I recently read an article about a chaotic incident that took place at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. Due to the global upsurge of COVID-19 cases, hundreds of Thais living abroad flew back home to Thailand. When they arrived at the airport late at night, they learned about new government restrictions that had been implemented the day before, requiring that all returning Thai nationals must quarantine for 14 days before returning home. As the travel-worn crowd learned that they would be unable to return to their homes or even leave the airport (it was after curfew), they began to vent their frustration. Some even tried to run past security guards and escape. Video footage showed a crowd of distraught people surrounding police officers and shouting their outrage.
As I watch the Coronavirus crisis unfold in Thailand and around the world, I have found myself reflecting on the idea of having peace in the midst of a storm. Thai people are known for being very peaceful and calm. The goal of Buddhism is to reach an ultimate state of peace. Thais are taught not to let themselves get stressed out or worried. Common Thai expressions include “Jai-yen yen” (“Cool down,”), “Mai dthung khit maak” (“Don’t think too hard”), or “Mai bpen rai” (“Not a big deal”). Most Thais rarely show outward signs of anger or strong emotion, but even peaceful people have their limits.
Is it really possible to be at peace when everything around you is in chaos? As Christians, we know, at least intellectually, that we can, but in practice it can be hard to find that peace. Thai Buddhists are outwardly peaceful, but in times of uncertainty, irrationality and fear can take over. What Buddhist people need to see in times like these is the true peace of God, the peace that “passes understanding” (Phil. 4:7) demonstrated in the lives of His followers. The peace that God gives is unlike the peace of this world (John 14:27). It enables the true follower to be at peace even in the midst of tribulation (John 16:33). Buddhists are seeking true peace but often find it sorely lacking when they most need it.
How important it is that Christians experience the true peace that Jesus offers to give us! Throughout the Bible we find examples of people who experienced other-worldly peace that defied rational explanation. Think of Jesus sleeping in the midst of a storm (Mark 4:37-39), Paul and Silas singing praises in prison after being beaten (Acts 16:22-26), or David’s famous words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Ps. 23:4). Young John Wesley’s life was forever changed when he witnessed the fearlessness of a group of Moravian missionaries in the midst of a violent storm at sea. Their example helped him years later to become a powerful reformer and preacher, eventually founding the Methodist Church.
Jesus, “the Prince of Peace,” (Isa. 9:6) is earnestly longing to “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79), so that we can “preach the gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15) to those who are “far off” (Eph. 2:13, 14). The peace that Jesus offers us is a peace that only He can give (John 14:27), one that is beyond comprehension (Phil. 4:7). We need to make our peace with Him (Rom. 5:1) and open our hearts to receive it. Once we do this and set our “mind on the spirit” (Rom. 8:6) allowing Him to write God’s law on our heart and mind (Heb. 8:10), we will have “great peace”
(Ps. 119:165). As we learn to walk with Jesus day by day, taking everything to Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6, 7), keeping our minds fixed on Him (Isa. 26:3), and earnestly working for Him, that peace will continue moment by moment. We will truly be “a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). It is my prayer that we all can experience God’s true other-worldly peace no matter what situation we find ourselves in so that others can be drawn to Him.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” (2 Thess. 3:16).