Peace that Passes Understanding

Listen: I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to make – or encounter waves. In fact, as I’ve gotten older it has probably gotten worse. I know it has.

When I was a teenager, I was convinced: I was going to live overseas. I found every extreme sport I could and gave each a try (my 22 broken bones are a testament to this). I changed colleges 1 week before the decision deadline and made a choice without a single visit (I strongly advise against this). If there was an edge, I was committed to walking on it – or at least as close as I could to it.

And then, I settled in. John and I got married young. We had five kids. We started looking for more peaceful waters. I set up camp and made it a life mission to live in and alongside them.

Only: that’s not what we’re called to do. When we encounter peaceful waters? That’s great… but God might be calling us to something more – giant waves where HE gives us peace among the storms.

I digress.

2020: The Bomb We Weren’t Expecting

In our relationship, we’ve had our share of “unexpected” moments. Lay offs. Multi-state moves. Twins (surprise!). While each felt rocky, we made it through. Though, to be honest, the rockiness was rare enough that we never felt like it was hard to catch our breath. We’d keep going relatively unscathed.

Until 2020.

Like the rest of the world, 2020 hit us out of nowhere. We were in the middle of a move to DC for John’s new job. Everything paused. We began a home/cyber-schooling journey and kept moving forward, though “forward” didn’t seem like an appropriate term at the time.

By the end of the year, we’d lost a close relative to COVID, it wasn’t on the outskirts any more… it was here.

Then 2021 hit. There was a lot of loss in that year. Accidents. Dementia. More COVID. An accident that almost took my father and changed everything about the way we evaluated both physical and mental health and the healthcare system. Crises in attempting to school our children at home. “Overwhelmed” became a description of our new “steady state.”

But new year: new forward motion. I published a new book, we “adapted” to our new state of chaos. And it was all going to get better.

In January I travelled to San Diego for work, and while there, we were hit with a bomb that honestly we probably aren’t still done reeling from. Some day I’ll share more. But what we thought we knew, and reality, were suddenly very different things.

In fact, one night there, while sitting staring at one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life I found myself in tears unsure of how to put one foot in front of the other because that state of “overwhelmed” I described earlier just wasn’t okay any more.

And then: I looked up. I thought about a promise I’ve held tightly as a set of life verses my whole life… and if all this seems like a long introduction to this point I’m really sorry, but I feel like setting the stage might help you see that you need this promise just as much as I did and still do.

The promise is this: our God is a giver of peace.

It Doesn’t Mean the Waves Go Away

The problem – in my opinion – is that far too often we see God as a storm taker. Between the mixed messages the prosperity Gospel preachers share and what we hear from those around us who think they know what Christianity is – even from the outside – we’ve somehow begun to believe that if God is good, our lives will be easy.

Sure – persecution will still exist. But, if we believe hard enough, those storms will go away. The waves will calm. All will be steady. We’re supposed to be people of peace, after all… am I right?

Only – that’s not really the case.

The set of verses I mentioned earlier that talk about peace, the ones I’ve had memorized since a missions trip when I was 15 are these, from Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I’m guessing you know them too.

In our house, they’re posted on the bathroom mirrors as a daily reminder, and they are bookmarked in our Bibles. We know the words.

And yet, in my heart, it took what felt like a life crisis, and BEAUTIFUL work of art in the sky above an ocean for me to actually make them my own and comprehend what they mean for my heart and my family.

Truth: God is the God of peace – not just any peace, but peace that surpasses all understanding. Heart-guarding, life-giving peace.

Also truth: if we don’t experience waves – in some case, wave after wave after wave all at the same time – do we really get to comprehend or feel that peace?

To be super clear: I’m for sure not telling you that if you have had a smooth path that you aren’t experiencing God. What I AM saying, is that when that path is far from smooth, we are called to be thankful, to be reasonable, and to REJOICE.

It’s Really, Really Hard

I’m also definitely not preaching to you that we’re not supposed to feel.

Hurt is hurt.

Despair is despair.

Betrayal is betrayal.

Loss is loss.

They. All. Hurt. Sometimes deeper than we could ever imagine.

God gave us our emotions. If we weren’t able to feel, we wouldn’t be made in his image, created with love and purpose.

But, our feelings aren’t supposed to isolate us. They’re not meant to pull us away from God: I believe that times of hurt are capable of deepening our relationship with him and our dependence on him. If we could pull through on our own, we wouldn’t need his peace. The waves we’re facing might be pushing us right into his arms if we allow them to.

And if we do? Guys: this is the good stuff.

The peace is real. The words hold true when reality is hard.

We don’t have to understand it. We just need to ask for it.

It’s not a magic formula. It’s not a “say these 3 words and change your whole life” situation. And because we’re humans, we’re pretty capable of wavering in it.

But I’m telling you that on those San Diego rocks, I stared at the sunset and tears came down my face as I asked God for peace and direction in all of it. This felt impossible at the time… and yet (our God is also the God of “and yet’s”), it held.

I slept that night. I was able to gain clarity, even while I felt anger in my heart (which I also needed to surrender to God). I was able to discern truth in it all and pray for all involved.

Did it magically fix everything? No.

Am I still praying for peace on the daily? Yes.

Is it easy to share any of this? Absolutely not.

And yet (there it is again!), it’s still true.

We aren’t called to set up a house boat on a peaceful lake where waves, turbulence, and storms aren’t real. We aren’t called to easy. We are called to God: designed for his plan, and his mission, and meant to walk along whatever path he puts in front of us knowing that there’s a plan that’s bigger than us, and maybe even bigger than our time on this Earth will ever show.

I don’t know what you’re facing today. I don’t know what’s rolling around in your heart, what’s making you mad, or what just hurts. I don’t know what mountain is staring you in the face, or if deep breaths are really really hard right now.

But, I know you have hope… we all do. A hope born of a love so great that our God was willing to sacrifice his own son for it. A hope that calls us to love first and ask questions later. A hope that calls us to surrender and trust.

There’s peace in this: peace that passes understanding. Are you holding on to that today? Can you start?

Let’s go, guys. Let’s do this. Praise God.

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