Seaching for peace
by Jörg Ahlbrecht
We live in extremely stormy times: A terrible war in Europe. A worldwide pandemic. A steadily worsening climate crisis. Increasing refugee flows around the world. An unprecedented extinction of species – with severe consequences for the environment. And all of this overlaps and influences each other.
Some are beginning to realize that we will not simply return to normal at some point. Instead, it looks like the storm will stay longer. I guess we’ll have to learn to live with it. And that unsettles many, it perplexes and challenges us!
How do we find our footing in these stormy times? How do we find peace, serenity, a basis from which we can meet the demands of life?
My answer to this is: Let us learn from Jesus as he is described to us in the Bible.
For 2000 years, Jesus has been inviting people to follow him, to become his apprentice or student. He invites people to study eternal life with him. A life full of selfless love, full of dedication and service, full of hope and joy. But also a life with a deep peace and a joyful serenity. That is why Jesus repeatedly promised people his peace. He said, for example:
I leave you a gift – my peace. And the peace that I give is not like the peace that the world gives. Therefore, do not worry and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 – NLB).
This peace is a special peace. It is a peace that casts out fear. It is a peace that provides calm in our souls and stills the storm. It is a peace that wants to and can fill us. This peace is promised to us – and thus unfolds its effect. Here speaks the one who said to the blind man “See” – and he saw. Who said to the lame man, “Go!” – and he walked. Who said to the storm “Be silent” – and there was silence! And he even said to his dead friend Lazarus, “Come out of the grave,” – and he came. When he says “Peace be with you”, it is more than a greeting, more than a nice “Hello, how are you?”. A creative power emanates from these words. His word does not simply sound – it happens. He speaks peace into the lives of his followers. This peace has a formative power deep in our souls. All we have to do is listen to it.
What is this peace that Jesus himself had and that he promises to his disciples? It is a peace that comes from a deep understanding of reality. Jesus understood the reality of the universe. He knew that our world and the whole cosmos are permeated by God’s selfless loving presence. His peace came from trusting that nothing and no one can snatch us out of the hand of this loving God. Jesus trusted his heavenly Father so much that he could take a nap even in the fiercest storm. He could remain calm in the face of the attacks of his enemies, he remained calm in the face of the temptations that Satan fanned out before him in the desert. No crisis upset him. No failure of his disciples. No problem left him perplexed.
He had that special peace that was fed by the confidence that it will be alright in the end. That this universe was created by a good God who has permeated it with his selfless love ever since. And that history is unceasingly moving toward a good end. Toward a state of completion. Along the way, there may be things we don’t like. There may be pain, and we will probably also lose some things that seem valuable to us. Perhaps a loved one, perhaps our job, perhaps our health – and in the end certainly our earthly life.
But the really important things are not in danger. God holds us with our whole being, with our soul. And he guarantees that we will reach a good destination with him. We can trust in that. And from this trust we can live.
For me, this is a firm hold to which I mentally retreat again and again when I notice that fear wants to gain the upper hand in my life again. When the scenes from Ukraine lead to anger and helplessness. When the increasingly dramatic findings of climate researchers worry me – and invite me to consume more consciously. I then think of Jesus and his promise: “Peace be with you! Do not be afraid!” I make myself aware that my soul is in good hands. That is why I can tackle my tasks with courage and determination. See what I can do in my life to contribute something positive. Doing what is put before my feet to spread a little love and hope.
The peace that Jesus promises to his trainees, his students, and his disciples is meant to spread within us, but then to permeate from us to others. We may radiate this peace, in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized in the face of current threats.
Jörg Ahlbrecht is a pastor, author, broadcaster and currently works for Willow Creek Germany as producer of the Willow Creek Leadership Congress. He is married, has two adult daughters and lives near Marburg.