Monday, July 18, 2011

Peace, be still!

Disclaimer: This post is long. But, if you have ever struggled with Trusting God or finding His Peace or understanding why we go through storms.... it might be worth a read. :)

The past few months have been a tough lesson in trusting God and in His timing. From house damage to being married and jobless, I have really learned what it means to hold out for God's plan by holding onto His peace.

I saw this quote on Pinterest the other day that really hit me. Normally I am not one for cliches or little sayings or whatever, but this one made perfect sense: "Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and He calms His child."

It's so True. We pray for peace, expecting God to calm everything around us. Peace sounds like days spent in a shaded hammock between two giant oak trees. That's not peace. That's peaceful. Real peace - God's Peace - is most often found in its purest form in the midst of chaos. Some of the definitions of peace:
- Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension
- A state of tranquility or serenity
- Silence, stillness
- Freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.

Real Peace is Freedom. Freedom from worry, Freedom from fear, Freedom from panic. I'm reading this book about prayer by Graham Cook and the first day I read, it said "Believing in God means you must lose the ability to panic." Easier said than done. Peace is hard to achieve on our own, and that's where God steps in.

Imagine Jesus and the disciples traveling on a boat. Jesus has been teaching and decides they need to go over to the other side of the lake where they had been. They get on the boat and a "furious squall" comes up. (Okay maybe you don't have to imagine this. Maybe you can just read it in Mark 4:35-41.) Remember where Jesus was during this storm?

Sleeping. That's right. Son of God, cat-napping as waves are spilling into the boat. The disciples must have been in a panic; racing around the boat trying to figure out what to do. And they look over and the Almighty One they've been traveling with is asleep. They run to Him, assuming He's just being a slacker and that He doesn't care. "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" they ask.

Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind and hollers something like "Peace, be still" to the waves. Then everything was calm.

Did you catch that? He said, "Peace, be still."

Some versions translate it to "Quiet, be still." I guess that could have the same effect, but I like Peace better. Sometimes Jesus says those words to the "storm" we are in, and sometimes He says it to us.

Let me break this passage down to point out a few critical details:

1. "Don't you care if we drown?" - Our guest pastor yesterday talked about forgiving God (and I have every intention to write a post focusing on that subject!). Part of His message was that Satan steers us into believing that God's intentions for us are bad. The disciples let their Worldly knowledge and the deceitfulness of Satan overcome their knowledge of the Lord. They believed, in this moment, that Jesus did not care if they died. All they saw was that He was sleeping and they were panicking.
When those ideas seep into our brains, telling us that God is not answering us or that He is busy or that we are not faithful enough, we need to remember that God cares for us because we are His children. If He breaks His promise, it's His Name that is marred. He will never leave us or forsake us, even though at times it seems like He might have forgotten about us. We know the Truth in our hearts, we just have to whisper God's Truth to our brain at times.

2. Jesus, at peace - Jesus doesn't have to go to His "happy place" - He is the happy place! He is peace. And while the disciples thought He was crazy for being asleep during this storm, Jesus knew that He held all the power He needed to get through whatever they were facing. He could be still because He knew God's promises.
And Jesus didn't go up to the storm and say "Dear Lord, if it is Your will, would you calm this storm?" Nope. He just said, "Peace, be still." He knew the Power that was within Him, and He knew God's will. He combined the two and BAM! Peace. We can be at peace because God has given us that same Power and we can discern His will through listening and studying Scripture.
God may not always make our situations still, and though it doesn't make sense at times, He is still at work. We may say to Hardship, "Peace, be still" and yet it doesn't go away. Those are difficult moments to understand. But, that's when we begin to focus God's peace on ourselves and He graces us with the "peace that passes all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). That's when we can tell the storm to do whatever it wants and we'll just be sleeping below decks if it needs us.

3. You have arrived at your destination - Mark 5:1-2 says, "They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him." A) They got where they were going. And they made it safely. B) The very first thing they encountered was an evil spirit. In the days before they crossed the lake, Jesus had just appointed the disciples and had been teaching parables. You know, those confusing parables that He would have to re-explain in great detail to the disciples? But now that they crossed the lake, they were upon a time of casting out Spirits and miraculous healings and raising the dead. Teaching.... casting out demons.... two totally different things!! Though I have no knowledge of how to accurately interpret Scripture, something in me tells me that the storm in the middle of these two places was no coincidence.
Once the disciples saw that Jesus calmed the storm, they proclaimed "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" And then the first thing Jesus does when He steps off the boat is cast some demons out into a herd of pigs. He had done this type of thing before, but not all of the disciples had been a witness. When He appointed them, He did so "that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" (Mark 3:14-15). So, on one side of the lake they preached. On the other, they drove out demons.
The storm increased their faith. It was scary, it was wild, it was crazy, but their faith in Jesus was increased. They saw the Mighty Power of God and they believed.

When we go through the chaotic times of life - cancer, death, a tornado, snake bites, financial distress, relationship garbage, anger, depression - God never lets go of us. If we have to walk through it, He walks through it with us. When we go through that kind of stress, we want so badly to get out from under it. Most of the time, we need to just keep going. Imagine if the disciples had let Jesus sleep and just decided to attempt to sail back to safe side of the lake. Or imagine if they had just simply decided that He couldn't do anything about a storm anyway and they didn't even bother to wake Him.

Since I have already littered this post with cliches, let me end with this one: God never give us more than we can handle. False. We are given more than we can handle all the time. And that, my friends, is exactly why we need Him.

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