“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 second week of Advent focuses on peace. I, however, have a few things on my mind that have tied knots in my shoulders. Feeling less than entirely peace-full.
Which makes me wonder: what did peace look like for Jesus? He wasn’t calm, cool, and collected 24/7. He felt the full range of emotions, including the heavy ones: sorrow, grief, anger. He tenderly held little children and spoke wise words. He also told off know-it-alls and tossed over tables.
We know from experience that we can feel more than one emotion simultaneously: grief and gratitude, for example. So maybe we can feel those weighty emotions and still be at peace. Maybe the peace Jesus offers is more than a feeling but a state of being. Or a state of being with. Let me explain.
In context, Jesus’ words in John 14:27 are about his return to his Father. Jesus will not be with his disciples for much longer yet in his departure (death) he will not abandon them, either. He promises to send God’s Spirit to be with them. Jesus gave them peace in his presence, and the Spirit will continue to extend peace.
Jesus knew that his rag-tag bunch of followers would be afraid in the coming days. Despite Jesus’ predictions and attempts to prepare them, his people would be shaken by his death and also terrified for their own safety. Still, Jesus promised peace.
Jesus also knew the end-game that his followers could not see. Though the coming events would look absolutely horrifying, God had a greater purpose. And God didn’t leave them alone to face those circumstances. God was with them in the confusion and pain and, eventually, the joy.
We can’t see God’s end-game in our circumstances, either. You may have suffered grave injustice. You may be facing an illness, or caring for a loved one, and you want to rage at God (go ahead – God can take it). Life’s not fair and bad things regularly happen to good people who don’t deserve what they get. I often take comfort in the truth that God is God and I am not. God knows what’s coming beyond this right-now load of muck. You may never know why you had to deal with whatever it is you’re going through, yet you can still trust that God is good and God is with you.
Feel all your feelings, friend, and have peace. We live in a world of tangles and jumbles and shambles, and God is here. That is the promise of Christmas, the promise of Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” God knows what you’re going through; he’s never surprised by your circumstances. God grieves with you when you grieve; he also rejoices with you when you rejoice.
Peace doesn’t always feel like a perfect state of contentment. Peace often feels like trusting the presence of God with us in the whole mess of emotions stirred up by life’s messy circumstances.
God is here. Be at peace.
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