Are you afraid?
Do you agonize over what will happen if you never get your job back? Does thinking about your children’s future frighten you? Do you lock and gate your storefront hoping to deter rioters and looters? Do you fear what will become of us if stronger countries take advantage of our weakened state? Do you dread the thought that things may never return to normal?
Times like these—times of upheaval—undress us, revealing our deepest fears. Times of upheaval remind us that the control we think we have is an illusion. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes this reality well: “We all want to make our plans for life and living. But when we think we have made our perfect plans, something suddenly happens, our whole world begins to shake and to quake.”1 When our plans are set and all is going well, we think we are in control and undefeatable. But we are living through an earthquake. And as our foundations crumble, we see how powerless we are, and it terrifies us.
It is not so much this powerlessness that frightens us. Rather, it is the result. If we are unable to stop the world from falling down around us, what is to hinder it from falling on and killing us, along with those we love? In short, we dread death. One pastor captures our fear of morality well. “We . . . fear losing our loved ones. We fear separation from or pain coming to our loved ones. We are reminded frequently of our own morality.”2 In other words, under our current economic and social fears is a deeper fear of death and its accompanying pain. This fear plunders our peace.
The world promotes many means of reacquiring our stolen peace. Some tell us if we distribute all goods to all equally, we will eliminate conflicts and replace them with peace. Others claim that if we can escape into our meditating mind, we will discover tranquility. Yet others claim peace is found only by escaping into nature.3 Still others preach peace through doing good works, or getting an education, or traveling the world.
But nothing the world offers will give us lasting peace, because none of these solutions addresses our hearts. What happens after everyone has equal goods? Will it take away the greed and deceit in our hearts? Will I leave my troubled heart in the peaceful meadow? These man-made solutions to a troubled heart are all like taking Tylenol for a broken arm. The pain goes away temporarily, but when it wears off your arm is still broken and you are in worse pain. It is plain then, as Lloyd-Jones says, that “anything that merely gives us relief from unpleasant symptoms is not enough. What we should always be interested in, in every realm, is health.”4 And in this case, it is our heart that’s sick.
Lloyd-Jones argues that the only way to health is through a quiet heart. Indeed, he writes, “the greatest need of men and women in this world is the need of what is called a quiet heart, the claim of the gospel is not only that it can give us a quiet heart, but also that nothing else can do it.”5 It is through believing this gospel that we find a quiet heart in the midst of a chaotic world. For the gospel offers us a new heart. We need a new heart because ours are bent toward every kind of evil. And a heart chasing evil cannot also chase peace. Peace and evil are magnets with like poles. But when we believe on Christ, he takes our evil deeds upon himself. He takes away our wicked hearts and replaces them with hearts that rest quietly in his finished work.
But we can rest in Christ’s work only if we know the God behind the work. In fact, Lloyd-Jones says if we do not have a quiet heart, we must ask ourselves if we know the One who gives it. “If you do not have a quiet heart, the real reason is that you do not know the person who says, ‘Believe also in me.’”6 To know a person is more than knowing they exist. It is more than knowing their name and occupation. To know a person is know their character, loves, what they believe, how they act. And to know the Lord is also to entrust your life to him. This is what it means to know our Lord.
When we know God like this, we find a quiet heart. And as we walk with him through the years and get to know him more, our hearts grow even more peaceful. We learn through experience that this Jesus is forever faithful, utterly sovereign, and perfectly good. Let’s take a little time to explore how each of these characteristics of God gives us a quiet heart in a chaotic world.
The Psalmist wrote, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread” (Ps. 37:25, English Standard Version). In another place he wrote, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Ps. 9:9–10). In other words, those who have entrusted their lives to God, he will never forsake. God has promised to complete the work he started in us until we are with him in glory (Phil. 1:6). The longer we walk alongside God, getting to know him, the more deeply we will grasp this reality.
When we face trouble, we find him “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). When the threat of death surrounds us, we will concur with Paul that “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). Life spent in knowing God more makes us sure of his faithful love because we also know that “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
But God is not only forever faithful, he also is utterly sovereign. This is important. If God were faithful but helpless to change anything, we could find temporary comfort but no lasting peace. A child finds peace at night in knowing not only that their parents are sleeping in the next room, but also that if a thief comes in, the parents know how to protect her from him. So too, we find peace in knowing that God is not only with us but also powerful to protect us. Lloyd-Jones explains it like this: “The secret of the quiet heart ultimately is to believe in God, then I must believe in addition that nothing happens apart from him and that he is able to do everything, that nothing is too hard for the Lord.”7
In the day-to-day, this means that God not only watches over each of his children; he also holds together the universe. He was not surprised by COVID-19. The rioting and unrest did not catch him off guard. Rather, he allowed and permitted these, and every event. After all, he is the God who told the waters at creation, “Thus far shall you come, and no further” (Job 38:11). And he is the God who used a forced marriage and treacherous brothers as a means of saving an entire nations (Esth. 4:14; Gen. 50:20). Though we, with our limited view, cannot understand why God allows chaos and confusion and heartache, we can find peace in knowing that none of it is outside of his control. But if God were only sovereign and faithful but lacked goodness, he would be as terrifying as the Roman Fates. We can find peace in the sovereignty and faithfulness of God only when it is also wedded with his goodness.
Nowhere do we see God’s goodness more clearly portrayed than at the cross. Indeed, the cross unites his goodness, sovereignty, and faithfulness. Before God spoke the moon and stars into light, he determined to save his children through the death of the Son on a cross (Eph. 1:3–14). He was faithful to fulfill his promise, a promise he repeated throughout the Bible (Gen. 3:14–15; 17; Ezek. 36:26). Not only was he faithful, but in his power, Jesus conquered death and the devil by rising again from the dead (1 Cor 15:55; Col. 2:15). For this reason, as one pastor writes, “The resurrection of Jesus truly takes away all the fears that are related to death. Whether it is the fear of the present evil age, of not having enough time, or of losing our loved ones, the resurrection provides the perspective and the understanding to be free of these fears.”8 This statement rings true because what we fear most is pain and death. Through the resurrection, Jesus conquered both of these. Yes, we will still endure pain, but we endure it through the help of One who both sympathizes and delights to help (Heb. 4:15). Yes, we will die. But is death but a glorious reunion with our good, sovereign, and faithful God?
We find that the answer to our anxious hearts during this tumultuous time is to know God. This begins by entrusting our life to him; believing the gospel. Then, the more we grow in our understanding of his goodness, sovereignty, and faithfulness, the more our peace grows. You will find that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Indeed, so great is the peace that comes from knowing God that no storm from within or without can quake our quiet heart. David knew God like that—may we all. May we all be able to say with David:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. (Ps. 46:1–3)
1 Much of this article is inspired by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 17.
2 Z. Bulut Yasar, “Blessing from an Empty Tomb,” New Horizons, April 2020, https://opc.org/nh.html?article_id=1018 (accessed September 7, 2020).
3 Robert Puff, “How to Find Inner Peace: Being in Nature Fosters Stillness and Silence,” Psychology Today, October 30, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/meditation-modern-life/201710/how-find-inner-peace (accessed September 7, 2020).
4 Lloyd-Jones, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, 31.
5 Ibid., 15.
6 Ibid., 51.
7 Ibid., 36.
8 Yasar, “Empty Tomb.”
Mrs. Elisabeth Bloechl a member of Orthodox Presbyterian Church Hammond, is a house cleaner and aspiring writer in Griffith, IN.