People have a desire to understand just about everything in life! We don’t just want to know what but we want to understand why or how! Our thirst for understanding is generally a great trait, but can also interfere with our ability to live in the moment. It can even prevent us from flourishing when our thirst turns into a “need” to understand before we accept.
Think of children when they start asking “why” questions. They use “why” as a discovery strategy to connect with people and learn about their world. It’s actually a good thing but wow, it is exasperating for those who get to answer their questions. “Why do I have to go to bed?” “Because you’re tired and need your sleep.” “Why do I need sleep?” “Because everyone needs sleep.” “Why does everyone need sleep?” “Because it helps our bodies to be healthy.” “Why does my body need to be healthy?” “Because then you have energy to play.” “Why do I need energy?” “Because energy helps you do all the things you like to do.” “Why can’t I do things without energy?” “JUST BECAUSE! NOW GO TO BED!” Some people think this as a stalling tactic, but there is definitely a desire for understanding inherent in the questioning.
The reality is that asking “why” doesn’t mean they literally need to know why, but it means they are interested in something and want to know more. We know this to be true because giving them the facts never satisfies their curiosity. For children, it is more about the journey than the destination. You can almost see their minds racing trying to process the information they get when asking “why” and what a privilege we have in helping them journey through the process of discovery.
Adults have the same desire to understand “why”! We are usually more open to new experiences and more willing to embrace something when we understand why. Unfortunately though for adults, it is often more about the destination than the journey. We get frustrated when our “why’s” only lead to more “why’s” if the answers do not satisfy. Unlike children who ask “why” and eventually “get it” even when the answer is “just because”, adults are more prone to “reject it” when it is “just because.”
This is never more evident than when it comes to the things of God. The truth is some things about God aren’t meant to be understood, but accepted and experienced! Our search for understanding is marvelous, but sometimes God says “Just because”. It is at that point many adults say “That’s not good enough for me”, while others recognize the omniscience of God and continue to enjoy the journey knowing the discovery is just as beautiful as the destination.
The peace of God is one of those entities we can try to understand until Jesus returns and we will never “get it” through understanding. We certainly should enjoy discovering it’s qualities but if we wait to experience it until we “get it” we will never live in His peace! Philippians 4:7 “… the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” When God says something surpasses our understanding, it really means it passes our ability to understand.
If we don’t accept this truth “as is”, we will waste our time trying to bring it down to our level of comprehension, which doesn’t work, plus it eliminates the reality of His peace in our life. The peace of God doesn’t change, but our ability to live in it drastically diminishes if our acceptance of it is based on understanding. Most people experience His peace sporadically, not abiding in it because it passes our understanding, and we don’t like that! This is clear evidence we would rather BE at our destination than enjoy the journey, accepting the “just because” answer as we discover the depth of His peace!
Peace is that intangible quality or state of being most people love but rarely stay in very long. There are several definitions for peace ranging from a quiet, tranquil, calm state free from disturbance and noise; to being mentally calm and serene with NO anxiety; to a state of harmony, free from all conflict or disagreement among people. Most people would describe the feeling of peace to include the absence of stress, conflict, tension, or disagreement. This being the case, we experience peace when stressful situations are erased, conflicts resolved, tensions loosened, and agreement achieved. This never happens! Though this may depict a semblance of peace, it keeps it in the realm of understanding thereby falling short of what God’s peace truly is or feels like.
The truth is, rarely, if ever, do we have NO stress, conflict or tension or where everything in the world is PERFECT. Again, this just doesn’t happen! If God’s peace required this, we would never experience it. Therefore we discover the ability to possess God’s peace is in the midst of stress, conflict, tension or any other negative emotion. There are many peace stealers in our lives, and the older we get, it feels like that number grows. Even memories carry the potential to be peace thieves as we remember, question, or even regret events, decisions, relationships, experiences, investments, and the like.
I got a good, though humbling lesson from God about His peace when my husband received a “call” from a congregation to be their senior pastor. One of the unique things about ministry is the “call process”, the way a congregation goes about “looking” for and “choosing” the person they believe God has called for their particular body of believers. Each congregation or denomination goes about calling their pastor differently, but ultimately, they hope to arrive at a unanimous decision as to the “one” they believe God has led them to.
My husband has had many calls throughout the years, each one carried the potential to steal the peace of God from my life. But here’s the thing – nothing can steal our peace in God unless we cooperate with the thief. In the past, it seemed I was in cahoots with the peace thief, but this time, I KNEW it would be different. I KNEW I would not be moved from my place of peace during the waiting process. I convinced myself I didn’t care one way or another and when concerns did come, I would simply give them to God and all would be well. After all, I KNOW His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and future, no matter what it might “look” like. But since I hadn’t heard God speak “Yea or nay” I pretty much settled into the “Whatever” mode, usually not a good idea with God.
The day came for the first interview and I was nonchalantly praying for my husband while he met with the call committee. Yep, these were just “nice” prayers, not the “pressing into the heart of God” ones. “Let Your favor rest on Mark, Lord! Let the room be filled with Your presence and power. Surround and indwell each person! Give Mark the words to speak, in Jesus’ Name! Let Your peace that passes all understanding fill him now.” It was when I uttered that last phrase when Holy Spirit stopped me.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like it when my prayers are interrupted (that was a joke). It’s only when we stop talking and start listening to God that we discover He has a lot to say to us. In this instance, He said, “You want ME to let MY peace that passes understanding fill Mark? Well, Julie! If My peace passes your understanding why do you always try to understand it!” My reply to Him was “Well, I don’t Lord!” His response “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “Yes, you do!” “No, I don’t!” “JULIE, you CAN’T understand My peace!”
Have you ever felt God raise His voice to you? At that point of course I was frustrated because I WAS praying for Mark, not trying to understand God’s peace and definitely not dealing with one of my own deficiencies. It seemed God was speaking to me a bit out of context! I proceeded to question Him, “Lord, don’t you want me to pray for Your peace to fill Mark?” He was silent! I wasn’t! “Oh, so this isn’t about Mark and the interview! This is about You, right God?” Then He said, “Now, you’ve got it! Trust Me. You don’t care about this interview anymore than I do! You only care about Me! Let’s talk for real now.”
Oh how I love the Lord! The reality of that love hits me like a tidal wave at times like these – when honesty AND truth slam me in the face – when my words are puny – and He puts me in my place. He caught me praying nice words, not heartfelt cries. He interrupts our thoughts and prayers to talk about things we didn’t even think to talk about. The Lord knows what we need to hear, we usually don’t. It amazed me that in the middle of my “not so hearty” intercession God decided to speak to me about a quality of His I didn’t even know I struggled with. He heard my questions without any awareness on my part they existed. I hadn’t even contemplated that I might be suffering from a lack of God’s peace, nor did I even suspect I wasn’t abiding in it as a result of need for understanding overriding my desire for it. This had led to a vacancy in my heart which was far more important to God than an interview. Let the listening begin Lord!
At that very moment, His peace became simple and real. I didn’t need to pray for His peace to fill Mark! His peace already filled him, as it does anyone who abides in His peace with no need to understand it. God then reminded me of a basic principle He had taught many years before this about positioning. I needed to position myself before Him to live in His peace. Trying to understand His peace by asking “why” questions while being focused on the destination positioned me outside of Him. Asking “why” questions while being focused on the journey and then accepting His “just because” answers positioned me in His presence. If we do not position ourselves before Him, we won’t experience what He has prepared for us.
Here is how God says to position ourselves before Him! Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” Verse 7 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Before the peace of God which surpasses all understanding WILL guard our hearts and minds through Jesus, we must:
† Refuse to be anxious for anything with no excuses attached!
† Pray about everything – have conversation with God about everything!
† Supplicate about everything – seek God in everything!
† Pray and supplicate about everything WITH thanksgiving – Be thankful in all things!
† Let our requests be made known to God – Ask Him for what we need and want.
When we do these things we are smack dab in the face of God! It is only there that we stop trying to get to a place of peace, stop asking for His peace to fill us, and simply KNOW the peace of God because we are positioned IN it!
We can’t understand the peace of God! No matter what we think, how intelligent we are, how much we psychoanalyze it, it is one gift God gives that surpasses ALL understanding! Go ahead and ask “why” but be like a little child and enjoy the journey more than the destination, enjoy the process of discovery more than needing the literal answers, because the truth is God’s peace is “just because!”