The Gift of God’s Peace

Written by: Ashley Neff
Featured image for “The Gift of God’s Peace”

I first decided to write this post because I have encountered God’s magnificent peace in moments of my life where I shouldn’t have had peace at all. Peace while rolling off a cliff in a car. Peace when I was diagnosed with cancer. Peace throughout the process of quitting my job with nothing next.

In these moments, it felt like I was living Philippians 4:7, experiencing “…the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…” guarding my heart and mind.

Ever since I set out to write this post, however, my life has been hit with things that seem to threaten this peace. Physically being sick for a few weeks, angst around material/financial things, the heartbreak of relational strife, my health insurance ending unannounced, and fear of the unknown. And in some ways, these circumstances have been successful in stealing or destroying my peace.

None of these things are life-threatening like cancer, and yet somehow, they’ve caused me to lose sight of trusting in the Lord and leaning not on my own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God “…will keep the mind that is dependent on [Him]
in perfect peace, for it is trusting in [Him].” (Isaiah 26:3 CSB) This promise, this gift of perfect peace, comes as a direct result of our trusting in God.

We are all bombarded with things that trigger fear, anxiety, worry, confusion, feeling overwhelmed, and it threatens to disrupt our peace and upend our trust in God. Pain. Loss. Grief. Uncertainty. Busyness. Past mistakes. Regrets. Negative memories. The unexpected. Offenses. Anger. War.

Oh, how quickly peace flees weekly, monthly, even hourly—as if it can’t exist or has no place in those spaces. And yet, the mess of and in our life does not keep peace away!

Peace in the Mess

We see in the Christmas story that peace shows up in the middle of the mess. First-century Israel was anything but peaceful—an occupied land, a ruthless puppet king in Herod the Great, and a world where violence ruled the day. Everything about life for Mary was full of disruption.

These disruptions included being visited by an angel, being unmarried and pregnant (and it not being Joseph’s), skeptical judgments of their community, traveling hundreds of miles while pregnant, rejection by family, delivering a baby in less-than-ideal conditions, fleeing for your life, and more. Every one of these disruptions was unexpected by Mary and Joseph. What a mess!

But it was this mess that Isaiah had prophesied,

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 CSB, emphasis added)

Peace, then, is not only an internal feeling—a sense of shalom: wholeness, soundness, and completeness—but it’s also something so much more! Peace is a person: Jesus Christ.

God’s peace came two thousand years ago in the middle of all humanity’s mess, in the middle of chaos and life’s disruptions, to give us His gift of peace.

For me, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when everything in my world was majorly disrupted that my eyes were finally opened, and my heart was receptive to the disruptive details and messiness surrounding Jesus’ birth.

That season exposed how quickly I jumped to the hope, the joy, and the miracle in life, how quickly I tend to move past the struggle and go straight to the end of the story. By previously focusing on the end and how strong and capable God is, I overlooked and dismissed the messy humanity in each Bible story—and in my own story. Essentially, I was missing Jesus in the midst of it all.

Oh, how I’ve needed this messy version of Christmas to relate to rather than the perfect, polished Christmas we are sold where everything is wrapped and tied with a bow! We can’t always tie a bow around things, but is it possible to have peace without a bow?

Jesus, our Prince of Peace, told his disciples,

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.”

John 14:27 CSB

Later, during the same conversation,

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

John 16:33 CSB

And when the disciples feared the storm on the sea would swallow them whole,

He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:26 CSB

Peace is in our boats today, in the middle of our storms, just like he was with his disciples two thousand years ago. They didn’t realize who was with them then, but we get to look back and see clearly the Master of the wind and waves. Our troubles in life, big or small, won’t stop coming, but neither will our Lord and our God, Jesus Christ.

As C.S. Lewis pens, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace within difficulties.” Our peace doesn’t rely on a desired outcome in the end or the absence of difficulties. We have peace in the mess, peace in the middle, which gives us peace without the bow, for there is peace to be found in His presence, peace in His faithfulness, and peace in His comfort.

All of these gifts are ours to receive and hold tight to all year through!