I’ve been thinking a lot about that as I’ve been wandering through John 14 over the last few weeks. Jesus knew that his death was close and realised the grief, confusion and fear that lay ahead for his disciples.
In those days leading up to his crucifixion he said a number of things to try and prepare them, not just for the agony of his death, but for the road they would walk beyond it.
Tucked in amongst the numerous things he said to them was an amazing promise in verse 27, “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a peace the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid”. I like that wording because it isn’t some vague concept of peace but strikes at the core of the practicalities of peace in my everyday life.
Peace of mind – how we all need that in the crazy, busy, often turbulent days in which we live. Peace in the middle of the night when sleep escapes us and our mind fills with a thousand competing thoughts, peace when there’s vital decisions to be made and we aren’t sure of the best way forward or like the disciples, we struggle with grief, confusion, loneliness or fear.
I love that the mind comes first because we will never have peace of heart unless we first have peace of mind. It's the battleground, the place where the battle is won or lost.
It's the place where doubt and fear want to crowd out faith and were we find a myriad of ways to justify what we want to do. The mind is a miraculous gift but can be a controlling curse, magnifying and exaggerating things out of all proportion.
How many times have you heard these verses quoted and that’s where it ends? Paul didn’t stop there.
He goes on, FINALLY, when you’ve done all that, and here’s the important bit, fill your mind with all that is true, pure, lovely, noble and praiseworthy and think on these things. When we empty our mind of all those anxious, repetitive thoughts a void is left and if we don’t fill it with something else the old thoughts will march right back in and we’ll find ourselves worrying all over again.
I know that feeling well, but when I can manage to sift my mind to all the times God has answered in the past, the often miraculous ways he has provided and his amazing faithfulness throughout my life, I get a taste of that wonderful peace of mind and heart, and its easier to trust him with the current struggle.
Isaiah obviously understood that when he said,
You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
I can’t help thinking that if my mind was focused on those true, pure, lovely, noble and praiseworthy things on a regular basis maybe I’d have a whole lot less worrying and anxious thoughts to contend with.
But more often than not I get caught up in the sprint of everyday life and sometimes it feels like a marathon … the urgent thoughts take over … life gobbles the best of intensions and peace becomes elusive.
Surgery and treatment in three hospitals in Africa and more once she return to Australia have made it a long, slow, painful road to recovery and there is still a long way to go. There’s been grief and loss. Yet she said, “I never thought that I would face such an accident bravely, yet God enabled me to be positive and thankful.”
She trusts the one who knows the future she can’t see at the moment and was able to say, “But I have never doubted God’s goodness or that he has a purpose in this rough road that I’m travelling”.
That’s the gift, peace in the midst of unthinkable suffering.
As Jesus faced the reality of the cross, he knew Judas would betray him, Peter deny him, and the fickle crowd turn against him and yet he could say, “MY peace I give unto you”. There was nothing elusive about that peace because it didn’t rest on his circumstances but in his unwavering trust in his father’s love and sufficiency.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.