[W]hatever else the computer age has given us—and it is often compelling, powerful and productive—it is not pleasant. It is unprecedentedly fast, even frantic; it is relentless. The price of digitilization’s information and fun is frustration; it always needs to be rebooted or relearned. …
Google, Web surfing, cell phones and 1,000 television channels have also brought us something other than “Grand Theft Auto” and Britney-on-demand. Everyone in the world watched the second World Trade Center tower fall in real time, and will do so the next time. The world we inhabit now is Iraq, Sudan, tsunami, weapons of mass destruction, Rwanda, Bosnia, Beslan. Knowing—and seeing with our own eyes—so much that is so bad is not normal. We don’t need to be shocked by art. We now live in a constant state of shock.
We cannot hide from the world as it is, and should not. But we need respite. And sometimes we need solace. —Daniel Henninger, Feb. 18, 2005 Wall Street Journal
Lots of us might agree with Henninger that respite is a rare thing these days. We live in constant danger of sensory and emotional overload, and always just around the corner there seems to be something else, something unimagined.
From the beginning of the industrial age until the dawn of the information age, the pace of life accelerated at an unprecedented, albeit constant rate. Humanity adapted—we are a malleable species. We mastered machines, but in the bargain, we forced a great workforce to serve those machines. We lit the darkness and made night as suitable to industry as day. Industrialization created productivity and prosperity, but not respite.
The information age has made the previous century seem leisurely by comparison. Now we are challenged not just to keep up, but to manage discoveries and dilemmas that are often beyond comprehension. Global communication has crammed all time zones, all cultures, all social phenomena into that single, fleeting nanosecond known as right now. Adaptation is no longer the issue at hand—we are caught like a cork on the floodwaters, swept away by events, inundated, and still there is no respite.
One of Jesus’ more amazing claims was that he himself possessed peace and was willing to give it away to all takers. When he spoke of peace, he was not speaking primarily about peace between nations or feuding parties, but something very personal: peace of the heart, calm in the midst of turmoil, respite. From Jesus and the New Testament writers we are told that this elusive peace is available by prescription only, from God himself:
For Christ is our living peace. —Ephesians 2:14a, JB Phillips
In the self-help sections of every book store are volumes upon volumes intended to help us cope with the stresses of modern times. Peace through time management. Peace through spirituality. Peace through relaxation, meditation, detachment.
Each of these strategies has the same flaw—they assume that peace is within our grasp. But what if the peace we seek lies beyond our grasp?
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. … I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. — John 14:27, 16:33, NLT (Jesus speaking)
The gift of peace that Jesus Christ offers is “peace in me.” This implies that peace is not learned. It is not a human capability. Rather, it is wholly of God. It is not a gift intended to lift us above “trials and sorrows,” but to calm us while the flood is raging all around us.
I’m reminded of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into King Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace as punishment for their disobedience. God did not keep them from the furnace, but he did save them from the flames. And their peace in that desperate moment came to them from God, who sent a heavenly being to stand with them. (Daniel 3.)
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. —Galatians 5:22,23, NLT
The respite of Jesus is not something we learn, but something that flows in our veins as we sink our roots into the deep soil of God.
This respite comes not from spiritual toil or mastery of our circumstances. Quite the opposite: it comes from relenting. It comes from submitting. It comes from allowing the person of Jesus Christ to rule our hearts and minds.
Respite is indeed within our grasp, but only because God himself has reached down in love and offered us his peace, his respite. We have peace with God, we live in peace, because Jesus Christ is our living peace.
Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6,7, JB Phillips