In the late nineteenth century, French artists experimented with a new technique in painting called pointillism, an extension of impressionism. They used small dots of colour to create pictures. Up close, dots are all you can see. But step back, and the picture becomes clear. Sometimes, our lives can be like that. Daily joys and problems, ups and downs, can loom large before our eyes. We get distracted by the chaotic or tragic moments. We lose our peace or we get swept up into an unwarranted sense of excitement. We often forget to step back and see the big picture.
The peace Our Lord promises us in today’s gospel isn’t something we conjure up on our own. It doesn’t come from manipulating our circumstances so that nothing ruffles our feathers. It’s far more solid and reliable than that.
Take Paul and Barnabas: they had more than their fair share of ups and downs. They were threatened with being stoned while in Iconium, so they moved to Lystra, where the people hailed them as gods. But these same people were easily swayed and they attacked Paul, leaving him for dead.
According to the world, these men should have felt anxious, not peaceful. Writing years later, Paul said: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:12, 13).
As we face our own ups and downs in life, we can still find peace in Christ; simply by taking our eyes off the confusing dots and by stepping back and looking at the big picture. The chaos and beauty become clearer, and God’s vision will make much more sense as we look beyond our changing circumstances and remember his love and provision.