Jesus warns us that in this world we will have trouble, but in Him we may have peace and He has overcome the world. (John chapter 16, verse 33)
His words could not be clearer that hard times are a part of life, which we are guaranteed to experience. But in the same breath, Jesus provides us with His comfort and assurance. This article will explore our interactions with others and how the peace of God is a powerful source of comfort.
Our interactions with others
It might be that in this time some of the trouble we are experiencing is in our interactions with others.
We are more the same than we are different and yet despite our commonalities and points of connection, we find ourselves dividing, debating, and hurting each other. Whether it is our words, or silence, or our action or inaction, each of us can cause hurt to one another. We have the same access to God (even if you don’t feel like it), to His love, salvation, and comforting presence.
Moreover, we are made in God’s image. When we converse, we speak as one image-bearer to another. I’m sure we all get frustrated with God at times, but there should always be an underlying reverence in that—never forgetting who He is and what He has done for us.
Similarly, we might get frustrated and disagree with one another, but there should always be an underlying sense of love and kindness—never forgetting who we are each made in the image of, and that Jesus died equally for my salvation as He did for yours.
A time for reflection
We’re experiencing a particularly trying time right now in Aotearoa New Zealand. We might be more irritable and tired. Perhaps we are feeling anxious or worried. Maybe you’re frustrated. While Auckland remains living with significant restrictions, it can be a good opportunity to reflect as you may be less busy.
Scan yourself, and your interactions with others - are you feeling a sense of love and kindness in your interactions, even when you disagree? Are our words ones of peace, or do they perhaps further add to division?
Sometimes it is in small moments, that we seemingly gloss over, where we can hurt others, particularly in this time of monotony and limited activity. It is important that we enter conversations from a place of peace, love, and kindness.
What steps can we take to ensure that we come from that place?
Consider that while we may feel that we are speaking in that way, it may not be received like that. Of course, while we cannot control other people’s reactions to what we say, we can be curious as to why they may be reacting in a particular way.
This may lead us to some conclusions: first, perhaps we simply aren’t speaking as kindly or mindfully as we think (consider: words used or phrasing, tone, body language, facial expression).
Alternatively, perhaps the other person is dealing with something. They might be particularly vulnerable at this time and filtering interactions through that lens, causing them to feel things in a certain way. How can we show them greater compassion?
I’m not suggesting we change ourselves to suit others but how can we be better stewards of our interactions with others, so that we build them up in their own confidence, so that any impact we do have is positive.
Finally, perhaps the environment or the climate is simply not right; maybe it is heightening the tension. Could this conversation be held at another time, in another place? Is it relevant right now?
Sometimes I find that difficult conversations are best had while on a walk, particularly on the beach or on a bush walk. The fresh air and the movement help to work through thoughts and emotions, whereas sitting and being stationery while talking can make the tension linger in the air longer. Air it out!!
There is this cool quote by Brennan Manning I came across recently. He writes: “In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”
I don’t think the intention of that quote is to bear us down with the weight of every encounter we have. I think, instead, it shows us our influence and the opportunity we have to speak life into one another. Let us create great exchanges.
Peace upon us
At times, however, it’s not in our interactions with others, but in our minds where we feel tension, and frustration with others, or with ourselves. What can we do to experience peace here? Where can we go to resolve this?
God is the Almighty. He is over, above and in all things. He tells us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. (1 Peter chapter 5, verse 7) We have the greatest source of comfort in God, He never runs out of it, and He isn’t vulnerable to the circumstances of this world.
Chapter 4 of Philippians is another passage that provides us with comfort, knowing that God gives us strength and cares about our prayers.
Somewhere else I find comfort is reading through the Psalms. In many of these sacred poems, David really pours out his heart. He is, at times, vividly honest with God about his anguish, his worries, his fatigue. But he always turns it into praise for God and a reflection of his reverence of God.
It encourages me that the same God David worships in the Psalms is the same God I pray to now.
The example of Jesus
This is also the same God we see Jesus praying to in the early hours of the morning. Mark chapter 1, verse 35 describes Jesus leaving His accommodation to pray privately while it was still dark.
I love that this moment is recorded for us to read; to see that Jesus needed that solo prayer time. Jesus knows that we will have trouble in this world. Not only has He overcome the world and given us peace, but He also shows us that even the Son of God needs to pray alone with His Father.
We can overcomplicate our methods and we can make excuses for avoiding our practices. But in this uneasy and uncertain time we need simple actions like praying and reading over scripture to fill our minds and souls with peace. And being filled up with peace, we can take that into our interactions with others.
We really do influence others, and we can reflect the love of Jesus to other people. Despite the difficulties many of us are facing now, selflessly loving others through kind words, calm exchanges and constructive conversations has the power to really make a positive difference in the world. It is a difference in the world that we need (a slice of peace) and through Jesus, we can do it.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.