Peace in a Scary World
The world we live in is scary. It seems that everywhere we turn we see senseless violence, national conflicts, natural disasters, and racial tensions. The world seems to be going mad. Hateful rhetoric feels the air waves, and everyone seems to be upset about something or someone. It is hard to feel safe because of the random acts of violence that are reported all around the world every day.
It is no wonder that anxiety and fear have become the norm for most people as we all try to cope with what is going on all around us. We want to feel safe and secure, yet we cannot escape the sense of danger everywhere. Young people, especially, are facing a world much different than what their parents faced. They are living in a world where terrorism is spreading like a plague while prospects for peace and prosperity appear to be diminishing.
Over 2,000 years ago Jesus made this promise to his disciples that I think still applies to us today, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT). It amazes me how relevant that promise is for us today. He anticipated that his disciples back then and his disciples 2,000 years later would all need a peace that is not found in the crazy scary world we would have to live in. What Jesus promises, though, seems impossible. How do you get to a place where you can live with conflict all around you and not be gripped by anxiety, fear, and depression? How do you reconcile the evil that is so prevalent everywhere with the goodness of God that the Bible talks about? How do you explain the victimization of the innocents with the justice of a loving God? How can you feel secure with random violence going on all around you?
Peace will not come from the answers to your questions. We think it will. We think that if we can figure out why things happen, we will find peace. Yet Jesus didn’t say that you will have all the answers to what is going on around you and that will bring you peace. He said, “I am going to give you peace”. It is a gift that does not come from this broken and crazy world, it comes from him. Yes, we can search for meaning and for insights to help us cope, but they will not ultimately bring us peace of mind. Jesus offers us a other-worldly peace, it is spiritual and not natural, it is rational but doesn’t make sense the unspiritual mind. That is both the beauty and struggle of it. The beauty is that his peace is real, and it will affect you emotionally, spiritually, and physically, no matter the circumstances. The struggle comes for the fact that you can find it only in him, and we don’t seem to know how to do that.
In another session, Jesus talked to his disciples at length about all the hardships and trials that would take place in the world after he left the planet. He then wraps up his comments with this statement, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) Notice that he again says, “you may have peace in me”. Though he is warning them that they will experience conflict, pain, and suffering he is also offering them his unique peace that will sustain them through it all. The peace that he offers, though, is found only in him. Not in anything else. Not the wisdom and philosophies of man, and not the theologies of the greatest teachers. It is his peace of mind and heart and only he can give it to you.
How do we find the peace that Jesus offers? That becomes the obvious question. Jesus’ promise is still there for us today and I don’t think Jesus would have offered us something that we couldn’t have. So, let’s look at three steps the Bible gives us to find the peace of mind and heart that Jesus promises us.
Put your trust in God
Jesus himself gives us the first step toward peace of mind and heart with this instruction, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1 NLT). You have to make a choice to trust God. You can either live in the grip of fear and anxiety or you can choose to trust God. Confront your fear and recognize that God is in control of things, even when it doesn’t look like it. God speaks out through the Psalmist to say, “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” That is why the writer of Proverbs instructs us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT) Ultimately you will experience God’s peace to the degree that you trust him. So get a big view of God. Study the Bible to remind yourself that he is in absolute control of everything, and he has you in his hands. Give him control of your life. Trusting him brings peace
Know that he cares for you
St Peter gives us the second step to experiencing the peace that Jesus promises with his instruction to, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). You will find peace of heart and mind when you truly come to believe that God cares about you. That his love is not distant and impersonal. That he loves you specifically and he cares about how you are doing as you face every issue in your life. His love is real and it is constant. The old prophet Zephaniah put it beautifully when he wrote, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” That pretty much sums it up. In the middle of your fear and anxiety remember that God loves you and is already involved in your life. Thank him for loving you and ask him to give you his gift of peace. Something will happen deep inside you. God’s peace will overtake you and give rest to your soul.
Ask God for his peace.
And that brings us to our third step to experiencing the peace of mind and heart that Jesus promised. You need to ask him for his peace. You trust him because he is all-powerful and you can rest in the confidence that he loves you. Now you need to ask him for what he promised you. There are two simple ways to ask God for his peace. The first is to simply ask him for it. To speak right up and tell him that you need and want his peace. He made the promise so you can ask him to give it to you. It is surprising how long we will live in fear and anxiety without asking God for his peace. He is committed to keeping his promise but does expect us to ask for it. The second way you ask him for his peace is to make your requests known to him. Identify what you are worrying about. Identify what would give you peace of mind and ease your anxiety. Don’t focus on praying for what you don’t want to happen, focus your request on what you do want to happen. Request the positive things that would ease your mind and put your heart at ease. The Apostle Paul gave this instruction on dealing with anxiety, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT) Notice the combination of asking for what you want and thanking him for what he has already done. Then he follows up with a promise that echoes the promise Jesus made, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus”. (verse 7)
The bad news is that you have to live in this scary world. But the good news is that you don’t have to live here tormented by fear and anxiety. God put you right in the middle of it all knowing that he would be with you 24/7. He promised that he would never leave you and that he would never forsake you. So, don’t be troubled or afraid any longer. Start practicing the three steps to peace: Put your trust in God, know that he cares for you, and ask him for his peace. You will experience a peace that transcends your mind and that pierces through all your emotions. It is the peace that Jesus promised and it is found only in him.