I've noticed something in myself recently. I've noticed that whenever I think about Jesus' invitation into perfect peace and abundant joy, fear, skepticism, and disappointment comes up in my soul.
Ya, I know. It's weird. I'm promised and given perfect peace and abundant joy, and I become hesitant. It doesn't seem to follow. But it hit me after God gave me dream.
In the dream, my grandparents had planned a trip for me and I was getting ready to go. But as I headed on my way, I realized that I didn't have any of my IDs--no license, no social security card, no birth certificate...nothing.
I started freaking out but I remembered where I had left them. They were with a group of people I didn't know well but had just ran into that day. I went back to the group, but forgot about grabbing my IDs, and started living life again with these people. Eventually, my grandparents came back and ushered me back on my journey.
I didn't think much of this little dream until my prayer time the next morning. God brought the dream up in my memory and said, "Where you are going, Taylor, you cannot go without your identity."
In my prayers about experiencing perfect peace and abundant joy, I was missing one very key component: championing my new identity in Christ and, at the same time, surrendering old identities.
"Taylor, you cannot experience the fullness of these gifts while still holding onto identities and things that no longer serve you and that aren't apart of who you are."
Access to perfect peace and abundant joy is twofold. It is not only receiving the gift from Christ, but also purposefully shedding any other identity, defense mechanism, or shield we hold up that we thought would give us peace. I think we can tend to squint at peace like it is a someday somewhere reality instead of a present gift because we are unpracticed at truly laying down our counterfeits.
When it comes to experiencing peace in our lives, there's a riskiness that we all feel--at least I've felt it--in making the jump into perfect peace. But why? We all want peace, we crave it, and Jesus has provided it. It is apart of our heavenly inheritance. Yet where is it? And why am I, are we, afraid of it?
I think we can interpret this fear, skepticism, disappointment, and risk to be from one or a more sources:
1. A fear that Jesus will fail us
2. A belief that what I have used in the past to give me peace and joy works better than Jesus
3. The fear that if Jesus fails and my counterfeits fail, there's no hope. I am lost.
We stay back from perfect peace, abundant joy, and the hard work of transformation because we are afraid of possible hopelessness and disappointment. We are afraid that Jesus isn't everything He says He is. We would rather stick to our counterfeit "peaces" and "joys" because we at least have some control over them. At least we are shielded for awhile from being "lost."
But here's the truth: these fears and apparent risks aren't us. The skepticism, fear, and disappointment that creep up are the enemy becoming afraid of our perfect peace, abundant joy, and transformation into Christ's image because he knows once we lay down what he has given us, and pick up the promises of Christ, there is judgement waiting for him and glory waiting for us.
Let's dive a little more deeply into these fears surrounding peace.
1. Jesus will fail us.
I remember a time when I felt so failed by God. I felt left to my own devices, like I had to create the wind for my own sails, and like everything I had believed in for my whole life was a wash. Feeling angry and mad at God, I took my life into my own hands because He just didn't do that good of a job anyway. But slowly, during this period of control I thought I had over my life, I realized that I couldn't keep it up. The longer I sneered that God, the more bitter and distorted my soul felt. "I traded God for this? No. I must've missed something." And I did miss something. And when I found it, it freed me completely from that darkness and, thankfully, I've never been back in place.
What I found that remedied and restored my relationship with God was the truth that satan wants us to believe that he is God and that God is satan. The enemy wants us to believe that everything gross and evil and death-bringing are from the hand of God and that only by serving him will we find peace.
Satan wants us to believe that Jesus will fail and that he will win. God never did actually wrong me like I thought He had. God is no tempter of persons (James 1:13). He never actually failed me.
I just failed to see Him for who He really was.
And God is everything Light and Bright and Lovely and Hopeful and True.
It is not in His nature to fail His kids.
The enemy uses our counterfeits to tell us that Jesus isn't where peace really is because the enemy knows that once we let them fall to the ground, they have judgement waiting for them, the enemy has judgement waiting for him, and we have glory waiting for us (Phil. 1:28).
I had bought into this lie. The thousands year old trick of idolatry. But once I remembered that Jesus was actually my source--that He is all that is light and good and true--and that I had the choice and power to look away from the devil, peace flooded in.
When we fear that Jesus may fail us; that He may not come through on His promise, we never give His perfect peace a try. We think we have, but we have held His hand in one of ours while the other still clutches the counterfeit...just to have a backup plan.
Jesus isn't just an option. He is The Way.
This is where faith comes in. We have to believe that Jesus is who He says He is and also that our counterfeits do not serve us anymore; that the enemy is a bad, bad master. We have to announce Him as Lord and Savior over our lives while simultaneously denouncing our old ways and satan's whispers. It may not feel safe, but it is true, and once you've made the jump into Jesus' ways of peace, you will be safe.
Jesus will not fail You, but satan and his ways will every single time.
2. What I have used in the past to give me peace and joy works better than Jesus.
I get this. I've lived it. And, if I'm honest, I never actually thought it was true that other things worked better than Jesus. I only hoped it was true so that I didn't have to go through change and surrender.
If we feel like Jesus has failed us before, I challenge us all by saying we may have failed at surrender.
Maybe we've believed in His Lordship until we're blue in the face but we have not seen breakthrough. Maybe we've meandered back to our favorite counterfeit and settled in for the long haul because the disappointment just hit too close to home.
Maybe what we've missed is practicing wielding the same strong faith against what we used to hold so dear.
Jesus has saved us from so much, but He has also saved us for so much. As we run towards Him, we cannot just run towards, we must also run away from what held us in chains for so long. I think as Christians it's easy to do one or the other.
It's easier to try and fight for the breakthrough without cutting things off because sometimes there's just too much shame and baggage to face.
It's easier to try and leave our chains without also running into the new hope we have because it can seem too good to be true.
But the Word of God is a double-edged sword. Cutting through marrow and sinews. Separating the old from the new (Heb. 4:12). To experience God's power and grace in our lives, we must partner with God's Word; letting it separate what is of Him and what is not.
If our counterfeits worked well, we would all be doing ok. We would all be in perfect peace and experiencing abundant joy. But the truth is we only have these counterfeits because we aren't ok. And we know that they aren't the answer. Deep down we know that Jesus is the answer, but maybe we haven't known until now how to live like that's true.
3. If Jesus fails and my counterfeits fail, there's no hope. I am lost.
I know what this crossroads is like. At one point in my life I would've described my internal state as "being shoved further and further into a closing funnel but never coming out the other side." Eventually, I admitted this crossroads: I had to either believe that Jesus is good to me all the time, that Jesus is inconsistent and good to me only sometimes, or that He is never good to me. I couldn't straddle anymore. I was suffocating in the funnel until I made my choice.
If Jesus is inconsistent, I am lost.
If Jesus isn't good, I am lost.
If Jesus is good, I am found.
Depression isn't intense sadness, it's hopelessness. We cannot live without hope. We cannot live without the hope that Jesus is real, Love is real, goodness is real, and that we matter. We all know this. Hopelessness is perhaps the thing humans guard themselves against the most.
If there's no hope, there's no meaning. If there's no Love, there's no meaning.
The possibility of everything failing us--of Love failing us, of us failing us--is so horrifying that it doesn't seem worth it to take any sort of action that could possibly confirm our worst fear.
I get this. It's real. And it's real scary.
I won't tell us to buck up and get over ourselves. We've all been through too much. But I will call us to be brave and to choose. I will call us to realize that the lives we have now aren't sustainable without perfect peace and abundant joy. I will call us to face the fact that without Jesus, there is no hope. So why not take a chance on the author of hope? I know which of those three options seems the most promising.
And Jesus is no promise breaker.
"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
If this all seems a little dramatic, a little too deep for your situation, I'll remind you that the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light often battle in subtle ways before unleashing the big guns. Fight the little things like you'd fight the big things, because little things tend to grow.
A final thought,
Maybe our counterfeits are not a ploy to gain peace at all. Maybe, deep down, we know that perfect peace is apart of our inheritance, but the beauty of it is so striking we fear that it cannot possibly be true. We fear that even if it is apart of our inheritance, who we are does not deserve it.
Maybe our counterfeits reinforce the lie that we've lost who we are and what belongs to us in Christ.
Dear one, you are not lost. Your inheritance is still offered you. Your royal family and bloodline still stands strong with you in the ranks. You are deserving of peace for Jesus has sealed you with His love. His love is great for you.
To know that Jesus' love cannot be stopped, even in our stubborn unsurrender, makes the risk of peace disappear.
Maybe the real risk of peace is that peace is real, and that changes everything. Maybe that fear we feel is a sign that the enemy knows perfect peace and abundant joy are true and so is His eternal judgement.
Jesus is ready for you to come home. He has never stopped watching for you. He trusts You know His heart for you and that you were wired to crave the Love He is.
Our counterfeits have never been that good to us anyway. Here's to taking the jump to peace that quickly becomes no jump at all. Here's to receiving a Father's hug and a welcome home after a purposed walk away from the hog's pit.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.