"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7, KJV).
It is not only possible to have peace in the midst of darkness; it's a promise that Jesus gives to all who believe on Him. With the tragic headlines we witness daily, such as a Jewish community in Pittsburgh ripped apart by violence, it's understandable that we will sometimes be in a dark place, praying for God's peace to fill our hearts and minds.
God knows every trial, hurt and doubt we face. He knows every question of "why?" And His promise of peace in the midst of our circumstance is exactly what He can and will give to us.
Consider the following true story.
In 1871, a successful businessman and lawyer lost all his material possessions in the great Chicago fire. This did not trouble Horatio Gates Spafford very much, for he had set his affection on "things above." However, two years later, when his wife and children were on board the Ville du Havre en route to France, their ship was rammed by an English vessel and sank, claiming the lives of 226 people. Although his wife survived, all four of their children perished in the icy waters.
The man was given the tragic news and later shown the spot in the mid-Atlantic where the shipwreck occurred. Although heartsick with grief, Mr. Spafford suddenly felt an inrush of supernatural peace and comfort as he looked to the Lord for strength. With tears streaming down his face, he picked up a pen to record his feelings, and from his well-blest heart flowed these thrilling words:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
'It is well, it is well with my soul.'
No one likes to get bad news. You can be going right along with your daily activities, and then in an instant everything in your life can change—a phone call, a report, a vehicle accident, a pink slip or something else that rocks your world can take place. It doesn't even have to be a calamitous event to change your life in a moment of time.
Have you experienced that? You are cruising right along in life, but then your husband comes home from work and says he wants a divorce, and your world comes crashing down. Or you wake up as usual to get ready to go to work, but once there, you find out you no longer have a job, and just like that, your world falls apart.
Maybe you are saying, "Pastor, you are speaking right to me. I remember the moment when the doctor told me I had cancer, and everything I had leaned on, everything I had trusted in, all that I had built, all that I thought was going to give me security—all of it came crashing down around me."
Can we have peace in our hearts when our world is turned upside down?
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). The kind of peace that the world gives is conditional—it stands on a shaky foundation that can change with every passing whim. Some people find peace and security in money, until they lose their job or the stock market crashes. Other people find peace in relationships or in their marriage, until they fail.
The kind of peace that Jesus promises His children is unconditional. It's a peace based on the foundation of God Himself—unchanging, loving, gracious, merciful and faithful. God's peace is not dependent on our circumstances; in fact, it thrives in the midst of our trials, tribulations and dark valleys.
The peace that Jesus gives you and me is drawn from the very heart of God. It's a peace that reminds us in the deepest of our trials that He is faithful, He keeps His promises; it assures us that we are His and that nothing—no person, no demon, no fear, no enemy—can take us out of God's hand; and it comforts us with the truth that we are secure in Him.
The peace of God in your life gives you the sense that you are not walking alone; God is walking with you. God's peace tells you that you do not have to sustain yourself; God is sustaining you. The peace that Jesus gives assures you that you don't have to get through the storm because God's voice is calming the storm and making a way through impassable waters.
When our lives change—when we find ourselves in the midst of difficult storms—we witness the power of God like we have never seen before. When the children of Israel stood at the banks of an incredible and impassable sea with an army bent on destroying them in hot pursuit, they witnessed the power of God to do the impossible.