Right now, as a pandemic sweeps the earth, we all find ourselves living unexpectedly in a most unusual season. This was in none of our dreams, plans, or projections for 2020!
The question I hear the most often is, “When is this going to end?” There is so much uncertainty around this global crisis, and that uncertainty is stressful! As much as we want facts, a clear sense of right and wrong, an action plan, and dependable timelines, things seem to be changing on a daily basis, requiring us to adjust and adjust again.
It is easy, amid such uncertainty, to feel powerless. We feel powerless as we are told what we can and cannot do. Powerless as sickness spreads. Powerless when we cannot go to work or leave our homes. Powerless as our economy struggles and as jobs disappear. Powerless because it seems there is nothing we can do to fix it.
This feeling of powerlessness is real, but the danger is that we will take it on and allow it to start defining our reality. When we take on powerlessness, we make an agreement with fear and embrace the identity of a victim, who needs a bad guy to blame. We choose to believe that something outside of us—the government, the economy, or our neighbor—is a threat we must fight against.
Many people are falling prey to this victim mentality right now. We are seeing fear-based behavior manifest all around us in hoarding, blame, accusation, and angry fights over who is right and who is wrong in this scenario. I have seen many believers step outside of the character of Jesus to take up the fight against their perceived “bad guy.”
Yet in uncertainty and chaos also lies an opportunity. As John Maxwell states, “We are surrounded by visual problems with hidden opportunities.” As our external support structures are tested, we have an opportunity for any place of false security to be exposed and for our hearts to get more fully connected to an internal source of power that anchors us to peace even as chaos swirls around us.
As Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, He declared to them, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). This invites us to consider what kind of peace Jesus gives to us and how it is different from the peace the world gives.
Most of us define peace as an absence of war or chaos. This means that our internal peace is determined by our measure of external peace. When we are prospering and healthy, when there are no challenges and no suffering, then we can be at peace. Yet, as we are seeing so clearly in this season, the externals of this world cannot guarantee true security, and therefore cannot provide enduring peace. They are outside of our control and constantly changing. It is a good time to examine whether we have attached our sense of peace to anything external. If our peace has been shaken in this season, then that is a good indication that we have!
This externally based peace is not the kind of peace Jesus promised His disciples! When we look at His promise in context, we see that He had just told them that He was going away, that one of them would betray Him, and that Peter would deny Him! He was speaking to a group of frightened, troubled followers whose world was about to change dramatically. He was certainly not promising that their external circumstances were going to be favorable. He was promising them an internal peace that would carry them through even the most unfavorable circumstances
The peace that Jesus promises us is a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being that flows out of our relationship with God and our connection to His presence. When we live connected to Him and assured of His goodness, it positions us to be unafraid, even when chaos and uncertainty exist all around us. Our level of peace comes from our level of understanding of who God is to us and the connection we maintain with Him through our circumstances.
So how do we access Jesus promise of peace in this pandemic?
First, we must realize that we have a choice. Jesus commanded His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The Passion Translation says, “Don’t yield to fear.” We are not powerless over the state of our hearts, no matter the circumstance.
Second, we need to look at our behavior. This is usually what alerts us that we are choosing to allow fear to steal our peace and take us out of that state of undisturbed well-being. We must stop and ask, “Am I acting like a powerless victim? Am I looking for someone or something to blame? Am I taking out feelings of anger and fear on others or looking for comfort in unhealthy ways?”
Lastly, we must shift our focus. In seasons of challenge or uncertainty, the temptation is to get our eyes off God and onto the thing that is troubling us. Shifting our focus to our circumstances is what opens the door for us to become more convinced of the power of something to harm us than God’s desire and power to keep us. We can close that door by shifting our focus off the thing that is troubling us and back onto Him. Worship helps re-anchor our hearts in the reality that God is bigger than our circumstances and that we are held safely in His promises. We start to ask God for His perspective—“Are You worried or afraid about this? Help me see what You see! What are Your promises to me in this season? How are You using this for my good?” As we repent from partnering with fear and establish ourselves in His truth, it allows for His power to flow to us and through us, driving powerlessness away.
In this unexpected season, let’s grab hold of this unexpected opportunity to access Jesus’ promise of peace like never before. The power of peace we find in this season will be the power we need to face the days to come.
P.S- If you would like to learn more about creating a culture that encourages people to live powerfully, join us as we read through Carla’s book, The Pathway To Powerful! Find more information HERE!