It seems these days that peace is hard to come by. As defined, peace is the absence of disturbance and, when you look around the world today, there aren’t a lot of examples of that. We can all see lack of peace in things like wars and natural disasters, but in our personal lives we also have a lot of things pulling at our hearts. So what in your life brings you peace? I think most people would answer financial stability, good health, or thriving relationships. So what happens when those things are taken away?
We like to think that we can be confident in our worldly comforts but the reality is that all of those things can be lost in an instant. For me, I lost my health first. That was followed by losing my opportunity for a college education. I lost my independence. Financial security went out the window when I lost the ability to work. So where did that leave me? In one word, floundering. All of the things my identity was seeded in were gone and peace was replaced by anger and frustration along with their good buddy, worry. However, after many attempts to find peace in other worldly outlets that ended in failure, I turned to God and sought peace in his promises.
John 14:27 says, “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”. I found that the kind of peace I have received from reading scripture and becoming more rooted in faith is very different from peace derived from material things. The most striking difference is that this peace is not dependent on circumstances. I haven’t suddenly become healthy again but I no longer have to sit in worry and fear of the future. I know that whatever happens in my life is part of a plan that is for my good and God’s glory.
2 Corinthians is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. We know that Paul dealt with a chronic and debilitating “thorn” in the flesh. We don’t know exactly what caused his distress but I think that makes him even more easy to relate to. Physical difficulties are often the source of many pleas to God and many times he chooses to not heal the afflicted but rather use the experience for a greater purpose, as he did with Paul.
In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Paul says, “Three time I pleaded with the Lord to take it [thorn] away from me but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.
While Paul had to accept his proverbial thorn, he did not complain about it or rage against it but rather he allowed the Lord to shine through it and set an example of confidence and trust. In chapter 4 of his letter he told the church, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary struggles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”. That’s a pretty powerful statement! No matter how many times Paul was beaten, imprisoned, insulted, or even stoned and left for dead, he had the world in checkmate.
He exemplifies this in his letter to the Philippian church which was written while he was imprisoned. In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. By this he means that if he continues living, he would be continuing to share the gospel and, if he were to die, he would be in the presence of God for the rest of eternity. It didn’t matter what the world did to him because his peace didn’t come from the world. It was a peace that could never be taken away from him.
Having peace from the Lord is the only peace that lasts. Our circumstances can change in an instant. Jobs can be lost. Houses can be washed away in a storm. Relationships with people can whither and die. You could wake up sick one day and never get better. But amidst these trials we can rest easy in knowing that there is an Almighty God who is more powerful than any of it and he has promised us an eternity so perfect that it makes our current struggles not even worth comparing. I don’t know if my personal thorn will be taken from me or not but I will chose to allow God’s power to be made perfect in my weakness.