The Myth of Calm and the Better Peace

The tiny, tender leaves outside my window are dancing hard in an aggressive spring rain, whipping and twisting so much that I wonder how they’re holding to their stems. Rain brings life, I know, but this storm seems like a threat to new growth.

Hold on, little leaves. The storm will roll by. You’ll be okay.

I’m talking to myself.

I know that rain-lashed feeling, the uncertainty whether my fragile unfurling will survive another downpour. It’s been a season of loss and change — beautiful, exhausting upheaval full of feelings too large to fit in my chest.

In the past, I would have wanted to return to emotional equilibrium as soon as possible. Big feelings press and stretch in uncomfortable ways. A sense of steady calm seemed like a pleasant, respectable goal — even a righteous one.

After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Don’t let your heart be troubled,” (John 14:1a, CSB)?

Our pastor preached on this passage last Sunday, and the context struck me in a new way. Jesus was preparing His disciples for His impending death, knowing the horror they’d soon be facing.

Knowing the horror He would be facing, too.

Jesus couldn’t have been telling them to remain in calm emotional equilibrium with such extreme heartache coming. So what did He mean?

I think the answer is in the rest of the verse: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me,” (v. 14, emphasis mine). The word translated “believe” here — pisteuo in Greek — doesn’t just involve the mind and will. This is a secure, heart-level reliance on Jesus, anchored in an honest relationship with Him.

And honest, secure relationships aren’t threatened by big emotions.

We may not recognize it on the surface, but many of us have lived our lives according to the myth of calm: the idea that we need to wrestle unruly feelings back into placid order. When those emotions grow big and wild and too hard to control, we feel unsafe. We’re afraid of our own hearts.

But we’re created to feel. God made our brains so that every stimulus triggers an emotional response before it triggers a rational thought. Emotions are signals tied to memories, experiences, beliefs, and desires — simply indicators designed to give us awareness of what’s going on beneath the surface.

Jesus knew this about our brains and emotions when He added, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful,” (John 14:27, CSB).

The peace the world gives says, “Don’t be upset. Do whatever you need to feel better.” This counterfeit peace drives our hearts into hiding, chasing a sense of calm through denial, distraction, and destructive pleasure, eventually leaving us in greater instability and deeper anxiety.

But the peace Jesus gives obliterates the myth of calm. His peace allows room for the wildest emotional storms, because He knows these storms Himself. This better peace invites fearless honesty and gives us courage to trace our emotions’ sources, transforming our feelings from dangerous threats into tools for uncovering our depths and finding healing and freedom.

The peace Jesus gives is a process — beautiful, exhausting upheaval full of feelings too large to fit in our chests. But we can lash and twirl fearlessly in the driving downpour, confident that we’re securely held through the strongest emotions, whatever they reveal.

No, little leaves, we won’t be destroyed. The rain is bringing life.

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