How many times have you allowed the circumstances of life to steal your peace? How many times have you stood before the mountain or wandered through the valley and became so overwhelmed by your situation that you completely forgot about the peace God offers during times of trial? Your sleep pattern, eating pattern, patience, and overall routine in life is altered while fear and anxiousness fills your heart. Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. I have been in the ministry for fifteen years and preached many times against allowing such an attitude or mindset to take control of your daily life and yet I still from time to time succumb to the temptation. When we are discouraged, it is easy to forget that knowing God means knowing peace. God is the source of the believer’s peace!
In his second letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul concludes with these words; “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.”(3:16) Paul prays for peace. In the letter, he had discussed various different topics as these believers were enduring great persecution both inside and outside the church.
Previously, Paul had discussed the importance of purity, faithfulness, and perseverance during trials and he even mentions the end times. Therefore, in light of all that Paul had shared with these Christians, he understood that mankind, when facing the trials of life, has a tendency to forget about the peace God offers and instead suffers at the hands of fear and worry. And when fear and worry enter into the heart of man, so does doubt and discouragement. Paul sought to encourage the Thessalonian believers to be ever-mindful of the God who saved them, provided for them, and would care for them during difficult circumstances of life.
What is Peace?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “I’m at peace with this.” But what does it mean to be at peace? What is peace? Logically speaking, peace is just something you sense in your very being, much the same way we sense fear or stress. However, peace can be defined as a state of tranquility or quietness of spirit that transcends our circumstances.
In other words, when our world is swirling around us and our peace is being challenged by our circumstances, somehow, some way we sense God’s hand and His protection on us and the situation. In our very being we are at peace with whatever is happening to us because we have cast our cares upon God who is our refuge and our strength. We do not experience peace because everything in our life is right. We experience peace because our relationship with God is right! We trust Him, have faith in His provisions, and know that He is faithful.
Psalm 91:1 says this; He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” This is the key to being at peace with God. What do we know about this “secret place”? We know that it is an intimate place, a divine place and a place of protection. Fact is, the “Most High” God can never be overpowered or overtaken. When we dwell with Him, we walk with Him and we walk in His care and protection of us. Regardless of our circumstances, God will always prove himself to be trustworthy and through His faithfulness we can experience that peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
What Does Peace Look Like?
So what does this peace look like in real life? How does it make its way from the pages we read in the Bible or in a devotional and into the heart and life of an individual? Personally speaking, there have been many times when my circumstances challenged the peace of God in my life. I have lost both of my parents, my brother, other family members and friends. My wife and I lost a child years ago. We lost someone very close to us in the shootings at Virginia Tech. We have suffered through financial struggles, family struggles, ministry struggles, and lost relationships. Life is not easy!
Life as a Christian, much less a pastor, is difficult to say the least. It is crucial for God’s people to stand on something during the trials of life or else you will fall for anything. Psalm 121 is where I go when I need to be reminded about the peace God offers because of who He is and what He will do for us. The psalmist states that God is our Helper, our Keeper, our Protector and our Preserver. Regardless of the mountain that stands before us or the valley we find ourselves in, God will watch over us and see us through to the other side. As God was with Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David and so many others we read about in the Bible, He will also be with us!
It is Well
When I consider the peace of God, I am reminded of the old hymn “It is Well with My Soul” Horatio Spafford wrote this great hymn under the greatest of sorrows and grief life can throw at us. Spafford was a very successful lawyer living in Chicago in the late 1800’s. He had invested well, and life was good. However, in 1871 the Great Chicago Fire ruined him financially. After some time passed, he decided to travel with his wife and four daughters to Europe seeking financial security.
Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him as he tended to some business but he would soon join them. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship his family was on sank quickly after colliding with a bigger vessel. Spafford’s wife survived, his four children did not. All four of his girls perished in the wreckage. Days later, Spafford, on his way to Europe, passed by the spot where his children lost their lives, and as he did so, he penned these words; “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
How could this be? How could the grief and the sorrow and the brokenness of losing four children sit “well with his soul”? Because Spafford had the peace of God upon his life. He trusted God and found comfort in the secret place of the “Most High.” Anyone can experience peace when life is going your way and when you are free from trials and tribulations.
But remember, we experience real genuine peace, the kind of peace that comes only from God when we are in a right relationship with God. A right relationship with God includes trusting God regardless of your circumstances and struggles in life. So the next time life threatens to steal your peace, trust God and find shelter in His care and know that He will be your refuge and a very present help in a time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).