One of the many benefits that come with summer is the freedom to travel more with Chresten in the ministry. School lets out, releasing our family from a more tethered routine, and our daughters and I hit the road to join the ministry, enjoy some much needed family time together, and keep our family connected to this ministry we’ve given our lives to. Among these beautiful experiences is the occasional and trivial but inevitable bump in the road, literally and figuratively. Perhaps it is the higher concentration of time together that may cause a few sibling squabbles. Or too much food from restaurants and less home-cooking that upsets the digestion. And then you’re smoothly sailing down a turnpike and out-of-the-blue, typically crossing the state line into our home state of Oklahoma, that the car is jarred, drinks are spilled, snacks are dropped. Oklahoma is notorious for rough roads and, as much as we love our ‘homa, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain, we don’t exactly love our ‘homa, where the roads we pay big bucks for are riddled with potholes.
I don’t know about you but I find that when I am driving down a two-lane road and have the clearance to swerve around the potholes or bumps, I’m happy to take an alternate route into the oncoming lane. If there’s a speed bump in an otherwise empty parking lot, I’m taking the long way around to avoid the unnecessary disruption of comfort. I confess: I dodge all the humps and bumps along the way.
In life, most people find themselves craving a bump-free journey, too. We relish a smooth, freshly paved highway where the gas tank is full, the snacks are plentiful, the drinks are iced, and the horizon stretches out clearly. No turnpike fees, please. Thunderstorms, hail, icy conditions–nah, we’ll pass. Crank up the music and enjoy the ride!
In life, most people find themselves craving a bump-free journey, too.
But that’s not what was promised to us by our Heavenly Father, right? In the beginning, that was definitely His plan of perfection. But the invasion of sin’s impact shifted everything. Perfection was tainted by imperfection. Pain- and toil-free living quickly faded with Eden’s closure. No more hand-in-hand jaunts in the cool of the evening with the Divine Creator. Sin changed everything. And life? Well, it became a menagerie of joy and frustration that continued to be measured by obedience and disobedience to the confines of God’s Law. God’s people were tasked with keeping a series of commands that, without the blessing of His grace, were nearly impossible to maintain. A litany of sacrifices and sacraments consumed the day-to-day, season-to-season, and year-to-year requirements.
Even with the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah, there was not clearance provided for a trial-free way of life. Jesus Himself issued the disappointing news to those hoping that struggle had finally come to an end with His statement in John 16, verse 33: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” Why didn’t He tell His faithful followers that He was removing pain, heartache, or tragedy from this earth? Man, we could camp out here for a long time, needling through all the nuances and subtle truths hidden behind this quotable quote from our Savior. But ultimately He clearly states His own reasoning in the before and after statements.
Take a look at John 16, verses 16-33, but more specifically in verse 33 all on its own.
- “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me.” The Amplified version of this verse says it like this: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace.” In the Hebrew, the word for perfect peace is shalom. According to Strong’s Concordance (7965), shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord. How are we supposed to have perfect peace, or shalom, when there is so much turmoil surrounding us? How can I have peace when my family members are away from God, or my house was flooded, or my child is sick? Jesus gave the qualifications to find that kind of peace and it can only be found when we are resting in Him. Like a good Father, He acknowledged the dilemma and anticipated our need. On this earth, wrought with sin, damaged by its impact, we will not be free of trials and tribulations. But Jesus reminded His followers then, and us today, “I realize this is tough. It’s going to continue to be tough until I return to rapture you away. But if you’ll stick close to Me, I AM your perfect peace.”
- “But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Again, in the Amplified version, you’ll find an even deeper, more powerful breakdown of this already mind-blowing promise. “…but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world. [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]” Can we just take a praise break right here? Whichever sequence you prefer to read for this short series of words, you’ll find reason to press on today. “My victory is abiding so you can be confident, undaunted, and filled with joy!”
What are you facing today? What trial has knocked you off your feet, just short of finding you on your knees? Find a place to rediscover His presence, His haven of safety and rest. It may not be discovered as easily in the few minutes on your commute to work this time. Crawling past the shrapnel of circumstances and walls of self-preservation you’ve built may require a season of focused prayer, worship, and warfare. But remind yourself: I can have perfect peace in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I can be confident, undaunted, and filled with joy, loaded with courage, all because Jesus’s victory is abiding! His conquest is accomplished. While in this journey, the wear and tear of life will continue to create those bumps in the road. And yet we have the Hope of Heaven just ahead. Keep looking forward, leaning in, and looking up. That horizon will soon lead to our final victory!