I’m not saying we don’t feel peace. We often do. However, peace is not limited to how we feel. When making a decision (or delaying making one) people will sometimes say, “I just don’t have a peace about it”. What they usually mean is that they don’t feel peace. While there may be a bit of truth in this the problem is that most people are waiting for a feeling to confirm their decision. But peace and joy are not emotions, rather they are gifts. Really, they are a Person and His name is Jesus. Paul Tripp writes. “Our peace always rests on the presence, power, and character of the Lord”.1 He is the incarnation of peace, the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6) Feelings or emotions are things like happiness, anger, anxiety and they are subject to our temperament and circumstances. But peace is not like that. It is not dependant upon our circumstances, rather we can have peace, and even joy in the midst of turmoil.
Easier said than done right?
Paul writes in Philippians 4, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)
If you read it closely, it’s not just “don’t be anxious,” there’s more to it than that. We are active, we are doing something instead of being anxious. Paul says, “let your requests be made known to God”. This is speaking of prayer; this is talking to God and asking for His help. In response to this God promises peace, but I think the point Paul is teaching here is that peace comes as you submit to God. There have been times when I’ve had decisions to make. Hard ones. I longed for peace, but didn’t have any. But a decision has to be made. I looked at Scripture, I sought godly counsel, then I did what I believed was the right thing to do. Once a decision is made, if it’s the right one the peace will come; He’s promised it to us if we are in His will! I can remember one specific time I was convicted after I made a decision that I’d made the wrong choice and I needed to go back and correct things (after which peace did come). Other times once I made the decision, the peace and assurance came. In both cases though, the peace/conviction came after I had completely made the decision, not before or even during. When I sought to submit to the will of God and began walking in obedience He gave the conviction and assurance I needed. But if you are doubting God’s faithfulness or wisdom and wanting your own way how can you expect to have peace? If you have made up your mind but it’s not what God’s plan is do you think you’ll have peace? Any “peace” you think you feel cannot be His.2
In the following verse in Philippians Paul gives us more help in gaining this peace: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:8) Set your mind on things above and on what pleases Him. Trust Him to work out all the details and He will give His peace, even in the midst of turmoil.
Peace is so much deeper than just a feeling. It’s a knowing, it’s being convinced that God is with you, it’s having faith that no matter what everything is under His control. Paul says, don’t let the emotion of anxiety control you – give it to God. And our faith rests not on some theory, but a Person. Will you feel peace? Possibly, but maybe not – remember peace is not a feeling, it’s a conviction. God promises His peace, but the thing is it’s usually not something we experience right away. I heard David Powlison say once that this composure of peace is learned, and it is learned in relationship. As we grow in our trust and submission to Christ His peace will increase in our lives. Will we feel more peace? I think yes. But don’t focus on the peace, look to the source… look to Christ. I’m not waiting on peace, I’m waiting on Jesus.
1 Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), p. 30
2 How do you know if it’s God peace and not a false peace?
Sometimes we can be so afraid that what we are feeling is just a false peace and not God’s peace. After all, there are people who have gone and done things because they “had peace about it,” but it was sinful or ended badly. Assuming you already seeking to trust in and submit to God here’s some more advice for you: First, pray. This is crucial. It’s amazing how often want God to guide us, but then all we do is offer a quick prayer and move on to something more “practical”. You need the Lord to lead and guide you and sometimes the Lord will not make things clear to you until you have learned to wait on Him. Take time to fast and pray, really seeking Him above your own desires. Second, go to the Word of God and see what it has to say about the matter. It very well may not have anything to say directly to your situation (such as which school you should attend) but there are timeless principles in there than can be helpful. If what you’re doing or want to do is something the Bible says is wrong or it even advises against it, than whatever you’re feeling… it’s not God! The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead you to do something that is contrary to Scripture – it alone is our final authority. Next, got counsel from those older, wiser and more godly that you. These also should be men or woman who know you fairly well. Keep in mind that you need to be open and willing to accept to their counsel when they do give it, regardless of what you want. Finally, do what you are convinced is right based on the Scriptures and counsel you’ve received. Realize that conviction is also more than a feeling; it’s knowing what the right thing to do is regardless of how you feel! If you’re a Christian the Lord will guide you – whether it’s by His Word, counsel or by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If you are not convinced that the Lord is leading in a particular direction, stop, wait and pray. But in that remember that it’s not about doing what you want, but what the Lord wants you to do.