Jesus does not mince words. He is truthful, but not harsh. He is loving, but not sentimental. Clear-eyed, he tells his disciples that tough things are coming for them after he leaves them. They will even face death at the hands of those “who think they are offering a service to God.”
Maintaining a peaceful heart in the face of tribulation seems to be a bit much to expect of this fledgling group of disciples 2,000 years ago. Having a peaceful heart in today’s world seems improbable as well: we are inundated daily with distressing news from around the globe. The pace of life is rapid and change seems constant. The economy has created anxiety for people losing jobs, homes, good credit ratings. Many have had to take jobs far from familiar ground and family. Millions of Americans--nearly one in five adults--now take some form of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug. For some, coping with anxiety or stress is a daily, life-threatening battle.* How do we obtain the peace Jesus promises we can have?
He promises to provide the peace himself.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
The peace of God is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is a fruit of the spirit that witnesses to the world about the truth of Jesus Christ and the Gospel message.
In our family, two years of my being under-employed has created some stress and some difficult decisions of late. I am sure I have not exuded the peace of Christ to others as well as I should--I know for sure that experiencing daily low-level anxiety is not a comfortable state of being. But the Holy Spirit reminds me of Jesus’ words to his disciples, and reminds me that as His child, His promises apply to me as well.
“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
If you are struggling to produce peace, know that it can’t be “worked up.” It is a gift that comes to those who place their trust in the One person who can never fail you. He tells you the truth about yourself, the world, and may even reveal that tougher times are coming. But our God is generous with His grace and His love. Ask Him for the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”
Here is the process the Apostle Paul laid out for the believers in Philippi: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-8).
At every turn, turn to God. Pray. In the prayer, give thanks. Ask. Trust. He will never leave you, nor forsake you.
*If you are struggling with daily anxiety, or are currently taking anti-anxiety drugs, this article is not a suggestion to avoid seeking professional help or to cease use of medications. Under proper care, with the guidance of your doctor and along with counseling, medications can be helpful and may be necessary for anxiety disorders.