The Paradox of Peace

Paul was a charismatic and somewhat quirky teenager. He loved acting and had a sharp wit that the naive’ didn’t always understand, yet for those who knew him, Paul was hilarious. He loved God and wanted others to know that love. He was full of life and hope for the future. Then the diagnosis…Ewings Sarcoma, a rare and fatal form of cancer. Life would never be the same for this young man, or me, as I walked with him over the last year of his life on earth.

“Peace I leave you, My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give.” (John 14:27)

Budget cutbacks were nothing new as the annual report came announcing another tight fiscal year. But the money was there to keep things rolling for another year. His busy Monday schedule was interrupted by a request to be at an unscheduled meeting. “Is it really vital that I be there?”, he inquired of his boss. “We’ll talk when you get there” came the reply. Later that day, he sat in stunned silence at that very meeting as a table of board members announced his job had been eliminated due to “downsizing”….two weeks before Christmas. “Peace I leave you, my peace I give unto to you, not as the world gives do I give.” (John 14:27)

What is peace? The standard definition would say it is the absence of conflict. It is the inner and outer serenity that is present when all circumstances are favorable and well. I remember being a little kid growing up in the 60’s and the hippies who gathered in a field behind my backyard would always say, “Peace little man” whenever I would pass by them on the way to my school playground. I didn’t feel peace…I just thought they were strange. Their peace came artificially from some drug induced euphoria. I didn’t want that peace…I just wanted to play.

“Peace I leave you, My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give.” (John 14:27)  Jesus spoke these words to a group of his followers at a time when their expectation for peace hung on the hope that Jesus was going to shatter the tyranny of Roman rule over their homeland and usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus dampened that illusion by stating he was to be tortured and killed very soon, but they were not to worry because He would give peace. Death and peace? Destroyed hopes and peace? Apparent isolation and peace? What possibly does He mean?

Any serious student of the Bible narrative knows that the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of paradoxes. A Kingdom of seemingly contradictory realities placed side by side. The Lion who is a Lamb…the King who is a servant…the weak who are strong…the humble who are exalted…the foolish who are wise…made in the image of the invisible…life through death…receiving through giving…peace in the midst of the storm. God is always flipping the paradigms of “traditional wisdom”. How can you have peace in the midst of a storm? How can you experience inner tranquility when circumstantial chaos is all around you? The reality, in God’s paradigm, is that His peace is most profound right in the midst of the storm.

So many are searching for “perfect” circumstances that will give a sense of “serenity” or “well being”, only to find that once they have attained those “perfect circumstances” they thought they needed, peace still eludes them. That is because true peace comes from the reconciled relationship between a loving Creator and His creation. The “perfect” job, vacation, relationship, house, health, bank account, etc. will never deliver the peace that we are truly made for. That peace can only come from the God who is Peace incarnate.

The peace that Jesus spoke of, is a not based on positive outward circumstances. That is what makes His peace so powerful and wonderful. You and I can experience a tangible awareness of His loving, peaceful presence and the inexplicable assurance that everything will be okay in the end, even while all hell is breaking loose around us. Some would say that this concept is delusional, but I know it is reality. I know because I have experienced the peace of God over and over, year after year, month after month, day after day, right in the midst of less than desirable life circumstances.

If you find yourself in the midst of one of life’s storms today or if you have exhausted yourself seeking peace through things that don’t deliver what you thought they promised, cry out to Jesus Christ. He is the God of all peace and He will freely give if you just ask. If you have known Him, He will root out your anxiety and replace it with peace. If you have not known Him, ask Him to reveal Himself to you. You will not be disappointed. When you cry out to God, you may not get all that you want but you will receive all that He knows you  truly need.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) Philippians 4:4-7

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV) Proverbs 3:5,6

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;” (NIV) Psalm 46;10a