“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalms 55:22
Chaos. That’s the only way that I can describe this past season. The chaos that I have been experiencing, not just in the Covid Crazy, but also before that, has forced me to face my beliefs and myself. While I still maintain that I’d prefer a more simple and more uneventful life, I am starting to look at chaos, and it’s beautiful opportunities, in a whole new light. Chaos has a way of pushing us, or at least me, to my breaking points. It has a way of taking the comfortable and making it uncomfortable. Like a tornado picking up and throwing anything in its path, chaos takes our lives, shakes it up, and dumps it out into unrecognizable pieces for us to somehow put back together in a new way. Chaos comes in like a wrecking ball to our minds and hearts and shatters our peace into rubble. My question is, “What do we do with that?”
According to Merriam-Webster, a couple of online definitions for chaos are: a state of utter confusion or the inherent unpredictability in the behavior of a complex natural system. Synonyms for chaos include words such as disorder, disarray, disorganization, and mayhem. Yep. That pretty much sums up life in 2020. While my own personal chaos started years ago, there is no one who hasn’t been touched by the chaos of Covid-19. At this point, ALL people across the GLOBE have experienced some area of fall out thanks to a confusing and unpredictable time in life. What makes it worse is that fact that we literally have NO IDEA how this season will end, nor when it will end. Even when that time comes, we will all be changed by the experience. Chaos constantly knocks at our doors and we cannot ignore the beckoning.
Chaos is what I think of when I think of the unpredictable things in life. Some things, like a surprise pregnancy or a job promotion can create chaos by causing changes in behavior, life patterns, and the comfort of predictability. Unwanted chaos, like lost jobs, lost lives, sickness, and lost relationships, is harder to accept and embrace. Accept and embrace? Is it even possible to have such a reaction to the pummeling of life? Is there the possibility of purpose in pain? Don’t we all want “answers” or “reasons” for things that hurt in life? What I’m finding is that we don’t always get answers, at least not right away and sometimes not ever. Whether we get answers, or not, for the things that happen in life, WE CAN take the seasons of chaos and cultivate something that was not there before. What we can do is RESPOND to chaos in new ways.
What if we looked for beauty in the chaos by taking apart the pieces of our lives and lifting the madness to the One who makes all things new? Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” What God has been teaching me is that chaos, while crazy, is also an opportunity to grow mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Chaos is fertile ground to churn up that which is not helpful and plant that which is better. For me, part of the purpose of painfully unpredictable seasons is to let God take over spaces I didn’t even know needed overhauled. I am starting to redefine chaos by accepting the comforts of Christ and letting the Love and Light of Our Lord infiltrate all areas of my chaos.
I’m holding nothing back and letting God take control of my:
Actions and Attitudes
Soul and Spirit
In each of these areas, I have darkness that I either ignore, justify, or try to white-knuckle into submission by my own efforts. Each of these responses to the chaos in my life not only fail, but leave me exhausted, depleted, and completely disheartened. What’s more is the fact that the harder I tried to “fix” my own chaos, the more chaotic it gets! All I want is comfort, and I don’t think that is too much to ask. Well, that was until I really start to dig into my motivations behind the need for comfort.
As it turns out, the same questions keep repeating. What am I running from? What am I running to? Why do I fight any feeling that isn’t perceived as positive? Why am I afraid of pain? What keeps me tied to what the world projects as true and right? How do these things affect my life long-term? Is this something I am willing to live with, or do I want more? What will I have to do to be FREE?
The Question of Comfort
The Bible is very clear and doesn’t beat around the bush about this life. John 16:33 (NIV) says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV) says plainly, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Well, friends, that pretty much bursts my bubble!
You see, I grew up in a relatively sheltered life with very few challenges. Even with my Traumatic Brain Injury as a child, I was surrounded by a loving family and ultimately good came out of the experience in the end. Was it easy? No. Did I wish it were different? Yes! But, that wasn’t the path God had for me. So, what did I do? I took that experience and did something useful with it, right? Nope! I fought HARD against the idea that life would be a challenge and did EVERYTHING I could to gain comfort and normalcy. I lived for myself, swallowed self pity by the gallons, and hid under whatever would help me avoid the chaos inside. Depression, drinking, overeating, overspending, prideful striving for accolades, lust, it really didn’t matter. Whether it was the TBI, the season of deaths in my life, moving, Divorce, or the latest string of things well outside of my control, it has become incredibly clear that the comfort I was looking to, and leaning on, was all temporary. Not only was the worldly comfort temporary, it fell completely short of filling the emptiness in my soul. My soul didn’t feel the peace that quenched the thirst of comfort until I started to lean on the only thing that doesn’t change, God’s Promises.
You see, this world will promise us things that it cannot possibly fulfill, or maintain. The world cannot save us from pain. It can only give us temporary numbing from things that end up becoming our masters as we become the slaves. The world cannot protect us from this pandemic. This season is well beyond our comprehension, thus the opposing viewpoints in our current circumstances. The world can sell us a perception of a perfect life at the cost of discontentment the harder we strive for it. I had to realize that my perceptions had become so tied to the idea of the world’s promises of comfort that I was no longer able to see the beauty of the brokenness. Until recently. It took complete brokenness to help me depend fully on God’s promises.
When you find yourself at the complete end of what you can do, with nowhere else to go and nothing else able to fulfill you, God becomes real. Even now, I’m learning the awe-inspiring faithfulness of God one broken piece at a time. For the past 2 years, I have allowed circumstances to steal days, weeks, and months of joy. I’ve allowed striving for perfection to replace God’s Grace of “fearfully and wonderfully made” with “not enough.” Never Enough. That is until I made the decision to STAND ON HIS PROMISES. The ones that didn’t sell me false realities. These promises are the intersection of Truth and Grace. For instance, I am no longer striving for perfection or an easy road in my circumstances, because the Bible has laid it out that life is imperfectly hard and I am human. I am just now accepting that my imperfections and hardships are actually the exact places for God to use for my good and His Glory. (More on this in the next blog)
I had to first STOP and ask myself WHY? Why did I want the easy, perfect, no pain, and false worldly comfort? The truth was that at my core I didn’t really believe that there was a Loving God that was BIGGER THAN my circumstances. I had a Trust issue at hand. I could believe for others, and I saw God’s Goodness in THEIR lives first hand. I had accepted that God was real and able to show up for others, yet, for myself, I had settled on a less capable and willing God. Although I believed that God loved me, I didn’t believe that He would walk with me THROUGH the fires of life and create beauty on the other side. I hated to admit that, but it’s true. Once I choked on that Truth , then it was time to wash down my shortcomings with Grace.
God’s Grace has completely WRECKED ME! As I vomited up my Truth to God, even letting him have my doubt, my fear, my anger, and my disappointments God’s Grace rained down on me in a flood of love! When I couldn’t, He did. When I threw my tantrums, He waited. When I asked, He answered. I didn’t always like the answers, and sometimes I had to wait for them, but even there He comforted me. It was in the pain and through the chaos that God showed up and transformed me! Here are some of the promises that I stood on while I waited on God to use the broken pieces of my life to create something beautiful in me and through me…
Comfort in our Circumstances:
- Don’t be surprised by the trials, God will make all things work together for Our Good and His Glory
- To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3 NLT
- For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
- That which is in us is stronger than that comes against us
- But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken! Isaiah 54:17
- You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NIV
- No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37 NIV
- If He takes us TO IT, then HE will not only take us THROUGH IT, but HE PROMISES to be WITH US in the Fires and Storms
- What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8 31-32 NIV)
- Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Pslam 23:4-6 NIV)
- Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”(Joshua 1:9 ESV)
The beauty in the Bible is that there are so many promises that I simply cannot fit them all in a blog. What I can do is share the other places in chaos where beauty is emerging. There is nothing like 70 days of ELearning at home to flush out the chaos in our character. Here’s what I’m learning…
Comfort in our Households
- Our families are our #1 gift and the place where we can make the biggest impact
- The enemy is always ready to divide and destroy that which is most important
- Truth+Grace, Honesty+Humility = The reflective Love of Christ
Comfort in our Actions and Attitudes
- Perfection was never an expectation
- Progressing is enough
- You were fearfully and wonderfully made to be spectacular
Comfort in our interactions with Others
- Love Others above all else
- Know that we all struggle and fall short
- Grace, Empathy, and Patience are real ways to show love
- Use YOUR GIFTS to Help someone in need
Comfort in our Soul and Spirit
- God is Good
- God is Loving
- God is Faithful
- God is For You and With You
- God WILL complete the good work in you if you don’t give up!
In the end, I realize that I have so few answers and so many questions. What I do know, though, is that when we take the time to let God into our chaos, the comfort that comes is everlasting and irreplaceable. Change takes time, and growth is painful. Even so, it is worth peace that is unshakeable. And, if we don’t give up, then God’s Faithfulness WILL break through!
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
Fight on my friends!