So many people I know have been dealing with some mighty struggles in their lives lately, including me. It helps when those struggling know that God is holding us up, helping each one of us get through the struggle if we’ll turn our gaze on Him. However, I know I did not fully embrace God’s promises of care and comfort until I was experiencing some rather deep pain. One morning I heard James MacDonald give a sermon on John 14:1 that reminded me where our thoughts need to go at the first hint of trouble.
Philippians 4:7 –“ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This promise is not an easy one to claim – it’s difficult to accept that it can become a reality in our lives. When I accepted God’s calling to follow Him, it was the promise I couldn’t believe was possible. In no uncertain terms, I let God know that I knew following Him could never bring the peace I desired because it was loved ones in my life that left me paralyzed with fear and overwhelming sadness that I could no longer find the strength to cope with. I didn’t see any way He could ease my troubled heart unless He drastically changed these people or their circumstances and I didn’t see any earthly way that could happen soon enough to quiet the storms I was experiencing. That was my biggest error – I thought the only solutions were earthly resolutions. I sold God short – He has other ways of bringing us peace.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Well, God didn’t change the circumstances and He didn’t perform personality exorcisms on my friends and family. But in a matter of weeks I experienced a peace about it all. Being a new Christian and full of doubt about God being able to fulfill this particular promise, I can assure you I hadn’t done anything to bring about this newfound peace to my soul. It truly just came upon me. Nothing about the situations changed, yet somehow I experienced a peace about it all. I spent a lot of time thinking about this miracle He performed in my life, trying to figure out exactly how it had come about. After four-plus years of thought on the matter, the only thing I’ve ever come up with is that, for the first time in my life, I KNEW God was real. I KNEW He loved me and would be working in my life. These facts went from beliefs I held to knowledge of the reality of God and the power and love He has. This knowledge resulted in a newfound confidence that no matter how things worked out, I COULD trust Him. Knowing that eternity is a reality and is actually God’s plan for us helped me know that I would see good from those things I allow God to work out even though I might not see them in this physical world. I could truly claim this!
I think as I work out my faith, too often I focus on the doing. As I’m confronted with struggles, I focus on praying, reading my Bible and, when peace does not come, I conclude I’m not “doing” enough, that I’m missing something or there’s some secret Christian thing I haven’t yet discovered. Prayer and Bible study are good things to do and in the midst of a trial bring momentary comfort to me. But as soon as I get back out in the world where I am unable to formally pray or pick up my Bible that sick feeling in my stomach often comes back, reminding me of the terrible things that could happen as a result of struggles. What I fail to remember is that I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, longing to bring me peace just as He did when I first yielded my life to Him. Too often, I don’t let Him do His work, feeling there is something I must do rather than simply relying on His strength. Simply being still with Him, thinking about Him and fixing my eyes on Jesus is all I need to “do.” A quick reminder in the middle of any situation that He is with me is all I need to squash that sickening fear and panic that often comes upon me.
Praying, reading and spending time with God must be something I practice consistently to build my relationship with Him so that when the struggles come I am properly equipped to receive His peace. Waiting to do these things in the midst of a struggle adds to my burden because, along with coping with the emotions I must now get His Word into my mind and heart. When they are already planted there, I can immediately recall them and be comforted, receiving His peace before the fear and sadness are unmanageable.
Proverbs 30:5 – “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”
As Pastor James said, it is no sin to have a troubled heart, but as we continue to be troubled, sin can easily come into our lives. The longer we dwell in this place, the more negative emotions we feel, the more overwhelming the situation becomes and our hope quickly begins to fade. As the weight of our situation bears down on us, we are more likely to seek solace from substances, physical pleasure, self-pity, angry words or behavior. But as soon as we can look to Jesus for comfort, our tendency to go to these things is diminished and we can respond in His way. Be prepared by strengthening your knowledge of God and always remember you have the Holy Spirit just waiting for you to call on Him. That is how we can quickly find the peace He promises in every situation. Don’t wait for the doubt and fear to take hold before you call on Him!