Instead of an in-person Immeasurably More Bible Study this semester, we're moving to a series of online devotionals. Check back each Wednesday for a reflection written by a woman in our church for the women in our church!
By Susan Atchison
Our church concentrated lessons during Advent on “peace.” To be honest, I have never given two minutes of thought to this attribute of Jesus as a peaceful or peace-giving God. Love, yes. Trust, most definitely. But peace?
Maybe it’s because I personally have a very peaceful life. I did not grow up with feuding parents or friends, and my husband literally never gets angry at his family. Well, except when Caroline as a teenager couldn’t seem to make it home by curfew!
To be perfectly honest, the sermon series did not light a fire in me. I know, after all, the prophesy from Isaiah that when Jesus reigns, the lion will lie down with the lamb and the cow will feed with the bear; I even know the beautiful proclamation in Isaiah that Jesus will be our Prince of Peace. I’ve heard it read at Christmas services for as long as I can remember. But recently, I actually experienced the peace of the Lord at an unexpected, unsolicited time, and looking back at the incident, I believe it has changed my life in a profound (and peaceful) way.
Let me back up. I read two incredible books this fall: Jesus in Me, by Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham; and Becoming Elizabeth Elliot, by Ellen Vaughn. These were not intentional choices at an intentional time – just two great reads that simultaneously drew me in. Lotz explores every aspect of the Holy Spirit, impactfully landing on the notion that He alone has the power to transform those who are willing to sweep their lives clean with confession of both daily and systemic personal sins, and to consciously and repeatedly surrender to His supremacy for every area of our lives. After sincerely spending time in reflection, contemplation and prayer, I truly began to be filled anew daily with the Holy Spirit and subsequently experienced small victories and lessons from the Lord.
At the same time, I was becoming enriched by the knowledge of the life of Elizabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot – the extreme missionary who was speared to death by unbelieving, savage Indians in Ecuador in the late 1950’s. Following the tragic death, Elizabeth remained in the region – in the rustic jungle -- with her one-year-old baby and proceeded to live out her husband’s passion for lost tribes, actually moving in with them and literally “doing life” side by side with the very people who had made sure Jim’s life was done. Her indescribable peace after such heartache made a profound impression on me. Truly, I realized, Elizabeth had to have been completely drenched in the Holy Spirit prior to Jim’s death; therefore, the Lord not only sustained her with peace during her deep personal grief, but also empowered her with boldness for the Gospel in the proceeding days, months and years.
On Sunday, November 1, just after church services, we were greatly surprised by Craig’s massive “widow-maker” heart attack that very well could have left me a widow. In the small, freezing cold, and sterile examining room adjacent to the Cath Lab where the cardiologist was working to save Craig’s life, I sat on a hard metal chair praying. I remember shaking uncontrollably. It might have been from the frigid air. It might also have been from the surge of adrenaline. Maybe both. But I distinctly remember telling God that I trusted Him; that as much as I hoped that His will would be to SAVE my husband, that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that He and I could “do life” together, should He choose to take Craig home. I remember picturing Heaven from all the movies I’ve seen and books I’ve read, and actually assuring God that I knew Craig would be happy there.
After the scare was over, friends and acquaintances began to ask sincere but sensational questions like, “how were you able to pull yourself together enough to drive the car to the hospital?” and, “was it the scariest thing you’ve ever experienced?” Eyes wide, ready for a hairy story of the horrid day Craig almost died, they practically begged me to re-paint the gruesome scene for them. To be truthful, I usually answered “yes” when asked if I was scared to death, because I feared I’d seem like an uncaring wife if I answered otherwise; but in my heart I knew that that just wasn’t the case. In waiting for the doctor’s verdict, I had what Scripture calls “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” In some miraculous way, I was not afraid because I had complete trust in God’s sovereign plan. All this is a lot to explain when someone is asking for a “wild ride” type of story; so I just agreed that it was awful.
Days later, I was watching Pastor Robert Morris (my favorite TV evangelist), and he described a situation from years before when he actually DID die medically for a number of minutes. He recounted the same sort of concerned, sensational questions that his wife had received in the aftermath of the emergency. One time, he heard her answer: “I was very concerned, but I knew that God was in control, so I rested in that peace.” When I heard him tell that story, I suddenly felt tears rolling down my cheeks. I was not an uncaring, unfeeling wife; I had the power of the Holy Spirit inside of me, doing battle for me so that I could rest in peace! This was a new and profound revelation for me. I had truly never experienced the Spirit in that way.
“If you want to have peace that passes understanding, you have to give up your right to understand everything. As much as we’d like it to be, peace is not in the outcome. Peace is a Person. Trusting the Prince of Peace is an invitation to not have to know everything.”
This is all new to me, and I’m still trying to process it and live into what I’ve learned. But what I would challenge you with today is to be ready. Be steeped in the Word of God and ask Him to fill you up with His Spirit every single day, surrendering every part of your day, so that you can not only be prepared to be His ambassador for whatever comes, but also so that your vessel will be open and ready for His indescribable peace, whatever your “heart attack” may look like.