Peace Eternal

I believe that God is good and powerful. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile the God I know to be good with the terrible things that happen in this world. God can seem remote, removed and incapable or, worse, unwilling to answer prayers. So why do I still hold onto the idea that he is omnipotent and worthy of praise? Because I have seen the work of God in my life, he is faithful to the promises he has made and they are far greater than the trials of this world. Yet I often find myself trying to come up with a clear answer to what my faith has to offer the world.

We are an instant-gratification culture, and at times eternal life seems too far off to appeal when we want to live a fun-filled, note-worthy life right now.  We all know retirement is important, so saving for our future is not foreign to us, but sometimes eternal life or “the good news” is not immediate enough to outweigh what can definitely sound like “the bad news”: putting our faith in Jesus Christ does not guarantee a pain-free life.  In fact, in part of John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you WILL have trouble” (the emphasis is mine).  And he’s right.  In the last year, I have lost my beautiful mama and battled deadly cancer myself. I have felt despair and fear so palpable it hurts.  There have been moments when the trouble Jesus speaks of has felt capable of destroying me.  And I know that many of you face unimaginable pain as well.

Which brings me back to my question: what do I have to offer to those who haven’t heard or doubt or actually reject this truth that I believe with all my heart and soul--that Jesus Christ who was sinless died for our sins so that we may have eternal life? I’m starting to think the answer has everything to do with the rest of John 16:33.  The whole verse says, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  

He has overcome the world and the trouble we will face.  The trouble comes to everyone, yet those who trust Christ can have what seems impossible...peace in times of turmoil.  For me that has often meant that he gives me great joy in the midst of trials; joy in my husband, boys and family; joy in my friends who have blessed me beyond measure, and joy in my passions like reading, writing and the outdoors.  He has protected me from overwhelming despair with a shield of joy.  The old Sunday school song rings so true for me: “the joy of the Lord is my strength!”  This peace and joy also stems from his living, active presence in my life.  God is not in a distant, floating cloud-Kingdom observing how my life plays out.  He is powerfully directing my life in an up-close-and-personal way, hearing and responding to my prayers and the groaning of my heart, wrapping me up in his arms and protecting me from the enemy.  He is on the front lines of my life.

John 16:33 has also meant for me that Jesus has continued to make me a supernatural being.  I am not being humble or self-deprecating when I say that anything strong or good or admirable about me is supernatural; it is God working in me.  When I feel peace, it is from God.  When I respond to trials with strength, it is His arms that are giving me power.  When I am selfless in my marriage or compassionate to a friend or stranger, it is through His prompting and His provision.  I cannot and do not want to take credit for what He has done and is doing in me, because I know the natural person I would be without Him would be desolate, lost and selfish.    

And finally John 16:33 also means the relief that comes from knowing there IS eternal life.  This particular retirement plan is priceless when you truly face death.  Because there is no getting around the fact that this life ends.  For everyone.  So far, we haven’t found a way to cheat death.  I am fighting with everything in me to not let cancer kill me, but I know that I will die someday.  As amazing and worth fighting for as my life is, I would crumple if this life was all I had to hold onto.  Paul writes, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).  Jesus Christ conquered death for me.  This does not mean that I will not die here on earth.  But it does mean that my earthly death will not be the end of my story.  My death will not be the end of my life.  Knowing that Heaven is waiting for me, gives me the peace Jesus is talking about in John 16:33.

May you find joy in the one who makes us supernatural today. And if you don’t believe what I am saying, please know that I desperately want you to experience the life--on earth and in Heaven--that comes with accepting this gift of salvation.  A life not devoid of  trouble, because trouble finds everyone.  But a life with the one who has overcome that trouble and who will never abandon you as you “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4).