Our dear friend stepped into eternity with her Lord and Savior this past weekend. As my own children awoke and gifted me with handwritten Mother's Day cards, her children awoke to learn their mama had gone to be with Jesus. She's no longer in pain and finally free from the cancer that poisoned her body. Amen. Oh, but her young ones...do they understand God is good? Do they believe He will never leave them or forsake them? Can they still see Him through their sadness? Do they know they don't have to be so brave right now? While she is whole, healed, and in the land of no more tears, her family walks through hard days and those of us on the edges lift her loved ones up in prayer...that peace will overwhelm their fears, that God's people will serve them well, that our Lord's perfect love will bring comfort.
Often I hide our old family Christmas letters in books that I've read, so that on the rare occasion I open a book to re-read, I might find a note about our family from years past. It delights my heart to read of who we once were and how we've changed. The letter I found this week was penned many years ago during dark days, a hard season for our family. It was a year I contemplated staying Christmas card silent because I was sure anything positive I wrote would be dishonest. When I opened the book and saw this letter folded within the pages, the year at the top of the letter gripped my heart. "That year really sucked," I thought. I skimmed to the end of the page wondering what the final message could have possibly been during this year when we were feeling hard-pressed and squeezed on all sides.
The letter ended with a story I had long since forgotten...I don't know who originally told the story, I don't even know the context of which the story was first told or where we had heard the story, but I do remember during that challenging time for our family, the word picture seemed to sum up so much for us. Can there be peace in the midst of a storm?
The letter from so many years ago ended with this story...
"We heard a beautiful word picture the other day. Two artists were asked to paint a picture of 'peace.' The first artist painted a beautiful mountain lake that was completely serene. There wasn't a cloud in the bright blue sky; there wasn't a ripple of waves on the clear water; there wasn't a hint of a breeze in the towering trees. The scene portrayed stillness...it was breathtakingly perfect. The other artist's picture of 'peace' was quite different. He painted a raging river that roared with chaos. The sky was cloudy, the water churning, and the waves crashing. The scene screamed action...it was overwhelmingly unsettled. Yet, over this tumultuous water stretched a small tree branch. A little nest was cradled softly amidst the tree branch and in that nest snuggled a little bird. This delicate bird rested soundly...trusting...quiet...'peaceful' in the midst of the storm...completely undisturbed by the danger surrounding him."
Peace in the midst of a raging storm. Rest amongst the chaos. Stillness in the turbulent. All of this impossible without Christ. The holder of the storm, the rock on which we stand, the keeper of our lives...HE, only HE, brings peace which surpasses all understanding. And sometimes, we have to fight for that peace. Fight against our flesh to believe Him and wrestle with our fears to trust Him. My mind says it's not fair for a family to lose their beloved mama and wife at such a young age. Focusing on my idea of "good" leaves me anxious, fearful, and maybe even a little angry. So, we fight to believe and lean into God's word. We repeat verses over and over and over in our minds that remind us who God is even though sometimes it's hard to see His goodness from our earthly perspective. We take captive our thoughts and make them obedient to His word, not obedient to our own human analysis. One verse that brings peace to my fears for this family is from Jeremiah, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a hope and a future.'" God's plan is not to destroy this family...even though it feels "too early" for her to be in eternity and they're "too young" to have lost their mom. God holds them and His plan is to bring good...even if we can't see it yet. We can believe what we don't see because we know His character and His character never changes. We can believe in this family's hope and future because God says we can believe that.
Phil 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
"The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Peace in the midst of the storm flies in the face of human reasoning, but yet God promises peace to guard our hearts and minds as the wind howls and the waves crash. Peace guards...posted outside of our aching hearts and anxious minds, peace allows His truth to speak louder to us than the chaos of hard circumstances.
The artists had two different perspectives on peace. One 'peace' required no conflict; the other 'peace' magnified by the conflict. Is it possible that peace is that much more magnificent when the circumstances scream there should be none? How often I pray for the picture surrounding me to change believing falsely that's the only way to get back to a place of peace. Peace in the midst of the storm is one of the beautiful promises tucked in Christ. True peace doesn't have to wait for still waters; true peace takes its most amazing, divine stand while the storm rages.