When Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”, He wasn’t saying, “Don’t ever feel fear”. That wouldn’t make any sense. After all, we were all created with a totally normal and healthy ability to experience the emotion of fear, and, as I said, this ability is crucial to our survival. What Jesus was saying is, “Be at peace. Have confidence in Me, have confidence in My presence in your life, and have confidence in who you were created to be.”
Since it is an emotion that we all share, fear can be a powerful motivator. And the evil one can and will use our fears in an attempt to lure us away from the trust and confidence we are to have in our Creator. Regardless of the cause or source of our worries and anxieties, irrational fear can rob us of all that God has to offer. God has not been silent on this subject of irrational fear. Sacred Scripture contains over 1,200 references to the subject of fear. Obviously I cannot list them all here, so I will just quote my favorite one. It comes from Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”
In today’s Gospel, before Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”, He said, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you.” The Hebrew word used here in the original ancient text is shalom. The word shalom is most commonly translated to mean peace. And in the Complete Jewish Bible this line reads, “What I am leaving with you is shalom – I am giving you My shalom.”
I think it is important to note that the word peace is an incomplete translation of the word shalom because peace conveys only one small part of the full meaning. “The word shalom is used to both greet people and to bid them farewell, and it means much more than “peace, hello or goodbye”. Hebrew words go beyond their spoken pronunciation. Each Hebrew word conveys a feeling, intent, and emotion. Shalom is more than just simply peace; it is a complete piece.” Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and the absence of agitation or discord. (Strong’s Concordance, #7965)
It’s no secret that many are struggling. Just read the headlines. As the days get darker, our hearts can be weighed down. My heart gets weighed down with problems. It also gets weighed down with unexpected bills, broken appliances and extra items on my to-do list. If I have a good day, it seems as if trouble is waiting to pounce on me a mere 24 hours later. Do you know what I mean? Jesus offers us peace in the middle of our troubles, just as he offered peace to His disciples on the night He was betrayed. But we must accept His peace, and today we’ll learn how to do that.
TROUBLES ARE CERTAIN – As Christians, we aren’t promised a problem-free life. In fact, Jesus told us to expect troubles, persecutions, relationship problems, and losses. Since I have an idealistic outlook in my God-given personality, I tend to get worked up when unexpected problems arise. But if I adjust my expectations, I stop being surprised by every little trouble. I gain a measure of peace that way. I also tell myself that God knows no surprises. When you adjust your expectations to reasonable levels, expecting that troubles will come in this imperfect life, you won’t be so shocked and surprised when they arrive. Your faith can grow if you trust that God sees the problem AND the solution.
DON’T LET TROUBLES IN – Let’s meditate on this key phrase together: Do not LET your hearts be troubled. (emphasis mine) Repeat this several times while considering this thought: We can let troubles in or let them out. God doesn’t keep all problems from heading our way. But He gives us the free will to control whether we let the troubles in our hearts or put on the armor of faith to keep them out. Since God has grown my faith, I turned to Him immediately when I hear bad news, and He built a fence of protection around my heart because I trusted Him for the solution.
Every time the trouble came back up, I kept turning to God instead of welcoming the problem into my heart. Through prayer, I took faith in God’s promises to provide, to never leave me, and to protect me. I didn’t enjoy having problems. But for the first time in a long time, I didn’t let financial anxiety override my peace. I refused to let the problem enter my most vulnerable place. I let God have control there, and His peace carried me through. He will do the same for you in your current trial if you refuse to let your problems into your heart.
REPLACE TROUBLES WITH TRUST – The more I studied his Word, the more I learned to trust him. I learned about his strength, protection, majesty, all-sufficiency, and master plan, among other wonderful things. There is no better way to replace your troubles with trust than getting to know the God who loves you. The very best way to do that is to study His Word, one day at a time. I encourage you to turn to God as soon as the next trouble arrives in your life. Do not let it in, by trusting God to help you overcome it. Draw close to Him in Bible study and prayer, meeting with Him every day for a fresh anointing of his perfect peace. He will teach you how to quiet your troubled heart by trusting Him more. The Bible says be not troubled… about these things that might trouble you: the way, Christians suffer, the current apostasy or the beginnings of sorrows. We must go through all of these as we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. You won’t be troubled if you keep your eyes on the sky. Jesus is coming back!
Finally, the word of hope, phrased in the form of an exhortation, is based on the fact that the separation will come to an end. The exhortation is nurtured in the fertile soil of the Christian hope. Without this hope, the exhortation is void of meaningful content and may even carry with it the deathly venom of legalism. In other words, the Advent hope validates the meaningfulness of Jesus’ exhortation to us. The physical separation of our Lord from us has temporal limitations. In the presence of trouble, it does not make sense to tell people not to be troubled unless there is a promise to bring the source of trouble to an end and the power needed to accomplish it. This will happen at the moment when our Christian hope manifests itself in the glorious appearing of our Savior and Lord. Our hope has a direct impact on the quality of the life that we live now, “while we wait for the blessed hope the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
See to it that you are not troubled. Jesus is your protector, your provider, your way-maker, Amen!