My most memorable childhood Christmas’ was on the mission field in Congo. Our family of seven kids had recently settled in our dilapidated house, the best in the area. Although doors were finally hinged and pillowcase curtains covered windows, cracks in the foundation and gaping holes in the ceiling often let in unwelcome creatures.
With barely enough funds to get by and our new life still out of control, our first Christmas seemed doomed. Despite circumstances my brothers challenged us all to a ‘100 gifts’ Christmas offering suggestions to get us started. Before long the presents piled up and by Christmas 100 banana leaf wrapped gifts surrounded the small palm tree potted for the occasion.
Although a few wrapped rocks and nuts got us to 100, most gifts made a huge impression. I cannot recount details of each gift, only meaningful songs and poems written or sung, items lovingly carved, possessions traded for special gifts, and beautiful jewellery made from natures bounty. The memory is still special today, but it also reminds me how God’s peace can be vibrant even in the middle of chaos.
It is easy to have peace when everything is going well. We usually make ‘peace’ synonymous with ‘cottage’ or ‘holiday’. It is a place away from stress, or the absence of negative circumstances, but God’s version of peace is quite different.
The peace that God gives is an inner calm in the middle of life’s challenges, the ones you cannot get away from or control like daily stressors, chaos, work pressure, loss, and even disasters. His kind of peace holds the hand of deep sorrow and debilitating disappointment, providing a strong assurance that God will create something beautiful out of the mess you have to walk through. It is a robust peace that can carry even the weightiest challenge.
Jesus best displays this kind of peace in the book of John where He says,
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27 (NLT)
As a quick read the verse can come across as fluffy, or like the empty encouragement from a friend who doesn’t understand your circumstances. But it takes on a whole new meaning when you understand the context and timeline this statement fits into, revealing how powerful God’s peace really is.
If you read only the chapter, it seems like guy time. Jesus is hanging with His disciples and as they eat and drink together, He teaches them about peace. But as you read the chapters before and after you realize Jesus made this statement after He already knew that Judas (one of His disciples) was planning His betrayal. He also knew that in the next few days He would be arrested, beaten beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die, carrying the burden of humanities sin.
Having experienced the worst of humanity, Jesus does not make His promise of peace lightly. He himself lived the worst events, emphasizing the strength of peace and its ability to overcome, carefully distinguishing the incredible power of His kind of peace over our flimsy definition.
This holiday season, if you are overwhelmed and challenged by circumstances, take time with Jesus to find the type of gift the world cannot give…or define. A peace that sustains through the worst kind of betrayal, comforts through life’s most difficult challenges and offers rest in adversity knowing He has you covered…the gift of God’s peace.
Ruth Thorogood is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, Communications Manager for Lausanne Canada and the Canada Representative for the World Evangelical Alliance. For more info: www.thorogoodadventures.com