Only after I got out of the hospital and went home was I hit with the cold facts of my paralysis. Doorways were too narrow. Sinks were too high. My knees hit the edge of the dining table. A plate of food was placed before me, but my hands were limp and useless. Someone else—at least for the first few months—had to feed me. Our cozy home felt like a prison, and I panicked. I felt nervous and trapped.
My caged feelings forced me to look at another captive. Never one to anxiously pace in a jail cell, the apostle Paul reassured his friends in Philippi, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
Paul was talking about a peace that gladly submits to God in all circumstances. Such quietness of heart has nothing to do with prison bars, wheelchairs, or confining situations. Instead, it bears up under any suffering in a satisfied and agreeable way. When the peace of Christ rules in your heart, you don’t plot ways of escape, succumb to peevish thoughts, or fret needlessly. You feel at peace.
Paul learned how to live this way. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12 NIV). Those situations included stoning, shipwrecks, floggings, and imprisonment. Christ’s enablement was more than sufficient, and so Paul’s secret was learning to lean on that fact. Learning meant making tough choices—turning to Christ and not away from him. Deciding this and not that. Going here and not there. Standing up to unruly emotions and seeking God’s peace.
Peace is only understood when conflicts are raging all around.
I fight every day to make choices like these. Lack of access to buildings and finding something to do with useless hands are no longer an issue for me. Neither is being fed a hamburger while others steal glances. My current issue is with pain. When pain tempts me to feel disheartened and glumly stare out a window, I stand up to my miserable emotions. I am shrewd to their cunning ways, that they could be the ruin of me. Instead, I quell those dark feelings by singing:
Peace like a river, so deep and so broad, Wonderful peace, wonderful peace; Resting my soul on the bosom of God, I have peace, sweet peace.
Peace is only understood when conflicts are raging all around. Alexander Maclaren observed, “However profound and real that Divine peace is, it is to be enjoyed in the midst of warfare. God’s peace is not [inertia]. The man that has it has still to wage continual conflict, and day by day to brace himself anew for the fight. The highest energy of action is the result of the deepest calm[ness] of heart. That peace of God . . . is peace militant.”1
Christ is not a magic wand to be waved over your problems. Peace doesn’t come that way. As we make the tough choices to hold fast to his grace, divine peace surges through us. As hard as life is, militant peace arrives at the instant we exercise faith during the battle. It gives us strength to say, “I can do this. I can make this tough choice for the honor of Christ. I can, I will trust him!”
So try it. Or rather, learn it. Look for peace and contentment through the hard yet simple choices you will make throughout this day. Believe God has enough grace for you, and memorize this hymn if you need a reminder. For it could be that by the time you lay your head on your pillow tonight, you will have found his wonderful peace.
Joni Eareckson Tada