I love it when the Lord takes a familiar passage and opens my eyes to a truth I never noticed before. Take, for example, this passage:
I think most of us have heard it a million times and could probably even quote it in our sleep. The message of the verses is simple, yet profound, reminding us to turn our problems over to God with a gracious and thankful heart. Granted, living out these verses is not as easy as quoting them. I wish it were!
If you would humor me, I want you to read through those two verses again, paying attention to every word and every phrase. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Done? Good. I did the same thing this morning. When I first started, I rushed through, half reading and half quoting. But then, I paused. "Wait a minute! I just noticed that!" Oh, how I cherish these "aha moments" in God's Word. Verse seven tells us that the peace of God will keep our hearts and minds, right? But I want you to notice when it says this will occur. After God answers our prayer? After we're out of our difficult trial? After all things are made right in our lives? After we drown our sorrows in chocolate cake and Pepsi (or maybe this one is just me)? When will we get that peace for which we long?
According to the entire passage, that peace comes directly on the heels of turning our problem over to God in prayer with thanksgiving. We don't have to wait for the prayer to be answered or the problem to be solved. We can have a peace that passes understanding immediately!
Now, if you're anything like me, you read that last paragraph, and the word "but" formed on your lips. I get it. Sometimes I feel worse after I pray, not better. After pouring my heart out to God, I find myself in a deeper state of despair and discouragement. What gives? That's not what's supposed to happen, right? But it does happen, more often than I care to admit. So, is the Bible in error? No, I am.
The Scriptures tell me that I'll have God's peace when I give my situation over to God, but that's not what I'm doing many times when I pray. I'm not giving it to God; I'm merely rehearsing it in His presence. Instead of asking God to deal with the problem, I whine and complain about how difficult it is and pray for strength to deal with it myself. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing sinful about praying for strength, but there's something very wrong about me holding onto my problems and being proud enough to think I can handle them on my own. Is it any wonder I walk away from my prayer time feeling discouraged and defeated?
If we want to truly experience the peace of God, we have to follow the formula set forth in His Word. First, stop worrying about the situation. Worry solves nothing. Two, take it to Jesus and leave it there. Three, thank the Lord for what He has done and is doing. Four, accept the peace He offers willingly. It's really not complicated. In fact, it can be summed up in one familiar saying: "Let go and Let God."