Fr. Jacques Philippe, a favorite spiritual author of mine, said in his book Searching for and Maintaining Peace, that “all the reasons that cause us to lose our sense of peace are bad reasons.” He dedicates a whole section to this very topic.
When I read that phrase, I found myself coming up with excuses as to why all my worries and anxieties were justified. Regardless of the severity of whatever it is on my heart and mind, I kept coming back to a few realizations. First, I can control virtually nothing in my life (any semblance of control is an illusion) and worrying about something is no different. Second, if I really trusted in God, I wouldn’t dwell upon these worries to the same degree. Third, we have the promise of Jesus himself that we find in todays’ Gospel, “...have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33).
There’s plenty to worry about these days, but in blunt terms, worry doesn’t help. It only causes us more pain and more anxiety. But you might still worry about a whole host of things...
- What about my husband’s illness, or my daughter’s new diagnosis? He answers, “..have peace in me...take courage…”
- How can I deal with my child’s suffering? I can’t handle all the pain I see in their life. He answers, “..have peace in me...take courage…”
- What if I lose my job and my financial stability? He answers, “..have peace in me...take courage…”
- My marriage is in shambles. I’m afraid divorce is coming. He answers, “..have peace in me...take courage…”
- My spouse/parent/child/friend/relative is near death. I can’t face life without him/her. He answers, “..have peace in me...take courage…”
The truth is, we as Christians have the great gift of living in the power of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. He is strengthening them for the great struggle to come, promising them that it isn’t worth losing their peace over. Why? Because his death wasn’t (and still isn’t) the final word. Obviously it was a terrible thing that happened, in fact, it was the worst thing humans could have done to him. We killed Jesus. But his resurrection conquered the worst thing. He rose from the dead. He conquered death and now we can live in this power that overcame death. And because we live in this power, we can also live in his peace.
When struggles and challenges and worries seem insurmountable or when it feels like the world is never going to be right-side-up again, we can allow ourselves to be filled not only with the power of Jesus that overcame death, but we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, just as new disciples in Acts, going out boldly, in the peace of Jesus Christ, undisturbed by the world around us because, after all, Jesus has conquered this world.
Be at peace.
What areas of your life do you most deeply struggle with worry and anxiety? Pray with these areas and bring them to Jesus, asking him to permeate them with his peace.