January 3rd Devotion

Peace in Troubled Times
By Jessica Van Roekel

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

We live in troubled times. The economy, the political landscape, and the polarizing of relationships between people make me think of the troubled waters from the old Simon and Garfunkel song, Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Our coping mechanisms show we’re looking for a way over these times that challenge our tranquility.

Too often I look for it in escape—whether that’s through a vacation, a marathon viewing of the latest, most popular television series, or comfort food. But there’s only so much serenity to be found by the beach. I can ignore my troubling thoughts for a while when I watch a fictional set of troubles. However, once I come out of the television stupor, the set of circumstances I’m attempting to avoid smack me in the face. And comfort food tends to make my favorite pair of jeans less than comfortable.

Searching for escape in these areas provides a temporary kind of peace, but the peace fades when we walk away from the activity. The world’s peace cannot bring us the kind of settled-ness to our hearts that God’s peace brings.

The bridge over our troubled waters is a vibrant relationship with Jesus. He laid down his life and took on the burden of punishment for our sin so that we might know the kind of peace that only he provides. We receive a deep abiding peace when we say yes to him.

The Bible encourages us to not be anxious about anything, but to share our prayers and petitions with a grateful heart. Gratitude paves the way for peace. When we choose thanksgiving over worry, we discover the kind of peace Jesus refers to this passage. It is the kind of peace that guards our hearts and minds.

Have you ever driven on a curvy mountain road? The guardrails bring comfort and an awareness of how close we can be to the edge before we face danger. Our hearts and minds benefit from guardrails too. Thanksgiving points our focus away from the worries that rob our peace and fixes our mind on God’s character.

When we express our gratitude for God’s character, we remember how faithful he is to provide a way through. He is our joy-giver, abundant grace-pourer, and mercy-filler. The peace that comes when we fixate on God, keeps us from going over the edge into the ravine of worry.

Guardrails provide protection and a warning. The peace that Jesus gives trains us to direct our thoughts to trusting him. We can learn to trust him when we remember what he has done for us. Our past reveals how he brought us through times of fear, times of sorrow, and times of hopelessness. Isaiah 26:3 assures us, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

This perfect peace is complete peace. It encompasses our greatest worries and fears about the future. It holds us steadfast in the face of earth-shattering disappointments. This is possible when we entrench our trust in the Lord. God can be counted on to be with us, to fulfill his purpose in our life, and to love us through the ups and downs of living for him.

Our hearts might feel troubled at different times throughout our life, but we can rest assured that the peace that Jesus gives us bolsters our faith. His peace enables us to walk brightly over the troubled waters and into an uncertain future.

Intersecting Faith and Life:
In what area of your life do you need peace? Troubles come in all shapes and sizes and what’s big for someone else might be small for you and vice versa. You don’t have to deny your troubles because they don’t fit another person’s set of troubles. The important thought to remember is that this world’s peace doesn’t bring long-lasting peace. Jesus’ peace strengthens your feet as you stand on the truth of God’s word. He is faithful and true; steadfast and kind; and he is your strength when you are weak. Fix your mind on God and give thanks for who he is. He carries and sustains you as you walk over troubled waters.
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