The Joy of Peace
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
People have varied, and sometimes strange responses/reactions when they face death: their own or that of a loved one. In 1986 my dear friend Steve, as he was succumbing to melanoma, nudged the oxygen tube from his nose and said: “It feels so good.” Months of intense pain wafted away as he “left the room.” His 17-year-old son punched a hole in the restroom wall at the hospital. I grieved a long while. He was my age.
Last month another dear friend, Jerry, also my age, lost his fight with Covid-19. I had seen him only once, briefly, in 30 years. My response differed. I felt a sense of loss, an aching for his dear wife Karen, then a flood of fond memories of better times spent together.
Differing circumstances and times and differing relationships evoked dramatically different responses from me. But our attention on troubled hearts began with Jesus’ words to His apostles. It was the night of His arrest; that is, the night before His crucifixion and death. He knew what impended; and His followers could sense it. Why else would He say, “Do not let your hearts be troubled”?
Heart-shattering loss was staring at them; how could they not be troubled, even devastated? What “special sauce” could they find to ease the emptiness of loss?
Fast forward to today, in our nation, states, and cities: pandemic fear, economic challenges, and deep social unrest and upheaval envelope us. What keeps us from wilting in despair? Any one of the three threatens our stability of life; taken together they thrust us into uncharted territory. It can be discouraging, depressing, even frightening. Can “do not let your hearts be troubled” find any traction for us?
Time slices and focal points deeply impact one’s level of angst. By looking only at the tornado of turbulence surrounding us, hope vanishes and fear flourishes. But, looking beyond “right now” and envisioning our world, economy, and society in recovery, the heart takes courage.
Consider HOW the early disciples were expected to cope with their hope-shattering loss (as they perceived it). “You believe in God; believe also in Me.” Knowing that He had promised joy and comfort in the days following, they could face the nearing storm of sadness and reverse its impact on their hearts. Later, Paul reminded them that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to purpose” (Rom.8:28).
So, hardships are endured with a positive expectation of good to follow. As Jesus taught us, “your sorrow will be turned to joy…and no one takes your joy away from you” (John 16:20–22). This unsnatchable joy rests securely on His promise of enduring peace. “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).
The peace of mind that comes by entrusting myself and my future into His care is the very essence of joy. Joy is NOT giddy happiness or the sublime calm of prosperous tranquility. It is the settled sense of well-being; and it is possible even in troublesome times. That’s right; joy can abound in times like these.
Looking with alarm at “what’s going on” steals hope; but looking with confidence at a future secured by His promise comforts the heart. That is peace. That peace promotes joy. It’s a choice.
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