I called a friend yesterday.
“You free for dinner?”
“No,” he said, wheezing. “I have RSV.”
“Isn’t that a Bible translation?”
He explained. RSV is a respiratory ailment. It’s the basis of the common cold. But two years of social distancing deprived it of its playground and its playthings. Now it’s back with a vengeance, and in no playful mood. It’s a virus that used to give us mild coughs and sniffles. Now it turns our breathing to gasping, like we’ve landed on Mars without a suit.
Another beast stalking us. Another thief lying in wait. I hung up, anxious.
The poet W.H. Auden called the 20th Century the Age of Anxiety. He died in 1973. What might he have called this moment?
The Age of Panic?
The Age of the Freak Out?
One thing is sure: peace feels in short supply—at best a rumour, at worst a hoax.
Why No Peace?
And that’s strange. Here we are, most of us, living in warm dry homes, with at least one appliance that keeps our food cold, at least one other that quickly heats it up. Many of us with several faucets that pour out water so cold it refreshes our deepest thirst, water so hot we could make tea with it, except we have another device for that. We live, most of us, with superb medical care only minutes away. We own, most of us, devices that can connect us with anyone or anything anywhere with the tap of our thumb, or a simple voice command. All this, and yet many of us live with a vague but unshakeable dread that something terrible is about to happen.
Yes, peace seems in short supply.
And then there’s Jesus, preaching peace. Extending it. Embodying it. Calling himself the Prince of Peace. Offering peace, over and over, to His those easily frightened and often befuddled.
“My peace I leave with you,” he says. “My peace I give to you.”
He talks about it as though it’s a living thing, not merely a passing emotion. It has heft, substance, endurance. Solidity, longevity. It reproduces. You can touch it, hold it, give it to someone, take it back if needed. It rests with you, on you.
It belongs to Him, this peace. But He loves to share it. Lavish it on us, even. There’s always more than enough.
Where does He get it? It’s not that Jesus was never anxious. The Gospel writers say that at times He was troubled in spirit, even overwhelmed to the point of death. Like us, Jesus was tempted in all ways. Like us, He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.
Jesus Finding Peace
But whenever this happened, every time it happened, Jesus made a certain move: He placed himself inside the bigger, infinitely bigger, story of what God is up to.
The Apostle John puts it this way:
Jesus replied… “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27).
It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Jesus felt his circumstances, felt them keenly, but refused to confine Himself to those circumstances. Instead, Jesus stepped back, and looked at them in the light of what God is up to.
He knew the hour, but He saw it in light of the ages.
Peace in the Scope of the Whole Story
Our circumstances are never the whole story. This hour is never the entire timeline. Every person of faith in the Bible eventually discovers this—Abraham, Moses, Ruth and Naomi, David, Esther, Job, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and so on. They think their life is this little story playing out in this little corner, often heading for disaster. And then they discover that their life is this intimate story playing out inside a huge story, wide as creation, deep as eternity, and all of it heading for glory.
Every person of faith throughout history discovers this, too.
And you must discover it. Your circumstances are never the whole story. This hour is never the entire timeline. There is always much more going on.
Try it. Step back, right now, from whatever your circumstances are, whatever hour you are in. Place yourself inside God’s bigger story, inside his timespan. See what he is doing from age to age, and yet doing right here, right now.
And, look! There’s something else here, waiting for you.
Jesus left it there, hoping you’d find it.