You know those stories of people smack dab in the middle of harrowing experiences who speak of peace? The grieving widows, the ones with cancer diagnoses, the recently-fired father of 5 whose wife doesn’t work, yet claims to sense God’s peace? Perhaps you have heard a testimony at church of someone in a traumatic season who boasts of God’s comfort. Or, you see a friend or co-worker enduring horrific pain with a confident trust in God. Maybe, like me, you have quietly wondered to yourself how that is possible, and if that is possible!
In Philippians 4 Paul says some pretty wild things. He is in prison, so there’s that, and yet, he basically bubbles over with joy. He says if we remain connected to God, we can always rejoice. No matter our circumstances. That as we pour out our hearts to the Lord, a sense of peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds! Umm, yes please, can I get that?
I am about to admit something less than fabulous. For many years I thought this “peace that passes understanding” was only for some people, you know, the peaceful ones. Or, that this was more of a “Bible times” type thing, not something I could experience.
Life can be tough on earth. I am confident you know exactly what I mean; no ones escape the impact of loss, pain, broken dreams, confusing twists and turns, grief, and unanswered prayers. The pain is real and valid. In my experience, trying to gloss over them, attempts to barrel through them, or slapping on a platitude and limping along is not the best way to navigate.
Hardships and seasons of pain need attention. Think about the way a good parent responds when their little one slips and falls. Do they say, “you’re fine! There isn’t even any blood- stop whining!” Of course not! Instead, they cuddle them up in a warm embrace and calm their heart by saying it’s going to be okay. As silly as it might sound, to try and ignore our emotional needs does just about as much good as telling a toddler to stop crying; it actually makes the situation worse. Conversely, choosing to process our feelings, pain, and desires with the Lord allows Him to cuddle us up and bind our wounds. Paul said it is as we process our hearts with the Lord that He gives peace! Addressing our emotional needs is a high form of trust in the middle of a storm, as opposed to cleaning everything up, or waiting for the storm to pass before coming into His presence.
We can only barrel through the storms of life for so long before we crumble. (Can I get an amen?!) This might look like the stress taking a toll on our physical body, our hope slowly but surely shrinking, or our very best efforts at strife and self-sufficiency blowing up before our bloodshot eyes. The bottom line is that God did not desire for us to navigate the stormy waters of life in our strength. He actually wants us to run to Him, not desperate and afraid, but with the confidence of a daughter coming to her Father saying, “I need some help, and I knew right where to come!”
It’s true that older I get the more hardship I’ve endured, though, I’ve also tasted that peace that passes understanding! I lived for many years believing I could only have peace once the storm passed, between the storms of life. Praise God that isn’t the case! Instead, He invites us to find peace in His presence even in the hard times.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 NIV
The storms in your life are real. The bills, heartbreak, diagnoses, death, every event on the local and world news- these are genuine tragedies. Even smaller sorrows like promises that are yet to come to pass, causing you to wonder… did I hear wrong? Or, the relationships you believe He will restore but are still broken. For goodness’ sake, waiting on God’s timing for anything certainly classifies as an opportunity to get lost in the waves of a storm!
The storms are real. Though, they are only part of the story. There is another factor- the God factor. This supernatural, spiritual realm, and God’s mercy and grace supersedes and intersects all the circumstances we see with our eyes. This is how peace in the storm is possible. Peace comes from anchoring ourselves to God, to a higher reality than the natural world, to a hope that never fails and a God whose steadfast love will not let us go. Our feet are always planted somewhere, our soul anchored into something, and our hope leans on someone’s ability. If they are in your finances, spouse, job, circumstances, strength, or anything other than God Himself…. your peace will always ebb and flow based on those things. That’s just part of the deal.
If you root yourself deep in the depths of His love, it is possible to experience peace even in the waves of suffering. If you are skeptical, rest assured, I was too! God invites us to learn this through experience! Are you ready to give it a try? You probably don’t have much to lose. Just ask Him to give you more understanding of His presence. To open your eyes and ears and entire being to His work in you and around you, that it would be so evident the details of your storm would come into their right place- dwarfed in comparison to His size! If you are struggling to believe this is possible, it’s okay. Tell Him that, and ask for more faith! He wants to teach you how to trust Him even more than you want to experience His peace.
Dear Friend, if you are tired and weary, battered by the storms of your life- choose to anchor yourself to Him this day. You will not be disappointed. Peace that passes understanding is possible, even in the middle of a storm!
P.S. Paul’s words in Philippians 4 are worth a read, even if you are familiar with the passage! Take a few minutes and read the text in a Bible translation you don’t typically read, and see what He highlights for you!