Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Can Inner Peace be Misleading?

By Zac Northen

Many Christians feel the Church has a corner on the market when it comes to inner peace. Many see it as the mark of the abundant life that Jesus came to bring. But did we miss the message of Jesus as the suffering servant, showing us the way to life?

If the Gospel is continually comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, we need to understand pain and its place in our lives. At times, I wonder if our hunger for peace has allowed us to neglect our own pain as well as the pain of others, and so miss the road to freedom and redemption that we are all aching for (Romans 8:22-25).

If most of us are honest, we tend to believe that God will give us a special peace before we discern what His will is.

I remember activist and author John Perkins one talking about pain, suffering and the will of God with a group of curious students. He said, “God either calls us from pain or to pain to minister to others in our calling.” To some of the folks around the table, this was bad news—and certainly the opposite of where a college degree is “supposed” to take you-a passport to the American dream.

If most of us are honest, we tend to believe that God will give us a special peace before we discern what His will is. We say things like, “I just didn’t have a peace about it,” or, “I’m really waiting on God’s peace before I make that decision.” I fear that this approach is more closely linked to our deceitful desires than we are willing to admit. We want to believe that God is good, but have a hard time hearing him when we’re not at peace. C.S. Lewis says it this way in The Problem of Pain,
“We cannot therefore know that we are acting at all, or primarily, for God’s sake, unless the material of the action is contrary to our inclinations, or (in other words) painful ... the full acting out of the self’s surrender to God therefore demands pain.”
It’s not wrong to long for peace, but it is theologically incorrect to use it as a compass to discover God’s will. We cannot follow Christ faithfully unless we are following Him into the world’s pain, tension and aching complexity. We must remember we follow a King who enters a broken world, then willingly chooses the Cross (John 10:17-18). And for us, this means tension is normal and comfort may be concerning. Living in the hard places of life exposes one’s faith and character, and can allow it to deepen or cause it to die away. Sometimes waiting for peace can keep us from where God is asking us to be.

The paradox of peace is that if you long to have it you may never find it without walking through some uncomfortable terrain. And actually, when we stop desperately and idolatrously longing to find peace and fulfillment around every corner, in every relationship, and in all aspects of our work, we will be free to healthily engage the troubles, problems and pains in our life. We need to develop the wisdom for living a life that is comfortable with being uncomfortable, and accept the fact that it sometimes doesn’t feel good to be a Christian on the straight and narrow.


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