by Arianne Braithwaite Lehn
Scripture: John 14:23-29
Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27
Maybe you’ve had a really hard year too. Maybe you’re wondering if your soul can find peace in the midst of it all.
Maybe your friend completed suicide, or a member of your family was sentenced to prison. Maybe your family was newly cracked by divorce or the agreement finalized. Maybe one of the dearest people to you died, or you passed that pivotal one-year-anniversary (or second, or tenth, or thirtieth…). Maybe you had to leave the house you loved because your mom’s job relocated or the money just wasn’t there anymore. Or maybe you uncovered a shocking revelation about someone you loved and you weren’t sure what to do or who to trust.
Maybe your greatest fears actualized before your very eyes. The tidal wave of loss ripped in leaving the landscape of life forever changed and you standing on the shore, gasping by how quickly it all happened.
It is in these moments that our longing for peace becomes so tangible we can taste it. Our mouths salivate for a peace that holds us in wholeness when we’re in grief, or heartache, or chaos. When what’s most precious to us was swept away in one, swift wave, or the world’s teeming with so much noise and busy-ness we can’t hear ourselves think. We are longing for the peace that passes understanding – that stands defiantly stronger than the pain or confusion.
I was seven months pregnant when my dad died a year and a half ago. I found myself on that shore, feeling like the world was ripped away, devastated that my dad was gone and would not meet our baby – at least on this side of the veil. Each morning I got up, I would will myself to focus on just that day. I remember going to the kitchen, walking to the refrigerator, and staring at the same magnet. A simple black and white magnet that says,
“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
This is how I understand the peace of God. It is a peace that settles into your bones, into the bedrock of your soul. It’s the kind of peace Jesus speaks of when he tells his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled or afraid. He is giving them a peace – a state of soul – that cannot be rocked or destroyed by life’s circumstances. Like the stones at the bottom of a river that don’t move, even as the water above churns and flows.
True peace is a sense of stability empowering us to face the deepest loss or the most difficult transition with assurance that somehow, all will be made good again – different, maybe, but good.
Family Discussion/Spiritual Practices
- Find some rocks outside, or use some colored pebbles if you like. Place them in the bottom of a glass bowl, and then fill the bowl with water. Take turns making the water “churn” by blowing across the water, stirring, or splashing it with your hands. Notice the rocks and how they remain steady at the bottom of the bowl. Talk about how these rocks are like the peace Jesus offers. When our hearts feel stormy or tossed around, Jesus’ presence and peace are those rocks that stay firm in our souls. What happens above the water cannot touch it. Let the bowl sit out for a day or two as a reminder that you are okay. Thank Jesus for his peace and recognize his presence with you right now.
- Is there something that you are really worried about or hurt over right now? Take some time as a family to ask Jesus and his peace to cover those worries or hurts.
- As you go through the day, whenever you feel your stress rising or you encounter circumstances and thoughts that bring you pain, try to stop and either aloud or in your head, say, “I receive the peace of Jesus.”
Thank you for being and giving
a deeper peace than I could imagine.
A peace that will keep me rock-steady
no matter what I face today.
Rev. Arianne Braithwaite Lehn is a mother, one half of a clergy couple, writer, and ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA). She blogs at www.ariannebraithwaitelehn.com.