Just before Jesus was arrested and suffered his crucifixion, an approaching time which He was fully aware of, He spoke of peace to His closest friends. John, being one of His closest, recorded Jesus as telling them this, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives.”
As the world gives…
The Son of God experienced the worst of what this world gives. It gave Him death. Surely, we have that same inheritance. At one point or another, we know death is a part of each of our lives. Yet Jesus spoke of peace.
Family and friends, loved ones of my Uncle Steve, my heart grieves with yours. The truth is, this life is hard. We experience trial and struggle, loss and heartache, pain and disappointment, illness and disease. For this, we can be glad Steve’s body no longer toils here. But for those of us here now, to where do we look for peace?
Beloved, I don’t have any magic words to cease all our sufferings. And though I would if I could, I cannot open our chests to wrap healing hands around our hearts, or mend the fractures and brokenness. Nor can I somehow fill those places of loss that feel like holes in our hearts, as if very pieces of ourselves were missing. No, I cannot do these things. But I know the One who can.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul, in the midst of great hardship, penned this, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
Suffering flows over into each of our lives, yet I have in turn experienced a comfort in Christ which overflows. This is what I have to offer to each of you. Allow me to share an experience with you.
Some years ago, while I was away at college, I came to a particularly low point in my life. My heart was broken. I was suffering feelings of loss, loneliness and despair. There I was, broken and in tears, on the floor in the middle of my third story attic room, alone. In my sadness I closed my eyes and began to imagine what might possibly bring me some relief and comfort. I thought of a hug. If I could just get a hug from someone, someone who loves me, to have them close to me, maybe that would bring relief? I imagined hugging my Mom and Dad, yet that brought me no peace. I moved on to imagine embracing my brothers, my sister, my grandparents, a boyfriend, but still my heart found no peace. Then, when I had exhausted all the possible vessels of comfort in my life, without any announcement, suddenly and unexpectedly, a man robed in white came to my side. He knelt down beside me and gently put His arm around me. At that moment, peace flooded over me. It was a peace I had never known before, but was exactly what I was searching for. I found peace, comfort and healing that day in the presence of Jesus Christ.
And this is the same peace He spoke of to His loved ones, and to which He now offers to each of us. Not that He took away all my troubles or His disciples’ hardships, but that He walks through them with us. Though I don’t compare my grief in that time some years ago with the grief you are feeling today, I can assure you of God’s desire to hold you in the midst of it. If He came to me in my time of need, how much more does He long to hold each of us at such a time as this?
Such a time as this…
We may struggle with questions at such a time as this. Questions of why. Questions of doubts and fears. Maybe even questions of resentment or anger. And that’s ok. It is in our difficult times that we discover whether or not we really know God and trust Him. The God I’ve grown to know, mostly through times of turmoil, has taken and is still making good and beautiful things out of the mess, heartbreaks and things that just don’t seem to make sense in my life. And that is my prayer for us in this time. That although we are hurting, God would use this time to draw us closer to Him, and closer to one another in love. My prayer is that we come to know Him, each of us personally, in a way that grows our faith and trust in Him, so that when troubled times come we may have a peace that surpasses all understanding because we know and trust in a good God. A God who is in control, even when our worlds fall apart and things don’t make sense. In Matthew 10 Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father’s will. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Like you, Steve is worth more than many sparrows to God.
May we come to know and trust in the God whose ways and thoughts are not like ours, but are infinitely higher. May we know and trust in the God who loves us and has a plan for each of our lives- to give us hope no matter what this world gives us. The God who looked upon His world, saw pain and a problem that we were helpless to solve on our own, and willingly stepped down into our darkness to be with us. To make the way FOR us. A way that leads to life everlasting, not just after our time here draws to an end, but for right here and right now. See, the Psalmist David, one who knew God intimately, wrote that, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
He is close, dear ones. Let us call on Him while He is near. That we may be comforted and have peace, as we take our good memories and loving moments we shared with Steve forward with us. That we may be thankful for the time He gives us to share our lives in love with one another, and hopeful to have every tear wiped away by the Lord Himself in Heaven.
Until then, let us seek to know Him now, the One who brings us the good news of peace. For “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”
May “grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
*In memory of lost loved ones. Dedicated to my Aunt Peg, Jenny and Jerry, and all Steve’s family.