Peace that Passes Understanding
Little Known Bible-Based Spiritual Secrets to Peace
Living Philippians 4:7 in the Twenty-First Century
Peace so astonishing and so supernatural that it passes all understanding? Really?
Like you, I want to believe the Bible, but let’s be ruthlessly honest: some Bible thumpers might be off with the fairies, but for those of us continually smashed by the nitty-gritty of earthly reality, doesn’t this seem too good not to be an exaggeration? It’s time to stop lip service to anything that cannot survive life’s wildest storms. Unfathomable peace might be a promise in black and white in a book claiming to be the very word of the God who cannot lie, but is it a realistic expectation for ordinary Christians?
A piercing look at God’s Word exposes as fantasies many guesses as to what divine peace might look and feel like in the midst of severe trauma. Something to raise one’s hopes, however, is that the person chosen to deliver this extraordinary promise of mind-defying peace did not have his head in the clouds. In fact, he kept being pounded by a relentless barrage of harrowing events – petrifying threats, beatings, whippings, stonings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, and so on (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Any set of flapping gums, whose life has been shattered by little more traumatic than average life experiences can rave about peace, but a target for unspeakable cruelty belongs in an entirely different class. If anyone should be a contender for the title of Nervous Wreck of the Century, or has earned the right to speak authoritatively to people haunted by the horrors of what is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it’s Paul, the harassed and hated torture victim. When someone, who never knew when the next source of terror would hit, speaks of mind-boggling peace, it’s time to take notice.
Paul also speaks much about joy. In fact, Peter, writing to severely persecuted Christians, even said, “you rejoice greatly with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory,” (1 Peter 1:8). Again, that sounds worryingly like hyperbole, but this was not the place for exaggeration. Rather than boasting about what he as a supersaint felt, he was reminding them of what they actually experienced! Peace so otherworldly that it defies human logic is the focus of this webpage, but I find myself unable to avoid mentioning joy from time to time because the two regularly frolic together in uninhibited delight.
Let me be as blunt as a sledgehammer: almost wherever we go in Christian circles, we find truth, but in the form of sugar-coated fragments. We love them. We gorge ourselves on them until we end up making both ourselves and our Lord (who is the Truth) sick to the stomach. Then we have the audacity to think God has failed, when we are the ones who have failed to understand God’s plans.
Everything seems a hopeless disaster when we are only halfway through God’s thriller. We cannot even conceive of the surprise twist at the end that will send everyone cheering in rapturous awe for all eternity, at how our astonishing Lord turned it all around. Everything seeming hopeless is actually part of God’s glory – just as the spear savagely thrust into Jesus’ side, ending all hope of the faintest beat of life, magnified the glory of Jesus’ resurrection.
The sugar creates false expectations, setting us up for crushing disappointment – like someone assured that success would come thirty years before it does, and that the reward would be ten million dollars, when the real reward is not even money, but something so inconceivable that you wouldn’t trade it for a trillion dollars. A sugar high lulls us into thinking we have God’s plans figured out, when our guesses are actually focused embarrassingly too much on the short-term and the inferior.
Those adding the sugar are usually devout people who have either heard the sweetener repeated so often that they actually believe it, or they genuinely think they are helping God out by making his truth exciting and popular. Sugar-coating a truth makes it so easy to swallow. The downside is that the addition of any sweetener renders it less than 100% pure. That makes it adulterated truth – a part-truth. Unfortunately, part-truths are part-lies.
I recoil even from considering how often I must have unknowingly added an artificial sweetener (it’s never real), just like so many others. Nevertheless, my goal before God – at least for now – is to try to give you the full truth, no matter how unpopular it makes me. If what I present to you below is in any way sugar-coated, I will have let you down, and let God down.
You have every right to be skeptical of my attempt. I quote the Bible a lot, but so does the devil (e.g. Luke 4:9-10). To be a part-truth, part of the Bible must agree with it, but to be the unadulterated truth, all of the Bible must agree with it, with every part of the Bible interpreted, not how we would like, but in whatever way the divine Author intends. That’s a daunting goal.
My preference is for you to prayerfully seek God and his Word as to how far I have fallen from this lofty goal. If you do this well, your spiritual understanding will exceed mine. I believe I can alert you to certain aspects of biblical revelation that need to be taken seriously and are commonly overlooked in our era, but I am sure to have my own blind spots. Even the Apostle Paul, whose grasp of divine truth is incomparably superior to mine, said, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror . . . Now I know in part . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV).
The way to peace that few find, is along a path that few take. We recoil from the route because to reach peace that passes understanding, we must walk a path that passes understanding.
1 Corinthians 8:2 But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know.
Few find the peace we all pine for because few have the faith to follow a path that makes no sense to the human mind. In fact, our mind keeps screaming that peace must be in the opposite direction. Divine peace comes from boldly following the divinely prescribed way:
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.
I began writing about supernatural peace (see The Forgotten Secret of Inner Peace) with a rather unusual exploration of how God, in his Word, tackles the matter of being saved from spiritual disaster. Though strongly Bible-based, my emphasis was rather different to what is usually said today. Jesus kept warning over and over about people who were certain they were spiritually safe, when they were actually hurtling towards the greatest conceivable catastrophe. And the rest of Scripture backs up his dire warnings. The great deception is that it is always other people, never us, in grave spiritual danger. I zeroed in on this, not merely because we cannot have the peace of God without having peace with God, but because the way the Bible handles this issue dramatically illustrates how contrary God’s approach to peace is to our own.
A stark difference with God’s approach can be no mere curiosity. If our attempts to find peace are the opposite of God’s way, it proves our way is unworkable. If the Creator of everything doesn’t recommend it, it’s futile. Although I might occasionally speak if you have read The Forgotten Secret of Inner Peace, the following can be understood without it. If you have read all of it, however, you will have seen that an essential ingredient in being at peace with God is to remain aware that we are always as utterly dependent upon our Savior, and as unworthy of his mercy, as the most despised person ever to walk this planet. Without even considering the implications of original sin, I deserve nothing other than an eternity in hell from the moment of my first sin. That’s a truth we prefer not to dwell on but, according to Jesus, it’s vital that we grasp it. The worst day of my life – or anyone’s else’s life – was filled with far more divine mercy than any of us deserve.
If you have fully read the previous two webpages, you will have seen that the Bible keeps warning its readers so frequently as to be almost non-stop, that their confidence could be alarmingly mistaken about their salvation, and about having God’s acceptance. How’s that going to contribute to anyone’s peace? We, on the other hand, seem to consider it so unthinkable that we could be wrong about being right with God, that we keep pushing the possibility out of our minds.
It is so important that you grasp the truth expounded in those other webpages that for anyone unwilling to devote the time to reading it. I will attempt a two paragraph summary of a critical part of it. (It is actually an abridgment of the conclusion of those pages.) Unfortunately, to summarize is like fast forwarding a movie at such ridiculous speed that it is all a blur, but you glimpse enough of the surprise ending to spoil it when you get around to actually viewing the movie. Moreover, I cannot expect you to accept the truth of this tiny overview without having prayerfully studied all the biblical evidence presented in those two webpages.
To think ourselves better than anyone else – whether a Christian or non-Christian – is such an easy sin to fall into. Nevertheless, I explain in those webpages how emphatic the Bible is that doing this exposes us to the eternal judgement of God. Not only does this grave error reveal a corrupt heart and heretical views, it makes it doubtful whether someone with this attitude is saved (redeemed, had our sins forgiven). Unless we refuse to repent of it before Judgment Day, this sin, like any other, is forgivable for all who look exclusively to Jesus for forgiveness. Until repenting of this attitude, however, it puts us at odds with God, who alone is the source of the peace these webpages are about.
Our strong tendency to have an inflated view of ourselves dramatically highlights how divine peace differs enormously from human attempts to grope for peace. We find ourselves repeatedly tempted to try to feel at peace with ourselves, and with God, by boosting our egos, by such ways as telling ourselves we are better than the ungodly. Our egos, however, are what the Bible calls the flesh – our fallen nature. So to boost it is to propel ourselves in the opposite direction of both godliness and the peace of God.
We have our individual variations but, for most of us, our approach to peace is essentially to try killing worries by burying our heads in the sand – convincing ourselves that everything is alright, regardless of whether it is.
Alarmingly many of us have an ‘ignorance is bliss,’ ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ mentality.
Tragically, the truths that would set us free (cf. John 8:32) are often the very truths we run from like cockroaches running from the light.
“Search me, God, and know my heart. . . .” prayed the psalmist, “See if there is any wicked way in me . . .” (Psalm 139:23-24 – Psalm 26:2 is similar). Few of us want to pray like that. We worry that the answer, or merely wondering what the answer could be, might disturb our peace. The alternative, however, is more foolish and more serious than refusing to ask a doctor about a mysterious lump. Astonishingly many of Jesus’ parables, and much of his teaching, were warnings about the dangers of being at peace when it isn’t warranted.
Let’s never confuse peace with living in denial. Peace is meant to be a divine blessing, not a recipe for disaster. Too many of us read the Bible and fail to see our own predicament portrayed there. I am reminded of Bible readers who frustrated James. He likened them to people looking in a mirror and immediately forgetting what they have just seen (James 1:23-24).
We tend to want peace at any price – as if the point of Jesus’ parables were that our eternity is of little consequence as long as we have peace on earth and remain blissfully unaware right up until the final shock of how filled with remorse we will be for all eternity. Being at peace – feeling calm and confident – when we have a legitimate reason for worry would be catastrophic. Rather than being oblivious to dangers, vast numbers of us would be infinitely better off worrying, since it could drive us to find divine deliverance.
I am by no means suggesting there is the slightest value in worry. That isn’t God’s way. There is, however, enormous value in seeing everything else – ourselves included –as God sees it.
Scripture speaks of committing our way to the Lord (Psalm 37:5) and casting our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7). That’s totally different from deserting our cares and letting them pile into a catastrophe. Check out the context:
Philippians 4:6-7 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
This is saying that divine peace comes not from closing our minds to possibilities, but by the exact opposite: being aware of dangers and praying about them.
Here’s another context to examine:
1 Peter 5:7-8 casting all your worries on him, because he cares for you. Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
The context screams that casting one’s worries upon God does not mean becoming reckless or negligent or indifferent or rash. It is associated with being alert and on guard; mindful of dangers.
It should not surprise us that the very truths we fear are the ones that would bring us peace. What chance has any of us of peace if, lurking within us, are things we are too afraid to face? Unexpected wonders await those with the courage to face unwanted truths.
Here’s an example, both of how divine peace clashes with human sense, and how it involves dwelling on truths we recoil from: consider how we would expect that the way to peace would be to pamper one’s ego. That’s the route taken by the Pharisee we spoke of in the The Forgotten Secret of Inner Peace.
Whereas the tax collector tormented himself by focusing on past failings, the Pharisee soothed himself by focusing on the positive; finding ways that others had messed up worse than he ever had, and counting the gold stars he had accumulated. I provided examples of the many ways the tax collector could have done similarly; calming his conscience and making peace with himself by listing all the people that everyone agreed were worse than him, and all the good things he had done, and how misunderstood he was. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Doesn’t just about everyone do this to make life more livable? Isn’t it what makes gossip and finger pointing so satisfying? Isn’t it a big drawcard for Christianity; bringing peace to our nagging conscience by providing reasons for us feeling better than all those who are less committed to Christ?
According to Jesus, that’s delusional peace. No matter how good the Pharisee felt about himself, he was not good in God’s eyes. No matter how much he felt at peace with himself, he had no peace with God.
It might befuddle human thinking, but Paul, the man who speaks of exceptional peace, refused the way that most of us claw for peace. Astonishingly, this former Pharisee, chose the way of the tax collector. The great apostle labelled himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), “the least of the apostles,” “not worthy to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9), “less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8, Weymouth New Testament – NIV is almost identical), and as “like an aborted fetus”.
Does it rattle your brain that someone with such a ‘negative confession’ could have more peace than the positive thinking gurus? Maybe worldly ways do not lead to otherworldly peace. Maybe God’s ways are disturbingly different to ‘Christianized’ worldly thinking.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2019, 2020 Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered, this entire paragraph is included, readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.
Bible Versions Used
King James Version
King James Version