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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Jesus wants to help us overcome any fears so we can experience true peace

Jesus wants to help us overcome any fears so we can experience true peace

Years ago, advice columnist Ann Landers would receive about 10,000 letters a month. When someone asked her what was the most common topic, she answered that most people are afraid of something. They are afraid of losing their health, their job, family members, afraid of upsetting their neighbors, alienating a friend, or committing a social mistake.

We live in a world of fearful people.

In John’s gospel Jesus tells us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

Don’t we all long for an untroubled heart? We would give whatever we had, if someone promised us freedom from fear, and a heart that was totally at peace.

What is an untroubled heart? Does it mean enduring pain and hardship without showing our feelings? Is it a don’t let anything bother you attitude? No.

An untroubled heart does not close itself off to feelings and compassion. An untroubled heart deals with trouble in a way that the world does not understand. This is because for a Christian the outcome of any situation never spells final success or final failure.

Graduating from college, buying and paying for a new home, getting a promotion – these are all successes, but they are not final or ultimate successes. Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, failing an exam – these are all failures, but they are not final or ultimate failures.

For a Christian the only ultimate failure is complete despair – losing all hope in the God who loves us. The only ultimate success is loving God and others, as completely as we can.

When Jesus tells us not to have troubled hearts, he is asking us to live our entire life with faith in a God who has conquered the ultimate enemy – death. Peace is a result of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered, died and rose again. For his followers, peace and suffering can thus exist side by side.

Yes, not even suffering can take our peace away. This is a hard message to accept, because many of us don’t deal with suffering very well. We quickly panic or rebel against it. We spend so much energy fighting it that we never make peace with it. It’s the person who knows how to live with his or her suffering who can claim an untroubled heart. Suffering is uncomfortable and unavoidable, but if we face it directly, it can even be beneficial.

We often hear stories of people who contracted a serious disease like cancer and their whole life changed for the better. They realized they had limited time to live and they re-evaluated their lives and put first things first. Their priorities changed. God, love and family and other relationships became the most important things in their lives.

On the other hand, suffering becomes destructive when it drives us into ourselves, isolating us from God and those we love. However, suffering can be positive if faith and love create the power to overcome it. The heroes and heroines of history are not those who took the easy way or had it made, but those who struggled and overcame hopeless odds.

Jesus said, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

When we allow Jesus and his Father to come into our hearts, how could our hearts be anything but peaceful? Most of the world sees peace as release from tension, the avoidance of struggles, an escape from pain. Peace is not the absence of something. Rather it is the presence of Someone – Jesus himself.

Nothing external can give us the peace we seek. It is only when we fully welcome our Lord into our lives that we will finally know what peace really means.