• Matthew Thornton

And He Promised Peace

Finding God's peace among discomfort, pain and uncertainty.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with idea of God’s peace.


For so long I thought that peace was simply the feeling of comfort, tranquility and ease. Whilst it is these things, I’ve come to realise that it is so much more than that.

A song I heard at Easter Camp this year challenged my idea of God’s peace. The song is called “Peace / Afio Mai” written by a local New Zealand artist called Link, and the lyrics in question go as follows:


“He never told me that it would be easy He said ‘Suffering would come’ But He promised peace, peace, peace.”


As I heard this song sung, I couldn’t understand how those lyrics could be true. How could someone experiencing suffering, someone who is in pain genuinely say they are peace? For, if peace is comfort and someone experiences discomfort, how then can they experience peace?


The answer: peace can exist in discomfort, pain, suffering and confusion.


“Oceans”

Another song that has got me thinking is “Oceans” by Hillsong United. Before you say anything. Yes, I know. “Oceans” isn’t a new song and I know I am certainly not the first to write about it, but there is something about it which means that every time I listen to it I pick up on something new. The lyrics that have got me questioning are:


“And I will call upon Your name And keep my eyes above the waves When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace For I am Yours and You are mine”


If you were to envision the image these lines are depicting, it is certainly not an image of comfort. The subject described isn’t thriving in the water. It is not as if they are swimming comfortable without struggle or difficult. In fact, they are almost drowning. “Keep my eyes above the waves”. This person is treading just enough to get oxygen, no more no less. They continue to remain on the verge of drowning. Yet, despite this, they are at “rest”, at peace. They are experiencing peace despite discomfort and struggle.


This realisation took me back to few years ago. In 2013, my family decided to emigrate to New Zealand from South Africa. For this to happen, one of my parents would need to get a job to get a work visa which would allow us to attain residency and live in New Zealand.


So, in February of 2013, my dad, with a three-month visa, left in search of a job. The house, my parents dream house which they had spent many years renovating, was sold which meant we had to live in my grandparent’s house which they had recently moved out of. Additionally, my mom had left her job and I had declined a spot at a prestigious high school and was to be temporarily homeschooled until my dad had found a job.


At first, we were extremely hopeful of my dad’s chances. But, three months then passed and my dad didn’t even come close to finding a job. So, a three month extension on his visa was requested and approved and the searching continued. It should be noted that after these three months, if he hadn’t found anything, he would need to return home and wait six months before he could try again.


Our family had put ours lives on hold – I wasn’t at school and my mom and dad weren’t at work. The fourth month passed, then the fifth and it suddenly became real: my dad had one month left on his visa and there was a likely chance that he would have to return home and our dream of moving to New Zealand would be over – temporarily or indefinitely.


But then, with about 3 weeks to go before his flight home, he finally found a job. A job that would allow him to attain the necessary work visa and so, on the 27th of July 2013, we left to start a new life in New Zealand.


“Trust me and keep swimming”


It’s weird thinking back on that time. I remember praying and praying to God each day that my dad would find a job. And, as each day would pass, my hope would dwindle away until finally, with one month to go, it seemed as if all hope was lost. But then, God came through in an incredible way.


During times of pain, suffering and discomfort; when the floor waters rush in and it feels like we’re drowning, it can feel like God isn’t there and that He doesn’t care. But sometimes, instead of throwing us a lifebuoy like we might want Him to, God says: “Trust me and keep swimming”.


Instead of relief, He offers us peace. Peace, as I’ve come to realise, is knowing that regardless of the circumstances or the outcomes, with God everything is going to be okay. When we trust in God, we can have this peace in every circumstance because:


“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28)


“All things”, all outcomes, all circumstances God will bring something good from it.

In February, I was full of hope. But, as each month went on, my hope dwindled away. I so badly wanted God to relieve my family of our anxiety and worry, I so badly wanted God to send us a lifeboat and whisk away to New Zealand. But, do you know what He said?


“Trust me and keep swimming”.


You know, it’s funny because I remember, during that time, my fear was that we weren’t going to get to New Zealand. I never feared that everything wouldn’t work out in the end. I always knew, somehow, that regardless of what happened, whether my dad got a job or not, everything would be just fine.


But sometimes, instead of throwing us a lifebuoy like we might want Him to, God says: “Trust me and keep swimming”.

For a long time, I thought of it as simply naivety. But, as I’ve come to realise, it was God’s peace that I was feeling. He was letting me know He was with me and that everything was going to be okay.


The waiting, the uncertainty, the unknown was still worrying and scary – treading water is never comfortable. But you know, God’s peace gave me rest and comfort within the discomfort.


The fruits from treading


God not sending us a lifeboat isn’t a sign of negligence but one of love. Because, the more we tread the water, the stronger and fitter we get. And, when we may find myself in deep water again in the future, we don’t have to fear because we know that God was with us before and He promises He will be with us in the future.


“Glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4)


For me, my treading during those months in 2013 deepened my faith. God was with me then and this gives me faith and hope knowing He will be with me through whatever life may bring in the future.


In fact, currently I am not completely sure what I want to do with my life. I’ve experienced a lot of confusion trying to ascertain where God is leading me. But you know, within the discomfort and the uncertainty, I am at peace because I know that whatever happens, God is with me and everything is going to be okay.


He kept His promise


In about one month’s time, it will be five years since my family began our life in New Zealand. These five years have been incredible testing and through times of financial uncertainty and loneliness God has been with us through it all. Now, five years on, I am blessed with incredible friends and I am part of an amazing church community. God has brought my family and I to an incredible place and reflecting on how far we have come only makes me more thankful.


Crazy to think that everything worked out in the end.


So, regardless of what your circumstance or situation may be. Despite the pain, the worry or the confusion, God’s peace is available. God wants you to know that He is with you and that everything is going to be okay.


“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phillipians 4:7).


Trust God and keep swimming.


Matthew is currently studying at the University of Auckland. He'd love to hear from you -contact him at matthewcthornton13@gmail.com.


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