It was the first winter weather of the season—a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain and as the wind howled it blew the little ice pellets against everything standing. When the storm moved on and the wind died down, the ice and snow had left a beautifully painted landscape. Tree branches and roofs were covered in white—the most beautiful winter wonderland. In the distance you could hear my children and their neighborhood friends sliding down the little hill a short walk behind our house. I had to get out and take in all the beauty.
So, I dressed for the cold and strapped my spikes on my running shoes and headed toward the nature path near our home. My legs hadn’t run in snow in quite a while so with each step I knew I wasn’t running for time. I was taking in the beauty and enjoying time with my Jesus. As I ran, I was listening to a sermon and heard the pastor speak a familiar verse— “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) I stopped mid stride. Suddenly the familiar words hit my mind in a new way and I had to make a note. What does it mean that peace surpasses understanding? Understanding can only go so far. Peace goes forever! I saved my note in my phone and continued on my run.
As the miles [slowly] passed my mind kept going back to that verse. It became clear with each pound in the snow that the Holy Spirit was trying to grab my attention to a verse I had heard and even found comfort in for years. I love that when the Scripture says the Word is alive and active, you can be sure that it is. What other book can you read and reread everyday of your entire life and new insights and understandings are made clear?!
Later that day, as the kids continued their marathon sledding expedition, in my rarely ever quiet home, I opened my Bible to the verse. In the version I opened a different word is used. Instead of surpasses, the NIV uses the term transcends.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…”
Surpass means exceed, better than. Transcend means be or go beyond the range or limits of.
We can’t explain away the peace of God because it is simply beyond the range of our understanding. Our brains will never fully grasp this because they are not designed to do so. The peace of God lies beyond the limits of our understanding.
As these thoughts consumed my mind I began to pray and was reminded of a time when I was living alone. I was in my late twenties and my roommate of five years had just gotten married and moved out a month prior. It took a little time to adjust to my new circumstances as I had never in my entire life lived alone before. I grew up the oldest of four girls and always had roommates in college and afterwards. But I was living in Chicago, I loved my city, and I loved my little condo.
One day I came home from work and when I walked up the back stairs I noticed the bottom half of my back door had major dents in it and as my eyes continued to move up the door I saw the dents were bigger by the door handle, the jam was completely cracked, and the door wasn’t even closed. Someone had broken into my home by kicking in the door. To this day I can’t remember what exactly I did next. I know I eventually called the police. I know I walked through the entire place to see what they had taken. I know I was feeling a variety of things, but the one feeling that surpassed them all was a defiant peace. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was a settled feeling in my soul that was drowning out any feelings of fear or anxiety. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
I should have been scared out of my mind. Here I was a single woman, living alone, and my home had been broken into. Yet, I was calm, fear-less, and full of peace. And if I am honest, I didn’t really recognize myself. I slept fine that night, and the next night, and the next.
The thieves had stolen my television and destroyed my door. But I was experiencing the peace that transcends all understanding. There are not adequate enough words to explain it. It was beyond the limits of my understanding.
Prayer and Petition
Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This is the verse that precedes, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
2020 has passed, but it’s challenges continue. For many of us we have plenty to be anxious about—job loss, city and state shutdowns, schools not reopening … the list seems endless at times. For some of us we are dealing with all those challenges amidst the loss of loved ones—anxiety compounded by grief.
On our own we cannot make it through these challenging situations. But, if in every situation by prayer and petition we present our requests to God, His peace that transcends our understanding will guard our hearts and minds. He doesn’t promise that our circumstances will change, and that can certainly be challenging, but He does promise a peace that goes beyond the limits of our understanding.
I cannot fully grasp this, but I have experienced it, and I want more of it for you, for me, for all of God’s children. Our hope doesn’t lie in a new year, but in the God whose peace defies logic.
Father, as we progress into this new year, help us, your children, to seek you more. Help us to submit our prayers and petitions with grateful hearts for what you have already done and with expectation that You will move again. Comfort those that are grieving. Provide for those that are in need. Make a way, Lord, where there seems no way. And as we wait on you, Father, may your peace that defies logic and transcends all understanding flood our hearts and minds.