Just a few days ago I received a telephone call from a woman who, along with her husband, is a great and very close friend of ours. She wanted to talk with my wife and me, so we set up an appointment for her to stop by our home and sit with us for a while. During the visit, she expressed her concerns over a variety of topics, things like the economy, our nation in biblical prophecy, COVID-19, elections and politics, and end times stuff. Essentially, her questions all boiled down to one: How do I find peace in the midst of these turbulent times?
The dictionary defines peace as “a state of tranquility between governments or persons.” Much of the time when peace is in the news, it is a discussion of the disruption of peace between nations, or factions within nations. To seek world peace is no longer just a stereotypical answer to the question asked of contestants in a beauty pageant. It has significance in the minds of every one of us, whether we are taking about the Middle East, Afghanistan or wherever.
But the peace this couple was seeking was more than peace between nations — it was that state where they indeed could live their daily lives without worrying about anything (See Philippians 4:6,7).
With the advent of COVID-19, with the concerns about disease and diminishing strength, and with the onset of worry over all things, it is difficult to have peace — true inner peace — in the light of all that is going on personally, nationally and yes, even in our local communities. Every day presents new challenges for each of us, and how we face those challenges determines what sort of day we will have.
We all can remember growing up and our mothers (OK, maybe even dads did it sometimes) telling us to “Get out of the house so I can have some peace!”
How do we do that? How do we live each day with strength and power for living? How can we overcome the tendencies we all have to be down and discouraged because our health is waning, the diseases of life seem to be winning, finances seem to be diminishing, and relationships may be deteriorating? That does not even include the issues related to our nation: our economy, our leadership, our stance as a nation in the world. Does God really want us to wallow in attitudes of self-defeat and discouragement? I think not.
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us succumb to the tendency to worry. Oh, we may call it other things. Most often people will tell me they are not worried, they are just concerned. But deep down it is worry at its core. It is almost universal in its scope, and it is the one sin that seems acceptable for any one of us to indulge. We worry about our health, our finances, our relationships, the economy, the weather, politics, and even sports. We worry about hurricanes and Afghanistan, and border issues and the like. We worry about our friends and our enemies, our pets and our neighbors. If there is something we can worry about, we do, and if not, we worry about not having any worries.
There is the story about the young fellow who had a great imagination. He proclaimed one day that he had a job which he wanted to post in the local classified ads, looking to hire an individual to perform this very specific task for him. The job: professional worrier. The wage: $1,000 a week. When he told his friends about this job, they mocked him, saying, “Where are you going to get that kind of money to pay the person you hire?” The fellow responded, “That will be his first worry!”
In what is known as the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus Christ was preparing his disciples for how to live once he was gone. In that dialog, they were interacting with him and were obviously distraught over the proclamation he made that he was leaving them. He initially declared to them that they should not be troubled at all by his going. Two times in that dialog, he referenced the subject of peace:
* John 14:27 — “Peace I leave with you; 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 16:33 — “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Now when the Bible says something, it is indeed important to pay attention. But when it says it twice, and in such close proximity to one another, that is really important. What Jesus was simply saying was that as we deal with the daily challenges of a world gone awry, or of our own personal lives in disorder and confusion, we should live with peaceful hearts and courageous spirits.
Would you please, for just a moment today, lay aside all worries which are plaguing you right now and allow God to instill in you a sense of His peace as you face this day? Stop and take a deep breath, and “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.