Peaceful Feelings

What is the most idyllic place you can imagine? Is it the seashore at sunset with the glowing sun disappearing over the horizon in a mix of amber hues? Is it a mossy glen through which a babbling brook meanders? Might you be thinking of the top of a mountain after a light evening snowfall, the world below it quiet and free of clamor?

You probably feel a sense of peace when you think of your favorite setting. That feeling of peace and tranquility is something that we are all looking for, is it not? When feelings of anxiety and trouble come, we look to replace them with feelings of peace.

So much do we desire the feeling of peace that we make decisions according to it. Often, we avoid necessary conflict because we know the result will be increased anxiety or discord. Or, perhaps after prayer,  we make a choice based on whether we “feel a peace” about it, choosing the option that causes less disquiet in our hearts and souls.

Certainly, there are cases when making a choice based on our “feeling a peace” is not wrong. If we must choose between several good options, all of which offer avenues to serve the Lord, then paying attention to the feeling of peace we have is appropriate. Yet, it would be a grave error to choose every course based on our feeling peaceful about it.

We see this exemplified in the life of Christ. Did Jesus “feel a peace” about the crucifixion? No, as He contemplated the cross, our Savior did not feel peaceful about His impending death. Looking to Calvary, Jesus confessed, “Now my soul is troubled” (John 12:27). In Gethsemane, Jesus agonized over the coming ordeal of the cross (Luke 23:39–46). And this agony continued as He suffered, reaching its climax as He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Of course, Jesus experienced the peace that accompanies the godly resolve to do God’s will. He knew that things would ultimately work out for His glory and for the good of His people. He knew that the agony of the cross would be worth it, for He would receive the joy set before Him upon accomplishing His mission (Heb. 12:2). But this was not the kind of peace that we talk about when we say we “have a sense of peace.” It was an objective peace, an understanding of what surely lay ahead.

Had Jesus made His choices based on that subjective feeling of peace, He might not have gone to the cross. Instead, He acted based on the objective reality of what was to come, not because God removed all agony from His experience of the cross. He understood that when it comes to following the revealed will of God, the subjective feeling of inward peace could not be determinative.

The same is true of us. Sometimes obedience to God’s objective revelation—His law—means that we will experience agony or feel troubled. We dare not choose our course of action merely because we have a “peaceful feeling.” We choose based on what God has said is the proper way, knowing that whatever lack of peaceful feelings we experience now will be worth it in glory.

Coram Deo

Passages for Further Study

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.