Peace that Passes Understanding
“Goodnight. See you in the morning. Love you!” Those were my final words to my husband. Mark had come in late after preaching in our Wednesday evening service. He was on his way to our basement to exercise, as was his late-night routine, and I was on my way to bed, as was mine. I drifted off to sleep hearing him climb our basement stairs (his homemade “Stairmaster”) and knew all was right with the world. A few hours later I awoke expecting to find him next to me, but an empty bed led me to our basement, where I found him lifeless. Life changed.
The next several months were a blur. The funeral. The holidays. The unsettled life of a single mom. Although we typically think our week ends on Saturday night and starts with Sunday morning, my calendar and clock were reset. Every long week ended on Wednesday nights for me, with a memory of the last moment I had with Mark, and every new long week began in the wee hours of the morning on Thursdays, as my body unwillingly but nonetheless systematically relived the moment when I found he had gone to Heaven without me. I found myself longing for peace.
The word peace denotes a life free from internal and external strife. Wow! Is that even possible? As my life settled into a new normal and I tried to pick up the pieces, I began a rocky yet rewarding journey to a place of peace.
Mark was thirty-six years old when he died and was in the prime of his life and ministry. We had two young children, ages eleven and five, and our lives were focused on the kingdom of God, our family, and our church. We were giving all and being all we could for God. Mark’s death seemed untimely. At first, I dared not ask God why. I was uncomfortable with it. However, too many sleepless nights and an uncertain future propelled me toward bringing it up with God. I needed peace that came from understanding.
I prayed for peace, read books about peace, and talked to my friends about their peace, hoping some of it would jump off on me. I looked up verses of Scripture on peace. Finally one day, desperate for a little hope, my eyes fell on Philippians 4:7, and I felt like I was onto something. I believed that if I understood why Mark died so young, why God allowed our lives to be uprooted and replanted, why my children would live their lives without an earthly father, then I would find peace. I began to internalize Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I had been waiting for understanding so I could have the peace.
The day my peace returned was the day God gave me understanding, not of why Mark died, but of this precious life giving verse, Philippians 4:7. I falsely believed that making sense of Mark’s death would flood my soul with peace, and as I lifted this verse to God in desperate prayer, God finally answered, but not as I hoped He would. I realized in a moment that even if God trusted me to reveal the very why of His plan and timing, that understanding would not return a father to my children, a life partner to my side, or a future to which I had cemented myself. And then where would be the peace? I realized my answer was in this verse, but I was looking through pain and questions. Word by word, God and I wrestled through these life-changing words.
And the peace of God, [the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is,] which passes [to rise above] understanding [the capacity for spiritual truth], shall keep [to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight] your hearts [center of all physical and spiritual life] and minds through Christ Jesus.*
If I wanted peace, I had to give up the need to understand. I will never forget the moment, when in utter surrender, I stopped asking why. I gave up on it. The sobs that erupted from me could probably be heard for miles. I slowly placed my trembling hand back into the hand of a God that I learned to trust again. I accessed peace much greater than my need for understanding.
Recently as I was hurrying through the checkout line in the grocery store, my head was buried in my cart, quickly loading the black moving belt with a week’s worth of everything, when I noticed that something was awry. The belt had halted and so had the incessant beeping of the items being scanned. I looked up with exasperation to see the woman at the register gazing at me. She was motionless. Really? Then she began, “I always feel peace when you come through my line.” My heart softened, and my quick frustration turned to tears.
“That’s because I have it.” Lady, if you only knew.
Diana L. Reed is the mother of two amazing children, Alyssa (26) and Marcus (19). She serves as the pastor of administration at The Calvary Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, pastored by Norman R. Paslay II. Diana is a licensed minister with the United Pentecostal Church International and is active in teaching and preaching in multiple venues. She enjoys teaching, mentoring, reading, traveling, and life.