There are certain words that are used within christian circles meant to communicate a particular mindset or way of living. Peace, joy, trust, love, faith are just a few of these kinds of words. We all know what we mean by these words, right? Or do we?
Consider “peace” for a minute. When you think of peace do you think of quietness? relaxation? calmness? Do you imagine lying in a hammock? Do you imagine total serenity?
Isaiah 26:3 says,
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Perfect peace. Is that peace on steroids? Is it possible to have this peace in the midst of a battle? When you just found out your job has been eliminated? Would such a peace look different from peace on a vacation?
Here’s a question: Does Jesus lack such “perfect peace” when he cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” If you believe, as I do, that Jesus was sinless and did not cave to human frailties, you might need to re-imagine “perfect peace” and define it in such a way that you can have it and be in utter emotional agony at the same time.
So, if perfect peace is more complex, it stands to reason that joy within sorrow, trust within questions and love without feelings are all quite possible.
How would you define peace in light of the realities of suffering and abuse?
8 responses to “Define peace? Define Joy?”
Peace in light of the realities of suffering and abuse? Excruciating is how I would define it. It seems a cruel paradox. Confidence in the character of God, knowing He is sovereign, His Word true all help . . . . but then that alone raises other questions and I guess some questions are not meant for human answer. Peace in places that wreak of hell day after day, year after year? My cry is also, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
As my therapist “Jan Vinson” teaches me, Peace is the assurance that God is unchangeable even in the midst of struggles, changing circumstances, and pain.
No answer, just contribution…
love, and hate?
mercy, and justice?
I think of what the author of Hebrews wrote about Jesus, “…who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross….” I suspect that “perfect peace” and a “steadfast mind” derive a good deal of their substance from what’s “set before us,” something we’re to anticipate down the road that makes enduring the hellish present not only do-able, but deeply and perfectly sensible and reasonable. Figuring out just what that substantive thing is, and how anticipating it in the here-and-now is able to afford us “perfect peace,” is a difficult quest …which is why the way is straight and narrow. When someone reads Foxxe’s Book of Martyrs for the first time, he may react by thinking, I could never endure the things these folks have! Perhaps if we know what they (and in a far more profound sense, Jesus) knew about God and His good purposes for their suffering now, and what they anticipated coming their way in due time, we would know the same sense of pervading peace Foxxe’s martyrs enjoyed in the bedrock of their souls, as massive tectonic shifts were taking place in their worlds. And, like the original readers of Hebrews, when we’re inspired by the “cloud of witnesses” who’ve caught a whiff of this coming banquet in the midst of their misery, and called back over their shoulder to us, to say “Come along, it’s worth it all!”, we’ll find ourselves sufficiently compelled to step along smartly into the suffering, in ways we could never before imagine!
My question in reply is this: What is a steadfast mind? And who is responsible for that?
I have been ruminating on Hannah’s Song from 1 Samuel 2 because I feel (am) so broken and weak and incapable in this season of my life. Her song is not about a future hope but a deep knowing that God is there NOW, and there’s none like Him. (It’s a prayer because I don’t think she’s “arrived” at that — who ever can?)
Is this what a steadfast mind looks like? She is not strong, but she knows that “the bows of the strong are broken, but those who stumble are armed with strength,” that “those who were hungry hunger no more,” and “it is not by strength that one prevails” (1 Sam 2:4, 5, 9). She states these things to God like the father who came to Jesus and said, “I believe, but heal my unbelief” in Mark 9:24. It’s said as a statement, but rests in the heart as a prayer. Almost like, “If I say it enough, it’ll become true and change my insides…”
Maybe that’s the best that those (we) who are suffering can hope for as we do the best we can to turn eyes to God, even though we want to feel closure.
“He comes with succour speedy, to those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy, and bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light…”
(from “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”)
How would I define peace in light of the realities of suffering and abuse?
The Peace that Christians have access to is the peace that Jesus gives…it is ‘his peace’…only sourced in him. As I understand it that peace is a result of personally knowing through a faith-relationship with Christ where the Christian knows the unsurpassing love of God…and are fully satisfied in their inner-most selves. This peace is thus received ‘invisibly’ through our ‘hearts’ being oriented towards God in an attitude of love and appreciation.
We all experience pain of various types, and in relationships we wil experience emotional pain and even abuse. Such painful input into our lives will always be in competition for our attention and have the potential to dislodge our attention away from Christ. It is interesting that Christ himself is described as being focussed on what his Father had called him to…the cross…and choose to set his face like flint upon that task. It is in Peter’s writings that we see that if Christ, though being without sin suffered, then we will also suffer variously…in fact it says to this we are called!…Ouch! I don’t know about others but I find that ultimately extremely comforting and puts my own difficulties in perspective.
As Christians, our hope, our peace, our Joy comes from Christ who can only be seen and experienced through Faith. The non-Christian philosopher Emmanuel Kant helpfully divides the world into tangible physical things that can mostly be detected by the five senses (the phenomenal world)…he contrasts this with things that cannot be detected by the five senses that may exist but cannot be proven, which Kant called the Noumenal world (this included a whole bunch of things like x-rays, gamma rays, methane gas, etc. that existed but for a long time Man had no means of detecting them). I mention this because all the things that are really important to Human Beings as Social creatures…Life, Love, Beauty, Faith are actually not ultimately detected by the five senses but rather by what the Bible sums up as the Human Heart. This (the heart) proverbs 4 says we are to guard above all else as it is the fountain or well spring of life. Finding Christ’s Love, which secures his Peace and Joy, and guarding it, is a full time ocupation as we quite often find we have left ourselves unguarded. Ultimately, because Christ has defeated death, there is nothing that can searate us from the his Love…and the biggest pain and hurt we have is ultimately others not knowing that love, peace and Joy…which surpasses all that this world can throw at us…
Let us fix our eyes and hearts upon Christ in his present and eternal glory 🙂
*perfect peace* means mature as opposed to absolute perfection right Phil?? I really like your speaking about having both hope/sorrow, pain/peace side by side inside ourselves. Since my father died when i was 8, I have battled fear and anxiety over death and illness. Everytime i read verses like, *be anxious for nothing*, *perfect love casteth out fear*,*be strong and of good courage*, I paralyze myself inwardly because i DO still fear and worry and become anxious and struggle with unbelief. Your sharing helps me to hope there is a reason wjy all these things are just not removed by my having faith and praying. Thanks for this post Phil.
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
My definition – Peace – knowing for sure what is to come