Everyone wants peace and joy, not only as a preference but as a passion. Yet many things in life threaten to diminish our peace and steal our joy. One of those things is the COVID-19 epidemic at hand.
The stressors that have intruded on our lives in recent weeks are, for some, unprecedented. The COVID-19 sickness is primary. But added to it are all the worries, fears and anxieties associated with deprivation, separation, disconnection, restriction, uncertainty, insecurity, etc. So during the wait for the COVID-19 curve to flatten and trend down, many have experienced a decline in, or loss of, peace and joy. Does it have to be that way? Not if we could find a version of peace and joy that is immune to the effects of worldly circumstance and situation. The good news is Jesus offers such a version. In fact, the version He offers compels us to make a clear distinction between the world’s peace and joy and God’s peace and joy.
In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you.” The world’s version of peace is only available when all around is calm. Jesus’ version is available even when all around is not calm; yes even in the midst of calamity. In John 15:11 and 16:22b Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. ... No one will take your joy away from you.” Again, the world’s version of joy is only available when all around is happy. Jesus’ version is available even when all around is not happy; yes even in the midst of sorrow.
Both peace and joy as Jesus offers are not dependent on the externals of life. They are, in fact, available despite the same. And that is precisely how we know they are gifts from God. To have peace of mind and joy of heart absent external reason is a work of God. To be sure, it is the mind and heart of Jesus within us. That is why the Apostle Paul referred to the peace as that “which passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). And that is why he referred to the joy as that which is “inexpressible” (I Peter 1:8).
The COVID-19 experience has been a notorious diminisher of peace and a stealer of joy. But Jesus is the champion provider of peace and giver of joy. May this unwelcome season of distress remind us all that the peace we seek and the joy we crave are not supplied by worldly sources; they are, rather, secured by faith in Him who is their source. As Paul said, “The God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13).
Ed Clevinger is minister of Grace Christian Church in Kingsport.