Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of counseling many people from both the church and at Foundations. When going through struggles personally or in marriage, many of the clients shared at some point that they felt at peace with God. What is baffling to me is how people can feel at peace when their actions have been contrary to the Word. What exactly does this mean? Can there be a peace from God when actions are contrary to Scripture? Or is there only peace when one is acting in accordance with Scripture?
In the spirit of Paul’s explanation of “Godly Sorrow” vs “Worldly Sorrow” as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 7:10, I’d also like differentiate Peace in the same manner: Godly Peace vs Worldly Peace.
Godly Peace, or peace that comes from God, occurs when our actions are consistent with His Word. Our actions, of course, stem from an internal belief that God is trustworthy, loving, all knowing, all powerful, faithful, all present, etc. When our decisions are based in our trust on His character, then no matter what happens, we are at peace because we know His way is best, wise, in accordance to His will, and that all will work out for our good.
Fourteen years ago my one son was only a day or two old when he had multiple surgeries. We received a phone call from the Doctor stating that he took a turn for the worse. I remember praying to the Lord and receiving that peace that passes understanding (Php 4:7). This is the peace that you get when the situation seems bleak, but you feel at peace because you know it’s in God’s hands. At that time, I simply trusted in Him. I didn’t know the outcome of the situation, but I knew Who held the outcome. Whatever the outcome was going to be, He would turn it into my good as He promised (Rom 8:28).
Trust in the One who is good and faithful is where Godly Peace comes from. It is not looking at any possible outcomes, but at the One who will turn the outcome into our good, and for His glory.
Worldly Peace is the peace that comes when our consciences and hearts have become hardened to God’s Word. We see this often in those who have not proclaimed Christ and live their lives apart from Him. They don’t see God’s Word as Truth, as God’s Word of Love to be obeyed, but instead have set up separate morals and values and feel at peace when they follow these morals.
But this Worldly Peace is not simply a peace that is experienced by those outside Christ, but it has also been experienced by those inside Christianity as well. One example I have seen too frequently is when a wife leaves or divorces her husband for reasons that are not mentioned in Scripture (it can be the other way around, of course). There has been no infidelity or abandonment by the spouse, nor has there been abusive situations at all (this reason isn’t specifically mentioned in Scripture, but one can make a really good case for it), but the wife, after prayer, etc., comes to the conclusion to leave her spouse and feels a peace about it. At times, even claiming that this peace if from God.
Where does this peace come from? Can this peace come from God when it contradicts His Word? Would the Holy Spirit give someone peace when they disobey God? I would argue that such peace is not a Godly Peace, but a Worldly Peace. It is a peace that comes when one deceives themselves into thinking that God wants them to be happy. It occurs when passages of Scripture are twisted to fit into justifying what someone really wants…to be happy. This person is essentially doing what they feel they need to do for themselves. Often conclusions are made and Scriptures are found and interpreted in favor of the person so that he or she believes their actions are OK with God.
When this happens, the person then believes that their peace is a Godly Peace. The self-deception continues and lives and relationships are broken when decisions are made as a result of this peace.
So, how can we know our peace is a Worldly Peace or a Godly Peace? Approach the answer In humility. If you are honestly asking the question, be ready for honest answers. Ask the Lord for His wisdom when interpreting Scriptures. Ask Him to search your heart and mind. Would you honestly be willing to do whatever His Word says or do whatever He wants but __________? Ask a mature believer, pastor, or Biblical Counselor their thoughts and interpretations of various passages you are looking at to see if you are justifying your position or decision. Since Worldly Peace comes from a hardened heart, ask Him to give you a heart of flesh towards the person you are angry with. Pray for them. Do loving acts for them. Ask God to help you to see them as He sees them.
So, is the Peace that you feel a Godly Peace, or is it a Worldly Peace?