September 15, 2011

Choosing peace

Our youngest son attended a school in junior high where each student was recognized by one character trait. When a neighboring family of four children heard about it, they decided to present me with a poster depicting the trait that they most noticed in me. It was serenity.

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty that I don’t get in a flap over most things. When I do, people know about it, but it isn’t a frequent occurrence. I’ve wondered at times if being calm in crisis is odd, but when I read today’s devotional verse, a sense of gratitude and praise filled my heart.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid. . . . (Psalm 112:7–8)
I’m not consistent with this because I sometimes wonder if God is not involved in terrible events, but I cannot think that for long. The Bible gives way too much evidence for His sovereignty, as do the many experiences of my life. Events may not make sense, but I am strongly certain that God is here, working things for the good of His people. I know that my Redeemer lives. I know that God is good and He keeps His promises. These truths are anchors for my emotions.

The disciples learned the same thing, but like me, they learned the way of serenity was listening to and choosing to believe the Word of God. When Jesus noted their anxieties, He said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

This means worry and anxiety are choices, just as faith and trust are choices. Those who believe in Jesus can choose to stew over life, or we can “let” go of that and believe in the One who is sovereign over all things. When we do, He puts peace in our hearts.

In another situation, Jesus talked to the disciples as the plot against Him began to unfold. They heard Him talk about leaving them. They were upset and worried. If I had been in their shoes, I likely would have been the same. However, Jesus told them again . . . 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Again, He says that His followers can choose a troubled heart or choose to not let it be troubled. It isn’t simply a matter of turning off our emotions or fears, or pushing them aside. Instead, it is remembering who He is and His power. It is knowing that God is in charge and then deciding to trust Him instead of giving way to fear.

Not only that, His peace is not like the peace the world gives. Worldly peace depends on peaceful situations, but the peace Jesus gives is wholly independent of what is happening. That is what makes it seem odd. By reason and logic, no one should feel at peace when life falls apart, but I often do because His peace does not depend on everything being in place.

Spurgeon says that Christians should never fear bad news, giving the same reasons that God gives me. Others can get in a flap, but I have an amazing God who has proved His faithfulness over and over. I might get distracted, even have the same alarm as others, at first. But when He urges me to think of Him and I do it, fear is replaced by His peace.

God knows that fear is a dangerous thing. While it might be healthy to fear lions and wild dogs, fear can lead a person into the sin of self-reliance quicker than anything else. It can make me resist or reject God, complain against His providence, and take matters into my own hands in an attempt to escape the problem.

Instead, I need to trust God as He tells me, and to “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” as He says.  He has taken me there and done that enough times to prove to me that in Christ, I can meet trouble with calm composure.

Lord, I’ve read about saints of old who sang praises while being burned at a stake or attacked by lions in an arena of persecution. The peace and courage You give magnifies Your name and shows the world that You are the Most High God. My traumas have not gone to that extreme, but no matter what they are, I want to glorify You. Thank You for Your peace that passes understanding, and for often giving it when I least expect it. I am always amazed (even puzzled) when serenity is in my heart instead of fear or worry. Nevertheless, may those who notice it also recognize that this comes from You. 

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