, “It will be okay.”
The fact is that in the near term, it might not be okay. It’s not okay when your parents disown you. It’s not okay when you lose your house. It’s not okay when your best friend succumbs to cancer. None of that is okay.
But that’s the short view. And while the things that happen in the short view matter, taking the long view is critical.
In the long view, we recognize that God is on the throne, that He is telling His story and working out His purposes in the world. We recognize that even if it’s all going to hell in a handbasket now, God is still at work, that He has called us and redeemed us, and that in the end we will reside with Him in a world that knows no sorrow, suffering, or pain. That in the end, it truly will be okay.
The Apostle Paul—the one who was imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked—puts it like this, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
I think there are some lessons that God has been trying to teach me over the past few months, namely, to trust Him and stop trying to control everything and consequently to have peace and joy in the midst of stressful circumstances.
Unfortunately, these were lessons that I did not learn. Buying our house was certainly a stressful ordeal. Things weren’t as smooth as I would have liked. Near the end of the process I realized that God was probably trying to teach me not to worry, to trust Him, and yet even after I realized this, I still worried, I still got stressed, and I failed to trust.
Sometimes I’m so dense.