You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, GNT)
Perfect peace. A quiet mind. A content heart. No worry or anxiety. No fear or dread. A firm purpose. A solid trust in God that allows you to rest. This is far more life.
While perfect peace sometimes feels elusive, once we enter a relationship with Jesus it is always available to us. It is a gift from God, a product of the Holy Spirit coming to live inside of us. Like all gifts, we must choose whether to set it aside or use it.
But perfect peace — as appealing as it sounds — can feel unfamiliar and strange to us, especially in difficult circumstances. We may feel more comfortable with familiar emotions: stress, anxiety, fear, defensiveness, withdrawal. Perfect peace requires us to know when to “let go and let God”. It is rooted in trusting God. It requires us to believe he is aware and involved, he knows what is best, and he is working for our good.
Let’s be honest: there are times we trust ourselves more than God. We trust our actions will make a bigger difference than praying and waiting for him to act. We trust our own wisdom rather than seeking out his wisdom. We trust it is better to protect ourselves from hurt than expose our pain and pursue healing. God doesn’t judge his daughters for this; he knows our wounds and blind spots better than anyone else — and still loves us. But he longs for us to have what is best: perfect peace and far more life.
I appreciate this Scripture passage’s vivid depiction of our trust struggle:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31, NIV)
Look at Peter’s response again: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” It seems that Peter did not trust it was really Jesus out there, he wanted confirmation. But he knew if it was Jesus calling, he would be safe. Peter believed that Jesus could do the impossible. That Jesus cared about his well-being. That Jesus would not allow him to drown. Whatever fears or doubts Peter had, he trusted Jesus had power over the wind and water.
That trust gave Peter courage to get out of the boat; he walked on water!! Imagine yourself in his place: would you even consider getting out of the boat? Would you feel excited or nervous — or maybe both — as you locked eyes with Jesus and walked toward him…across a lake? I’d like to think that when Peter looked at Jesus, he experienced perfect peace and all those negative thoughts and emotions faded away.
But Peter is human. Along the way he took his eyes off Jesus. He remembered his circumstances; he was no longer in the relative safety of the boat. He was exposed, standing on water that was being blown into waves by the wind. He no longer felt safe. His peace evaporated. He was overcome by doubt and fear. He may have asked himself, “What am I doing? What was I thinking?” He started to sink. Perhaps he was flailing and trying to keep himself upright. Fortunately, he still believed that Jesus could rescue him and called out for help. And of course Jesus caught him.
Like Peter, when we are in difficult situations we can look at either our circumstances or our God. When we focus on our circumstances, we see how big the problem is, feel overwhelmed, and fixate on the obstacles. We believe we are in danger of drowning, especially if the problem intensifies and the pressure mounts. But we have another option! We can focus on God, truths about his character, truths about his love for us, and truths about his limitless power and knowledge. Focusing on our circumstances robs us of peace and leaves us battling negative emotions. Focusing on God offers us perfect peace, even when we’re standing on the lake in the middle of a storm. Despite the wind, waves, and rain that surrounds us, we can feel peaceful, calm, and secure.
Jesus knows how tempted we are to look away from him. He told his disciples some of the challenges they would face then shared this perspective:
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33, NASB)
Suffering is unavoidable. Circumstances that tempt us to strive in our own power are unavoidable. His words remind us to courageously put our trust in him, keep our eyes firmly on our God-given purpose, and be blessed by his gift of perfect peace. And far more life that comes with it.
In what situation are you tempted to look at your circumstances rather than your Savior?
Are you willing to obey Jesus’ instruction: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”?
If not, ask God to help you identify what is preventing you from trusting him.
Then ask for courage to take the next step in trusting him.
Remember to thank God for conquering the world, offering you perfect peace, and meeting you where you are on your trust journey.