One of the greatest examples of “odd peace” is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul is being harmed by foes and friends. His body is falling apart. His ministry momentum is coming to an end. Injustice and persecution meet him around every corner. He is presently incarcerated, and execution is on the docket. Yet, in spite of his current distress, he encourages the church of Christ with the following exhortation:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you … For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:4-13)
Paul commands himself and others to rejoice always. Christians are not to be anxious about anything. They are to be content in any and every circumstance. They are to have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. And how is this to be realized? Spiritual communion with God is the key. Contemplating him – Jesus Christ – who is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise; and communicating with him is the secret of having peace when the seas about one’s boat are tumultuous. Paul learned to do all things – even have peace in troubled times – through Jesus Christ who strengthened him.
An Old Testament illustration of this same truth can be found in Psalms 3 and 4. Many believe these biographical entries are written by David as his life appears to be falling apart. He is one who has sinned against God, Uriah, Bathsheba, Joab, his family and his people; and the consequences of his sin are coming back upon his head. He is forgiven, but God is determined that he will reap that which he has sown. Consequently, his son is seeking his life, his throne, and his kingdom. As David betrayed his friend Uriah, so he is being betrayed by his own son. David is now outside Jerusalem, away from the Ark of God, and running for his life. However, even in these worst of days, David finds “odd peace.” Psalm 3 is considered his morning hymn; it appears this is his mediation after awaking from another safe night of sleep. (3:5) Psalm 4 may be his evening hymn on that same day. It appears that though spending another night in the valley of the shadow of death, he will be able to lie down in peace. (4:8) He is convinced the Lord is sovereign over his suffering and salvation. Even in exile, despite his anxious soul, David is able to find a peace that passes all understanding. Hear him as he contemplates God and communes with his Heavenly Savior:
O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3)
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Therefore, what ought we to do if we are not anxious and hurting today? Let us seek to comfort others by contemplating God and communing with God and our suffering friends. As Paul and David encourage us with their testimony and writings, so we ought to use our spiritual collateral to assist others in their Valley of Despond. Write emails, send Facebook messages, text and call your friends. Take someone to lunch. Bring someone to church. One of Christ’s children are suffering in your neighborhood, and your hurting brother needs you to strengthen his faith and help him find the peace that passes all understanding.
And what ought we to do if we are the ones who are anxious and hurting? Pain does not go away just because we open our Bible, read our devotional passages, and then say our prayers. However, through reading the Scriptures we are reminded of the character and promises of God. There we will learn true-truth that will help us consider our plight, consider our Savior, and then commune properly with him. Peace does not come from the Bible and prayer, but from the Holy Spirit; peace is His spiritual fruit. However, it is through the Bible and prayer that the Prince of Peace can be found. So friends, he is waiting on us right now. He longs to calm our anxious hearts. He sympathizes with us and has spiritual food that can help us rejoice always — even today. So get the Bible, find the prayer closet, and wrestle with the Lover of our souls right now. He promises to meet us and give us aid:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)