Is peace circumstantial? Is it possible to have complete chaos around you and still be at peace? I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of peace lately and what it means to have it. In my own experience I’ve had times when everything around me has been in complete peace and harmony and yet on the inside I’ve felt anything but peaceful. Then there have been times when the world around me seems to be in chaotic turmoil and yet I feel totally at peace. So I’m inclined to believe that peace cannot be circumstantial. True peace in our soul has to come from an outside source. As humans our emotions change hourly so we’d be foolish to try to find our peace from ourselves. We might be successful at obtaining peace for a little while but inevitably our mood will change and with it our sense of peace. Circumstances are an unstable source of peace as well because they are dependent on an infinite number of variables outside of our control.
I find the apostle Paul’s life fascinating because for someone who experienced so much turmoil, so many hardships, so much persecution and so many false accusations, he maintained a level of peace that inspires me. At one point when he was being transported as a prisoner on a boat and the boat was hit by a storm that eventually shipwrecked everyone, it was Paul who stood up in the midst of the storm to encourage the people and provide direction. You don’t do that sort thing unless you have a source of peace that is not shaken by feelings or circumstances.
At the end of Paul’s life while he was in prison he wrote a letter to his good friend Timothy. Paul had mentored Timothy and the two had formed a family-like bond. In one of his last earthly writings Paul discloses to Timothy what I’m convinced was the source of the profound peace he displayed in life. He says to Timothy, “for I know Him whom I have believed, and I am confident He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him…” Paul knew Jesus, and that made all the difference. He didn’t just know about Jesus, He didn’t just believe in the idea of Jesus, he knew Jesus personally and intimately. As a result of this Paul had no doubt about where he placed his confidence, so his peace couldn’t be shaken because it’s source was true. It’s why he could remain confident even while being falsely imprisoned; it’s why he could remain joyful even in the most horrendous circumstances.
Whether I die young or old, I want Paul’s words to echo in the life I lived—“for I know Him whom I have believed, and I am confident in Him…”