The visiting preacher had quite the ugliest face I’d ever seen. My six children collapsed into helpless giggles beside me in the pew – despite my ferocious frowns! Yet the moment he began to preach they subsided into rapt silence – and none of us have ever forgotten that sermon. The preacher explained how he had been a pastor in Kenya when terrorists burned his church, murdered his family, then beat his face to pulp. For months he was imprisoned in the dark, “But it was there that I discovered my inheritance,” he told us with a radiant smile.
“When Jesus knew he was going to die the next day, he wanted to bequeath to the ones he loved the most precious things that he had – not money or property – but his peace (John 14:27) and his joy (John 15:11). They are so closely linked you can’t separate them, so I coined a new word, peace-joy. This supernatural gift has nothing to do with our outer circumstances, but it is ours by right of inheritance. Peace is joy resting and joy is peace dancing!
“The men who first inherited it endured torture, imprisonment and martyrdom, but it was their peace-joy which sustained them through suffering – just as it did for me. We Christians would be the happiest humans on earth if only we would keep going to the bank of heaven to draw out our rightful legacy.”
I wish I could say I’ve been filled with peace-joy ever since. A few months back, I honestly thought I’d lost it forever! So much was going wrong in almost every area of my life and I just couldn’t handle all the resentment, fear and doubt that kept boiling away behind my nice Christian smile. I condemned myself for being a useless Christian and a hypocrite, which only made me feel worse!
Then suddenly I remembered the Morbids! When my children were small, I used to make up stories about little grey men – no bigger than grasshoppers – who love to jump onto our shoulders and whisper nasty lies into our ears. We christened them Morbids and they said things like, “You’re useless… no one likes you…you always mess everything up!” The brave hero in my story always knocked these Morbids off his shoulder with a flick of his wrist!
Seeing negative thoughts and feelings as an attack by these nasty critters really worked for my children, helping them to change their thinking patterns. So I decided to stop blaming myself for being a grumbling old misery and instead, begin seeing my feelings and reaction as coming from outside myself – via these nasty little Morbids.
Negative thinking leads to negative feelings, which definitely do rob us of the positive emotions of peace and joy that Jesus wants us to possess.
So here’s how it works for me ... About five in the morning I usually get attacked by the Worry Morbids, who creep onto my pillow and say, “Suppose you can’t cope … get ill … run out of money …” Rather than lying there listening to them, I brush them off like an irritating fly and tell them firmly that God has promised to care for me right to the end (Isaiah 46:4) and he has good plans for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).
I think it is important to send them packing with one of God’s positive promises. I’ve come to love slicing Morbids with “The Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). This is exactly what Jesus did when he was attacked in the wilderness – he used the Scriptures as his sword and won the victory (Matthew 4:1-11).
The Misery Morbids usually attack when I’m alone in the evening. They remind me of all the sad things I’m facing and the people I’ve lost; but they run for cover when I start thanking the Lord for all the good things I still have and all he does for me (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Morbids loathe gratitude!
I guess you think I’m childish playing this silly game, but I assure you it works!
Perhaps you’ve met the Resenters? They replay all the unkind things people have said or done to us – even when we thought we’d managed to forgive. “Yes but,” they whisper, “she shouldn’t get away with behaving like that!” Making a fresh choice to forgive all over again soon sees them off.
None of us like to admit we are visited by the Poor-Old-Me-Brigade. These Morbids say, “It isn’t fair! You do your best to serve God, surely he should make life a bit easier for you?” Or “Look how God answers everyone else’s prayer, but he ignores yours!” The best way to cope is to remind them (and ourselves) that God always knows best and, when we trust him, he works all our circumstances around for good (Romans 8:28).
The Doubters have a glorious time when we are hurting badly. They say, “If God really loved you he could have prevented all this! Or perhaps he just isn’t as powerful as he’s cracked up to be? He can’t be both loving and powerful!” I found the only way to deal with the Doubter Morbids is to tell them they’re ignorant liars and knock them off my shoulder – fast!
The Green Morbids enjoy the envy and discontent they cause when they point out to us other people who have the gifts, personalities or possessions we always longed to have. They say things like, “Look at her, asked to sing in the worship group – yet again! They only choose her because she’s young and slim.” Or, “It’s all very well for her to talk about faith, she’s got a rich husband who adores her!”
Green Morbids aim to cause a continuous, inner grumbling – but they hate being reminded of Philippians 4:12. St Paul is saying he has learned to be content in all circumstances, which is rather amazing considering he was chained in prison, had lost his ministry, been abandoned by friends and was facing execution. Yet he must have managed to defeat his Morbids because the book he wrote at that time is full of peace-joy! I guess he kept telling them that all he wanted was to know Christ and be like him, and nothing else mattered (Philippians 3:8-10).
Playing this Morbid game has made a radical difference to me over the last few months. My outer circumstances may not have improved, but I’m clinging onto my peace-joy – most of the time! Naturally my thoughts and feelings often boil to the surface, but I’ve learned to recognise a Morbid when I hear him – and know how to get rid of him!
So, to sum up in a more adult fashion, the main robbers of our peace-joy are:
+ Doubts about God’s love, power or existence
+ Forgetting to thank God
+ Resentment and unforgiveness
+ Failing to believe God’s promises
+ Failing to trust God’s loving care and protection
+ A jealous, complaining, discontented attitude towards other people
+ Disappointment with God because of wrong expectations
We can call these robbers whatever we like, but we don’t have to let them steal our inheritance!
Jennifer Rees Larcombe has a long-established prayer, healing, speaking and writing ministry, Beauty from Ashes, based in Kent. Find out more at beautyfromashes.co.uk
Want to hear more?
Hear more from Jen about what robs us of our peace and how we can bring those things to God at our Women of Peace conference in Woking on 17th June.
For details and bookings, click on this link or call 01865 319700.