This is the third post in our blog series by Karis Women on Galatians 5:22, check out the rest of the series here.
It is a badge of honor in our world today to be able to reply, when asked how you are doing, that you are “busy” and “stressed.” In a culture that so idolizes stress, it is almost unheard of to exude a strong sense of peace – and yet, Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit, a characteristic we should expect to see in all who are followers of Christ and have the Holy Spirit in them. We know then that we are to be pursuing and praying for peace in our own lives.
The logically following question is then: how do we pursue peace? Do we have peace because our lives are easy? That’s certainly not true of my life – in the last 10 months, my 47-year-old sister-in-law passed away unexpectedly; and only days later I dialed 9-1-1 from a hotel room as my kids and I watched my husband suffer a heart attack with cardiac arrest. Even just the normal ebbs and flows of parenting small children are a tremendous challenge. My husband and I have also been working to adopt a little girl from China, which is a roller coaster ride of a process, which will culminate in my getting on an airplane – without my husband and 2 of my children – to spend 2 weeks in China adopting a little girl. None of this is easy – and I’m guessing that most of you reading this blog post would probably not describe your own lives as easy, either.
I would argue, though, that the Bible does not claim that Christ’s followers will have peace because of the ease of their lives. Jesus says to His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We see this same theme – that our confidence comes from God’s presence and victory in the world – throughout the Bible. As Moses hands over the reins of leadership to Joshua and the Israelites are preparing to do battle with peoples much stronger and more numerous than they are, Moses tells them, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is not an excellent battle plan that is to reassure the Israelites but the constant presence of their God.
We follow a God who “is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). He is powerful – “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). Psalm 46:1 tells us that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” and immediately follows that truth with the conclusion that it is because of God’s care for us that we need not fear. When we have the sovereign God of the universe caring for us, offering us His already-triumphant and constant presence, we can experience peace no matter what the circumstances.