“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27)
These were among Jesus’ last words to the disciples on the night before his arrest. In spite of these words, our experience tells us that ongoing peace is a challenge for us to attain, particularly the kind of peace St. Paul describes as passing all understanding.
Thomas A Kempis in his book, Imitation of Christ, says, “Our peace consists in humble bearing of suffering and contradictions, not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity. He who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran minister was imprisoned by the Nazis in 1943 and executed just days before the war’s end in April, 1945. Eric Mataxas, in his biography of Bonhoeffer, says that he brought peace and calm to his fellow prisoners. “His strength was borrowed from God and lent to others,”said Mataxas.
On the day of his execution, the prison doctor observed, “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer, and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
Most of us are not likely to experience the challenges that Dietrich Bonhoeffer did, but as Thomas A Kempis says, we cannot live in this world without adversity– sickness, unemployment, estrangement from loved ones, a difficult boss, caring for a disabled relative – the list is endless. Are we able to handle these challenges with the kind of peace that Jesus is talking about?
In the prime of my career as an attorney for a large company I declined a promotion to avoid a relocation that my wife and I believed would have adversely affected our family which included three teenage daughters at the time. For a couple of years I was not very peaceful as I was asked to take an assignment I held once before so someone “more promotable” could take my job.
Then our company had an incident at one of its facilities for which I was responsible for overseeing legal services. We had several lawsuits, regulatory actions, a legislative effort to outlaw our operations and even a criminal action against two of our managers. We were able to resolve all of these matters in a satisfactory manner, and it turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding legal work of my career.
In Jesus’ closing moments with the disciples he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
How do you find your peace?