The story is told of a new employee at a florist shop who was taking an order for a funeral wreath. The customer made her request: “I want ‘Rest in Peace’ on both sides.” After a moment of thought, she added, “And, if there’s room, ‘We’ll Meet in Heaven.’” The next day, when collecting the flowers, she was surprised to read the inscription exactly as she stated it: “Rest in Peace on Both Sides. If There’s Room, We’ll Meet in Heaven.”
It’s laughable, but there is a reminder here for Christians: In Christ, we can, in fact, have peace on both sides.
When he wrote Psalm 31, David was facing another incredible trial. A plot was afoot to take his life (v. 13) and he felt as if the outcome was inevitable. The pressure he felt was taking a physical toll on him (vv. 9–10). Even his friends had abandoned him (vv. 11–13). Things had spun spectacularly out of his control and with loss of control had come lack of peace. He did the only thing he knew how to do in those circumstances: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God” (v. 5).
When he was in turmoil and longing for a sense of peace, he knew where to turn. And he was grateful that the Lord heard him. “Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help” (vv. 21–22).
As in other psalms, there is no indication that David was immediately delivered from his uncontrollable circumstances. But the reader does sense peace despite those circumstances—peace that came from committing his life into the Lord’s hand.
Too often, we tie our sense of peace and security to our impressions of control. It’s easy to be at peace when we are in control and not so easy when we are not. That is, in part, why finding consistent peace in this life can be so difficult: because it’s difficult to maintain control for very long. We instinctively know that peace is a reality on the other side of the grave: “Rest in peace.” It’s harder to imagine lasting peace on this side. But that is ones of the benefits of the gospel: peace on both sides. And that peace is not contingent on our sense of control.
One of the most difficult things about living through a pandemic is that it strips us of our illusion of control. We become painfully aware that we are not in control. And since our perception of peace is tied so closely to our sense of control, peace can be elusive.
It’s true: We’re not in control as we like to think we are. We are living through a time of great uncertainty. And we don’t like it. We don’t like not knowing what to expect. We don’t like not being able to predict the outcomes of circumstances and actions. Control produces predictability, and predictability enables our sense of peace. But what when things are unpredictable? What do we do when peace is elusive? We do what David did in Psalm 31: We commit our lives into the Lord’s hand, knowing that he is always in control. As Jennifer Greenberg puts it, “God is in control, and God is perfect—so we can let go of control, and we don’t have to be perfect.” Since God has not lost control, we can find refuge in him (v. 1). We can entrust our lives into his hand. And even as peace seems truly elusive, we can pray for a gospel-oriented peace that makes no sense (Philippians 4:7).
David, of course, was not the only person in the biblical record to entrust his life into God’s hand. A thousand years later, the Son of David, as he hung on a Roman cross, uttered those same words (Luke 23:46). Unlike David, he didn’t express these words trusting God to deliver him from death. He did it knowing that, even in death, he could entrust his life to God. He didn’t have to be in control because his Father was. And since he knew that his Father was in control, he could experience peace even in the face of the greatest trial anyone has ever experienced and know that there was peace on the other side.
The God of peace (Romans 15:33) promises peace through the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:14). Remember this truth today, even as you wrestle with your loss of control. Together, let’s commit our lives into God’s hands and know of the true, inexplicable peace that comes to us through the gospel.