PEACE IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLE, PART 1
By Tierce Green
Do paradoxes fit into your faith? A paradox is a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth. Jesus made statements like that, promises like this one:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Two promises that together seem to be contradictory—the promise of peace coupled with the promise of trouble. It seems that the presence of one would eliminate the presence of the other. But Jesus never promised peace apart from trouble. The promise is peace in the midst of trouble.
There is HEAVEN, and there is HERE. And here in this world there will be trouble. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven. But God’s will being done on Earth doesn’t change Earth into Heaven. His will is done in the context of here in this world where we will have trouble. On the surface there can be trouble, but in your innermost life there can be peace.
These paradoxical promises come at the end of a long and beautiful discourse that began in John Chapter 14, after Jesus had washed the feet of men who would desert him, one who would deny him and one who would betray him. John 16:33 is a summary statement of all the things he had told his disciples to prepare them for a very difficult and dark time that was quickly approaching. Jesus would soon be arrested and crucified. His disciples who had left everything to follow him would scatter in the aftermath as the shadows of the world played upon their hearts and minds. “I have told you these things that in me you may have peace.” Would this be enough to help them hold on and navigate through their doubts, fears, regrets and guilt? Is it enough for us today?
Peace in the midst of trouble is more than a glass-half-full perspective. It is a peace that can be experienced even when the glass is empty, even when there is no glass for the lemonade you tried to make out of the lemons life gave you. It is more substantive and satisfying than any cliché. It is very real, and it can be found in the context of trouble. Jesus is not offering a light at the end of the tunnel, but a light in the midst of the tunnel.
How can peace and trouble co-exist? In John 14:27 Jesus explained, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives.” It is his peace, and as such, it is in a category all by itself. It is a peace that is unique. It is a peace that is unaffected by culture and circumstances. We have to zoom out for a broader and higher perspective. We need God's perspective to begin to understand it.