“Don’t let your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). What thoughts came into your mind when you read that?
Anything like this: “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say!” “Are you kidding me?” “How can my heart not be troubled? You don’t know my life!”
We live in a troubled, anxious, fearful, often angry world. And yet Jesus is the one talking here: “Don’t let your heart be troubled.”
How is that possible? Let’s look at the deeper meaning.
What is My “Heart”?
Culturally, when we hear the word heart we think of feelings. So when someone says, “What does your heart tell you?” they mean, “What do your feelings tell you?”
That’s not what Jesus means here, though.
The Greek word translated heart in this verse is kardia. That word is talking about the inner life of our mind, will, intentions, desires and decisions. Our feelings are part of that, but the heart isn’t driven by our feelings.
The Greek word translated troubled in this verse is tarassó—put in motion, agitate, stir up, shake. So Jesus is saying we have control—decision-making power—over our heart. “Don’t let your heart be troubled…”
When Outer Trouble = Inner Trouble
Animals can’t do this—they’re controlled by instinct. A deer can be at perfect peace until it senses a threat. Then it won’t be at peace again until it senses that threat is gone.
Water is like that, too. A lake in an atmosphere of calm is calm. When there’s no wind, the surface of the lake is glasslike—calm enough to see a perfect reflection. But when the wind comes, the surface of the lake gets stirred up, agitated, troubled. The stronger the wind—the outside circumstance—the more it’s stirred up.
Most people are like that, too. Their inner life is at peace if everything around them is at peace.
But Jesus is saying it doesn’t have to be that way for those of us who follow Him. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says we’re to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
That’s powerful! And possible.
When Outer Trouble Doesn’t Shake Inner Peace
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)
When we read Jesus’ entire statement we get a clue as to how we’re able to keep our heart (our mind, will, decision-making inner self) from being troubled—it’s by believing in God the Father and in Jesus our Savior.
The Greek word translated believe here is pisteuó. It means to have faith in, to entrust, trust in, believe. We can’t have an untroubled heart in troubled circumstances without that.
And it’s not just a “Sure, I believe in God” kind of trust. It has to be a deep-down, entrenched, committed kind of trust.
Even Jesus’ disciples—the ones He’s talking to here—got very troubled in the next few days as Jesus was arrested, tried, whipped and crucified. They were still troubled after He rose from the dead. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when He sent the Holy Spirit to them that they were able to truly not be troubled.
Remember the lake in the section above? Without wind, a lake is calm enough to cast a perfect reflection. When the wind picks up, the surface becomes agitated and troubled. The greater the wind, the more the surface gets stirred up.
But like Jesus did in the storm with His disciples that night (Mark 4:35-41), when He lives in us, when we live in Him, we can say to the storm—the trouble—in our heart: “Peace! Be still.”
The Key to Inner Peace
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 gives us more insight into this. We can’t do this in our own strength or ability, but because we’re in Jesus. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God…” (verse 4).
This isn’t easy!
Remember, even Jesus’ disciples weren’t able to really get a hold of this until they were filled with the Holy Spirit a few weeks later.
That’s also the key for us—the filling of the Holy Spirit, abiding in Jesus (the Vine), a true entrusting of ourselves to the Father.
Not easy…but possible!
“My peace I give you…”
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, I give to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)
Jesus said it again: Don’t let your heart be troubled. In this verse He gives us even more hope, more insight into how this is possible for His followers—He leaves us with His peace.
The Greek word translated peace here is eiréné. Beyond a sense of quietness and rest, it implies a “joining together into a whole.” A wholeness, an inner security or assurance. Jesus had that because of His relationship with His Father. And the Holy Spirit makes it available to each of us.
Peace Amid Chaos
The picture that comes to my mind about this kind of peace was one I witnessed on a visit to Niagara Falls.
Millions upon millions of gallons of water rush over these falls. We were walking along the edge of the very brink (New York’s state park service did a fantastic job of providing walkways for an up-close-and-personal experience).
Out there on solid rock, surrounded by the rushing torrents on both sides, a small purple flower had bloomed.
This natural picture gave me such a sense of beauty and peace in the midst of very tumultuous circumstances. That little flower was able to grow and thrive there.
Jesus’ Peace is Robust
I love how The Living Bible paraphrases Jesus’ words in the verse above: “…the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives.”
Jesus’ peace—available to all His followers through the infilling of the Holy Spirit—is a vibrant, living peace. It’s a peace that’s powerful enough to displace agitation and fear in our hearts.
It’s a peace that’s not dependent on whether things around us are peaceful—that’s the fragile peace of the world.
No, it’s an inner assurance of our Lord’s reality, sovereignty and love. This peace is a fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Because of this peace we can obey Jesus’ instruction: “Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.”
(The Living Bible is © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. The other verses are taken from World English Bible, public domain.)