My friend’s husband has been gravely ill for months. After a couple of extended hospital stays and multiple surgeries to save his life, he was transferred to a long-term care facility to begin the healing process in earnest. A few days ago, he got sick again – a scary step back into life-threatening illness.
Everything has changed for this family, from the mundane (lawn mowing tasks are being handled by someone else this spring) to the once-in-a-lifetime (my friend’s oldest daughter is getting married in mid-June; having dad walk her up the aisle has taken on a completely different meaning for the family). The future they were all expecting has been radically, permanently re-scripted by this experience.
When I checked in with her yesterday, I was struck afresh by the kind of peace my friend was experiencing in the midst of this terrifying battle.
Was she exhibiting an eerie emotional placidity (think Ghandi on Xanax)? Was she able to disconnect from her grieving, scared, exhausted emotions so she could walk through this long valley as if she was taking a nature hike on a sunny day? Not at all. Actually, her emotions are quite understandaby all over the place right now. But there was a deep sense of surrender to God’s eternal purposes, and a singular, ravenous desire to cling to each word He is speaking into her life right now. She is at peace, even though she is living in the middle of a war zone.
What does “the peace that passes all understanding” really mean? This favorite Christian phrase is often shorthand for “an irrational sense of emotional calm”. Is Jesus talking about our emotional state here?
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:25-27
On one hand, yes. He emphasizes his promise of peace with an imperative encouragement not to be afraid, not to allow turmoil to reign in our souls. However, if you look at the order of His words, you’ll see that Jesus is not turning the reining in our of panicky hearts into a behavioral goal, but an expression of a life in unbroken communion with the Holy Spirit.
The Comforter comes to teach us, to bring to active remembrance all Jesus has told us. The Spirit expresses to us all the Son has said because the Son has put an end to our long war with His Father. This is no truce. My friend is being held inside the embrace of the Trinity. It is a place of true shalom. She is whole, she is safe, and she is experiencing eternity’s shalom in each roller-coaster moment of her husband’s battle.
She is at peace.