Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of God’s peace.
For so long I thought that peace was simply the feeling of comfort, tranquillity and ease. Whilst it is these things, I’ve come to realise that it is so much more than that.
Over Easter, I attended New Zealand’s Northern Baptist Youth Ministries Easter Camp in Hamilton. There was a particular song written by a local NZ band that really got me questioning my perceptions and preconceived ideas about God’s peace.
The song is called “Peace / Afio Mai” by Link and the lyrics that caused me to ponder were as follows:
“He never told me that it would be easy
He said ‘Suffering would come’
But He promised peace, peace, peace.”
As I heard this song sung, I couldn’t understand how those lyrics could be true. How could someone experiencing suffering, someone who is in pain genuinely say they are at peace? For, if peace is comfort and someone experiences discomfort, how then can they experience peace?
The answer: peace can exist among discomfort, pain, suffering and confusion.
As I continued to ponder and wrestle with this idea of God’s peace, Hillsong United’s famous song “Oceans” spoke to me.
“And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine”
If you were to envision the image these lines are depicting, it is certainly not one of comfort. The ‘character’ in the song is on the verge of drowning, only just keeping their eyes above the water level. Yet, despite this, they are “rest”, at peace. They are experiencing peace despite discomfort and struggle.
This reminded me of my own story of immigrating to New Zealand from South Africa. In order for us to be able to move to NZ, one of my parents would need to get a job to attain the necessary visa’s that would lead to residency.
So, in February of 2013, my dad left in search of a job. At first, the family were extremely hopeful of his chances. But, when three months had passed, and he hadn’t even come close, we started to doubt. Another month passed, and then another, and suddenly he had one month left until he had to return to South Africa and wait six months before trying again.
But yet, with about 3 weeks to go before his flight home, he finally found a job and so, in July of 2013, my family and I left to start a new life in New Zealand.
“Trust me and keep swimming”
Its weird thinking back on that time. I remember praying and praying to God each day that my dad would find a job. And, as each day would pass, my hope would dwindle away until, finally, with one month to go, it seemed as if all hope was lost. But then, God came through in an incredible way.
During times of pain, suffering and discomfort; when the flood waters rush in and it feels like we’re drowning, it can feel like God isn’t there and that He doesn’t care. But sometimes, instead of sending us a rescue boat like we might want Him to, God says: “Trust me and keep swimming”.
Instead of complete relief, He offers us peace. Peace, as I’ve come to realise, is regardless of the circumstances or the outcomes, knowing that with God everything is going to be okay. When we trust in God, we can have peace in every circumstance because:
“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans chapter 8 verse 28)
“All things”, all outcomes, all circumstances God will bring something good from it.
In February, I was full of hope. But, as each month passed, my hope dwindled away. I so badly wanted God to relieve my family of our anxiety and worry, I so badly wanted God to send us a rescue boat and whisk away to New Zealand. But, do you know what He said?
“Trust me and keep swimming”.
You know, it’s funny because I remember, during that time, my fear was that we weren’t going to get to New Zealand. I never feared that everything wouldn’t work out in the end. I always knew, somehow, that regardless of what happened, whether my dad got a job or not, everything would be just fine.
For a long time, I thought of it as simply naivety. But, as I’ve come to realise, it was God’s peace that I was feeling. He was letting me know He was with me and that everything was going to be okay.
The waiting, the uncertainty, the unknown was still worrying and scary – treading water is never comfortable. But you know, God’s peace gave me rest and comfort amongst the discomfort.
The fruits from treading
God not sending us a rescue boat isn’t a sign of negligence but one of love. Because, the more we tread the water, the stronger and fitter we get. And, when we may find ourselves in deep water again in the future, we don’t have to fear because we know that God was with us before and He promises He will be with us in the future.
“Glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans chapter 5 verse 3 and 4)
For me, my treading during those months in 2013 deepened my faith. God was with me then and this gives me faith and hope knowing He will be with me through whatever life may bring in the future.
In fact, I am currently unsure what I want to do with my life. I’ve experienced a lot of confusion trying to ascertain where God is leading me. But you know, within the discomfort and the uncertainty, I am at peace because I know that whatever happens, God is with me and everything will work out for good.
He kept His promise
It has been five years since my family began our life in New Zealand. These five years have been incredible testing and through times of financial uncertainty and loneliness God has been with us. Now, five years on, I am blessed with incredible friends and I am part of an amazing church community. God has brought my family and I to an incredible place and reflecting on how far we have come only makes me more thankful.
Crazy to think that everything worked out in the end.
So, regardless of what your circumstance or situation may be. Despite the pain, the worry or the confusion, God’s peace is available. God wants you to know that He is with you and that everything is going to be okay.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phillipians chapter 4 verse 7).
Trust God and keep swimming.
Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org