Apr 16, 2014
We often face situations whose outcomes could be painful – like unemployment, health problems, or heartache.
At the same time, we know God promises to give us peace (Isaiah 26:3; Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:6-7).
But how is that possible? How can God give us peace, when we know that what we face might be painful?
We can think God gives peace by telling us to believe that everything will be OK, which we think means painful things won’t happen. But while God can keep painful events from happening, he does not always do this.
So what good is peace based on believing something that’s not true?
We can also think God gives peace by telling us not to dwell on possible painful outcomes. And so we keep ourselves busy, or distract ourselves, thinking that’s how we get peace.
But what good is peace based on ignoring something that could happen?
A More Helpful Answer
God says peace comes from trusting him. You can see that, for example, in Isaiah 26:3 –
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Since trusting God means trusting all that he promises to be to us in Christ, we have to ask: what does God promise when we face the possibility of painful outcomes?
I believe there are two promises. One is that sometimes, in response to prayer, he will keep the pain from happening. We can see that can Acts 12, where Peter is in prison, but God delivers him (verses 5-16).
But sometimes God allows the pain to happen. That’s also in Acts 12, where James is arrested, and God allows him to be killed (Acts 12:2).
So that raises the question — if God can allow pain to happen, how can trusting him give us peace?
A Second Promise
It’s because of a second promise which is found in 2 Corinthians 4:17 –
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…
Here are God promises that every trial we face will bring us more joy in his glory forever.
For this promise to give us peace, we must see and feel that God’s glory is so satisfying that to gain more is worth any trial.
We can’t produce this seeing and feeling on our own, but God promises to give this to us as we turn our hearts to Christ, and meditate prayerfully on the truth of who he is (see Psalm 43:3-4; John 6:35; 2 Corinthians 3:18; and 1 Peter 1:8).
As we do this, God will increase the work of his Spirit in our hearts so we feel and love God’s glory more than anything.
And when that happens, we will feel at peace about the possibility of painful outcomes, because we know that if they happen, they will bring us more of our greatest joy – beholding more of the glory of God.
Let’s say your greatest joy is gourmet food. And you are driving to a restaurant, looking forward to the tastiness that awaits.
But the road you are on sometimes has 30 minute delays for construction. And yet the chef has promised that every delay in travel-time will significantly increase the enjoyment you have in tonight’s meal.
So how would you feel about the possibility of a 30 minute delay for construction? You would be a peace, because the 30 minute delay is well worth the increased tastiness.
What Happened Yesterday
A week ago I had a heart procedure which involved two incisions in my inside upper right leg. The procedure went well, but two days later there was massive bruising around the incisions, and a painful lump was growing.
When I told my doctor, she said she should look at it. And when she did, she said it could be a couple of different things, most which were not serious, but a few which could be serious.
She said I needed to have an ultrasound so she could know for sure whether it was serious or not.
So how can I find peace while waiting for the ultrasound? It’s not by trying to believe my problem is not serious (God does not promise that). Nor is it by refusing to think about the possibility of painful outcomes (peace based on fantasy is not true peace).
There’s a better, more Biblical, more satisfying way
The Better Way
I had been praying about this for a couple days, battling to see and feel God as my all-satisfying treasure
As I battled, my feelings ranged from concern, to fear, to outright panic and then back to concern. It was good that I was battling, but I had not yet felt the freedom of God’s peace.
But right before the ultrasound, God met me. As I was washing my hands in the bathroom, and asking God to show me his glory, he did.
It was not a burning bush, but I saw the truth of God so clearly that I was completely at peace whatever the outcome — whether it was serious and I had to go back into the hospital for more surgery, or whether it was not and I could drive home with my wife.
I was completely at peace, because at that moment all I wanted was more of God, and I knew that whether the outcome was serious or not, it would bring me more of him.
This was a great gift from God. But there was more.
The ultrasound showed that my problem was not serious, it would get better on its own, and I could go home.
Thank you, Father.
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And here are some related posts you might find helpful –
- A Reader Asks: “What if I’ve Never Had Joy in Christ?”
- What Is the Peace of Christ?
- Six Reasons Heart-Satisfaction Is Crucial
- The Faith-Joy Connection
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