How Peace Made Its Way Past My Pain

Peace is very interesting and mysterious topic. Since early childhood my life was extremely chaotic. I endured so many traumatic losses. I wouldn’t wish those experiences on anyone. When I was 7, my older brother, who was 17 years old, was shot and killed. Shortly after that, I was forced to leave my mom and closest relatives to live with my dad in Tennessee and later, we moved to Germany. When I was 12, my stepmom drowned in front of me. I had to grow up very quickly from that point on. Again, chaos was common in my life and I’ve only told a small part of my story.

What I find beautiful about peace is no matter what you go through, God is with you. In high school, when I was having a difficult time and needed to feel God’s presence, I’d cry out to God. I was a mess and still, I would speak from the heart. Even then, I knew God was with me. In moments like those, I would walk away strengthened. I was still hurting but could feel God working on my heart. I never knew beauty and purpose would come from those dark situations.

Years after my brothers death, I remember when I first began to feel joy again. I fought it and didn’t want anything to do with it because I was still hurting. I thought I needed to remain bitter and unforgiving to show my allegiance to my brother. But I got to the point where I literally could no longer carry it. I would force myself to remember how lonely my brother was moments before he took his last breath. I thought about how vulnerable he was laying in the middle of the street. I would ponder those thoughts and instantly be in a dark place.

The song, I Won’t Complain, by Rev. Paul Jones is a song I would always play whenever I was in a dark place. I would cry and sing the song at the top of my lungs with everything I had. One of my favorite parts of the song goes,

“I’ve had some good days
I’ve had some hills to climb
I’ve had some weary days
Some sleepless nights
But when I look around
And think things over
All of my good days,
outweigh my bad days
I won’t complain
God has been so good to me
He’s been good to me
More than this world or you could ever be
He’s been so good to me.”

In spite of it all, God has been good to me. When I start thinking about the goodness of God and all he’s done for me, I literally can’t complain. In my darkest moments, the truth of God’s goodness is much more powerful.

I’m a living witness of God’s goodness and that brings me peace. I have seen evidence of God’s hand on my life. I have felt his healing hand calm the distress of my heart. I went from wanting revenge on the people who killed my brother to feeling compassionate toward them. It was a long process. However, God removed the burden I was carrying and gave me a peace. Immanuel was present in my lowest moments.

Sound familiar?

Advent brings us peace beyond our performance

Advent is a season and time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming". Because of the life of Jesus, we are free. Jesus’ birth signifies hope in the midst of challenges. The people of Israel were enslaved to the Roman government and were significantly mistreated. For generations they waited for a Savior to come and rescue them from their current situation. It is from this context that Jesus is born. God cared so much he sent humanity a Savior. Israel mattered to God. We matter to God. In the midst of your challenges are you still hopeful?

We can have peace knowing that God truly cares about us. He truly loves us. We don’t have to perform to receive his love. We don’t have to do anything but be who he has created us to be. He already accepts us and he values us just as we are. God was paying attention to Israel’s situation all those years. God is also paying attention to us and we’re not alone because of Immanuel (God with us).

Whatever we may be going through, we serve a God who is not distant. As a matter of fact, he is an ever present help in times of trouble. Even when things seem a little rocky, in the moment, we must know that God delights in every detail of our lives. Remind yourself of this truth when you may not feel God’s presence. He’s there and he’s with you. There may be times where you don’t see him moving fast enough. However you may feel in the moment,  know that God is one who sits with his people. An example of God being present with his people was sending Jesus to dwell with the people. Allow this to give you peace and reassure you that everything will be be alright because we serve an Almighty God.

God wants the very best for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future. God loves you. He intended for us to live in peace not chaos. I’m so thankful that our God is never distant, forever present, up close and personal. Hallelujah!

Questions for Reflection:

  1. The first thing God gave Adam was his presence. God placed him in the garden of Eden and his first responsibility was to protect his peace. This, too, is our responsibility. Identify what has interfered with your relationship with God. What area(s) could be blocking God’s peace from your life?

  2. Reflect on all God has done for you. When I do this, it brings me great confidence because I know God was with me at my lowest. It also encourages me not to focus solely on my current situation but to think more about God. As you look back over your life, think about the hardest , most challenging, and darkest times. As you reflect, can you see God’s presence with you? 

  3. What robs you of peace? We all have distractions and temptations. I used to always blame the devil every time I would fall and sin. But blaming everything on the devil never holds me responsible for my actions. I would open doors in my life that would leave me feeling terrible and worthless which would just strip me of peace. So, identify what robs you of peace. After you have identified whatever it is, then remove it. If you don’t know, ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and show you.

Norris Spagner

Norris is a bay area native from Richmond, CA. He received his B.A. in Biblical Studies at Azusa Pacific University and is currently attending Azusa Pacific Seminary pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree. Norris has a heart for the inner city and enjoys spending time with family, playing basketball, dancing, traveling and making people laugh.