Not As the World Gives
“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
~ John 14:25-27
I have a friend who lost her daughter in a car accident. One question that I've asked myself many times since then is how she got through that. What I mean by that, though, is how she got through it when I am not sure I could have. Not the way she did, and not at that time in my life. She had a focus on the Lord—an amazing reliance on him, and trust in his goodness. I didn't see the anger or bitterness that can accompany times of extreme hardship and loss.
I know of no way to explain her ability to get through something so tragic apart from the Lord. A bigger question is why we cannot all find the same strength to get through times of disappointment and pain. It is not simply being Christian that draws us through it; there is something more elusive that allows us to experience his peace. If we have it, we find ourselves drawn into his presence by pain and hardship. If we don't, we can wander away from him and find ourselves doubting his goodness.
One of the arguments that atheists use to discount Christianity is that it provides a placebo effect for people who are afraid of dying. There are some obvious problems with this (you could use similar logic to discount any position simply because it meets a need, including atheism), but trusting in Christ does bring comfort. But it offers more. It can bring incredible power, transformation, and joy. It can bring a peace like my friend had, to overcome any obstacle in life. None of these are merely emotional states; they are a side-effect of God's active presence within us. None of these are a given. All of them require a steadfast heart, resting in the Lord and yielding to his sovereign will.
In John 14:25-27, Jesus is letting the disciples know he will be leaving them. He also knows the fate they will each face as they follow his path. It would cost them everything. But he didn't expect them to do it on their own; they would have help through the Holy Spirit, who would be sent in his name (v. 26). By “name” Jesus is referring to the same authority he had before the Father. The disciples would have the same source of power that he did, to accompany them through their own hardships and suffering.
That help would be experienced as peace (v. 27). It was not the kind of peace the world offered—not mere solemnity, acceptance, and quietude. Those things do not bring us through tragedy, persecution, and death. What Jesus was offering was his peace. And by that he means, the same peace that he possessed through the same Holy Spirit. It is not “his” in the sense that it is from him; what he is telling them is that they would receive the very same peace he had himself, on the eve of his own death.
When we follow Christ, he doesn't simply offer comfort. He offers a transforming, inner work of the Holy Spirit. What we have isn't just a hope of eternity, it is everything we need to carry us to the day when we will meet him there. It is courage to stand up for him, overwhelming joy in the face of sorrow, power to proclaim his truth to an empty world that offers nothing but temporary satisfaction. We can change lives through love, just as he did. It's not of ourselves. When we begin to think of the Christian life as nothing more than a collection of ideas, we lose the greater purpose for our faith. We are here to accomplish the same things Jesus did. God offers us power, peace, and His indwelling presence to do that, if we will set aside our agenda and take on his.
My friend shares her testimony widely, and is able to help other parents who have lost their children. What she shares with them is not simply a story, but an example of someone that God led through that experience. Her ministry now touches people all over the world, but his power working through us and his peace within us are both part of the same thing. Rest in the Lord. Follow him along the path he walked before you. Yield your will to his greater plan.
He is there waiting for you, a short way ahead.
Lord, grant me your transforming peace in the middle of what I am facing. Use the circumstances in my life to make me more like you. Open doors for me through my difficulties to glorify you. Amen.
~ Michael Cranford has a heart for equipping others to follow Christ in today's world. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of California at Irvine, a Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion and Social Ethics from the University of Southern California. Visit his website at OneSteadfast.com and follow him on Twitter at @OneSteadfast and Facebook.