Peace & Rest
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, ESV).
Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
The Bible contains passages that present seemingly conflicting ideas. For example, on one hand, Christians are promised rest and peace while also being assured of a troubled life.
Jesus stated in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Yet, in an earlier verse, He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34). And in Matthew 11:12, He says, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”
This doesn't sound very peaceful or restful! Nor does it jibe with certain popular teachings and books promising peace, comfort, prosperity, and smooth sailing on the quiet river of the happy Christian life. Here's where the first-rate intelligence of a Christian comes into play: We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and we have the Holy Spirit to open the Word of God to us (John 14:26).
What's being presented is not an either/or proposition: to have peace or to not have peace. Rather, it's both/and; we will both experience the peace of God, and we will experience the lack of peace in our lives. This creates a spiritual tension, to be sure. But it is not a contradiction.
We may have trouble in this world, but we serve the risen King who has overcome the world (John 16:33). Along with all creation, we may groan in our spirits under the burden of life, but it is because our spirits long for the greater glory of heaven (2 Cor. 5:4). And, we may struggle daily with a variety of issues, situations, and people, but we understand that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
But the more significant piece is this: Our ultimate goal is not a rested life now, but rather a glorified life later.
In this life, we'll have good days and bad days. But, we give thanks no matter what (1 Thessalonians 5:18), knowing that Jesus is with us "always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
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