At the Intersection of Chaos and Calm

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 (NIV)

 

Do you ever have trouble sleeping?

This is unusual for me as I am chronically fatigued from the mental and physical demand of raising three young, energetic boys. Our days are filled with curiosity, conflict, and craziness. Needless to say, bedtime is an event I look forward to daily. 

I typically fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. But recently, I cant seem to get my brain to turn off. I think about all the mistakes I made that day, all the conversations I could have handled better. I wonder if Im following Gods plan for my life. Insecurity about my mothering skills, anxiety about the future, and feelings of loneliness steal my peaceful dreaming. 

If only I could calm the chaos and get some rest, I think as the moments tick by. Have you ever felt that way?

The network of our minds is similar to that of a carefully designed map of a large, heavily populated city. Thoughts travel the highways and byways like lightning fast race cars, and if we let them, they will overtake our ability to live a healthy life. The overwhelming thoughts I was having were an indication I had gone too far without a break. Rather than heeding the caution of yellow stop lights, Id rush through the intersection full speed ahead. But taking breaks are crucial to our well-being and we have Jesus example as proof.

In Luke 5, we find Jesus beginning His ministry. He has been baptized by John, tempted by Satan, and called the disciples. Now, He is performing miracles. While in one of the towns, a man with leprosy approaches Jesus, asking for healing. Jesus heals the man and orders him, Dont tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them. 

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:14-15 NIV)

Can you imagine? Crowds of people came to hear Jesus preach and ask for healing. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people followed after Him. I think its Jesus can relate to feeling overwhelmed. He understands what it feels like to be in high demand. And He knows what it takes to maintain calm amidst the chaos as the next verse explains. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16 NIV)

From the beginning, Jesus carefully and diligently set aside the duties of ministry to commune with the Lord. I dont know about you, but I have a tendency to recognize my need for rest well after I am exhausted. For Jesus, solitary moments with His Heavenly Father were a necessity. They provided the energy needed to continue preaching and healing. In those moments, Jesus was refueled and recharged. 

We are unable to control the amount of chaos we face, but we can control how we respond. At the intersection of chaos and calm, we find Jesus. There, the craziness of life meets order. Anxiety meets peace. Fear meets courage. Insecurity meets confidence. Jesus is waiting for our daily visit and as our key verse mentions, His presence will go with us, and He will give us rest. 

If youre feeling overrun by your thoughts today, find hope in the promise of peace Christ offers – From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2 NKJV)

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your peace that passes all understanding. May we be mindful of our tendency to press through fatigue as You teach us to purposefully pursue time with You as Jesus did. Restore our hearts, minds, and souls, equipping us to be used by You.

Amen

Hiding is Not An Option

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Psalm 139:8

My cell phone screen lit up, alerting me to a new message. It was a friend asking to meet for lunch. Although I enjoy spending time with her, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home. By myself.

What’s the problem?, you might ask.

There’s no problem if I simply needed to rest, accomplish other tasks, or run errands. There’s no problem if I had previous obligations, financial restraints, or transportation issues. There’s no problem if I didn’t want to go for any other reason than the reason I didn’t want to go – avoidance.

Going to lunch meant I would have to talk about how things were going, which meant admitting they were not going as well as I would like, which meant I couldn’t pretend everything was fine anymore. Going to lunch meant crawling out of my hiding place.

I thought of my son who loves to play hide-and-seek. Loves, loves, loves. He would play it every single day if we let him. However, our home is small and there are only four or five good hiding places – total. Therefore, it doesn’t take long for my son to find me because he knows where to look.

The same is true for the Lord. He knows where to look; there is no hiding from Him.

David describes his experience beautifully in Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (v 7-8) 

If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you. (v 11-12)

These verses reminded me of Lord’s presence in my life. He brought light into the darkness of my life and I had lost sight of that. I wandered from the path of freedom, heading into the shadows of fear. Hiding had become an outward expression of an inward digression.

Have you ever felt like hiding would quiet the voices of fear and insecurity? Perhaps they would go away if left alone long enough? Just as my son eagerly searches for me during hide and seek, the Lord searches for us. He knows where we hide and lovingly awaits our willingness to be found. Because to Him, hiding is not an option.

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for pursuing us, even when we want to hide. Your radiant light is brighter than any darkness we could experience in life; thank you for loving us enough to play hide-and-seek and knowing exactly where to find us.

Amen

 

Peace Takes Effort

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Have you ever considered how much mental effort goes into maintaining a sense of peace in our lives? I have struggled with anxiety and fear in the past and would exhaust myself thinking of all the potentially negative outcomes, conversations, and conflicts I might have. I spent so much time entertaining negative self-talk that I had little time to consider the goodness of God; that things might actually turn out well.

Once I surrendered my fears and anxieties, I experienced an overwhelming peace like never before. It was dramatically different from the fog of worry I had grown accustomed to. My thinking was clear, I was less overwhelmed by uncertainty and I began trusting God to be in control of whatever comes my way.

Peace is an amazing state to be in. I wish it was my natural state. But the sad truth is, my nature is to be afraid. To doubt God has a good plan. To worry how my failures will affect others. It wasn’t until I experienced God’s peace that I knew what I was missing out on. Once I had it, I wanted it all the time. It was as if I was becoming addicted to the Lord’s presence in my life.

What’s the problem with that?, you might ask. It’s not that desiring peace is wrong, but expecting it to naturally occur in my life without working for it is.

I recently went through a season of questioning and found myself entertaining old negative thoughts. I felt discouraged by my lack of sustained serenity, frustrated how I got off track so quickly. Then it dawned on me – having peace takes effort.

Isaiah 26:3 reminds me how the Lord “will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”Those whose minds are steadfast – marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable.

I don’t know anyone who never doubts, never feels insecure, never worries. So if perfect peace is desired, we must pursue a steadfast mind. Satan’s mission is to keep us from perfect peace and if his firm determination is stronger than ours, we lose.

So how can we maintain this perfect peace available to us when we have an enemy relentlessly inhibiting it? Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

We won’t find peace by praying on a whim when we’re in a tight spot. We won’t find peace by going to church weekly. We won’t find peace simply reading our bible occasionally. Maintaining perfect peace takes firm, consistent determination to set our minds on God, to refuse to entertain negative thinking, and to bathe our minds in the truth of God’s word.

If you find yourself struggling to maintain peacefulness in your life, be encouraged today as you meditate on these truths –

  • Grace and peace are yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2)
  • And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
    will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)

Perfect peace is absolutely possible. It just takes effort.

Lord, thank You for Your perfect peace which is available to us through Your Holy Spirit. Teach us to surrender any thoughts that may be preventing a steadfast mind set on things above. My we learn how to experience peace by trusting You in the difficult times.
Amen

The Darkness is Necessary

 

No one likes the darkness. No one willingly answers his knock at the door and invites him in. He simply invades our mind, casting shadows of doubt into the corners of our soul. He represents feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and fear. Darkness inhibits mental clarity and produces hopelessness. Many are devastated by its presence.

But what if the darkness is necessary? What if the Lord uses the darkness to draw us into the light, closer to Him? For someone consumed by the suffocating presence of darkness, this may seem impossible. Nothing seems necessary. Nothing seems usable for good. Everything is simply painful. I know; I’ve been there.

After years of cohabitating with darkness, living under the bondage of shame and depression, the Lord mercifully illuminated my desperate, calloused heart. As the darkness dissipated, I experienced unrelenting freedom for the first time in my life.

However, it wasn’t long before the darkness came knocking at my door again. It caught me off guard initially, but my surprise quickly turned into anger. I felt angry he had the audacity to intrude upon my life after all I had been through to squelch feelings of shame, insecurity, and fear. Why was this happening?, I thought.

I knew I couldn’t simply ignore the presence of darkness as I had in the past. I needed to face him head-on, addressing the reason he was there.

Psalm 23:4 is one of my favorite verses:

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.

Meditating on the presence of the Lord brought me comfort. I had no reason to fear for Jesus was with me. He gave me the courage to welcome the darkness in.

As the shadow of darkness hovered like a thick cloud of smoke, I remembered how I previously viewed myself – worthless, unlovable, and insignificant. I lived in fear of rejection, looking to others to define my value. My brief encounter with the darkness resonated the miraculous transformation God has performed in my life. I no longer view myself in negative ways; Jesus has shown me who I truly am – a priceless, adored, precious Child of God.

If you have ever interacted with the darkness, you can relate to my hesitancy to converse with him. However, years of ignoring him and pretending he wasn’t there were quite damaging. Confronting my fears has been the crucial first step to experiencing the Lord’s sovereignty.

Jesus can never free us from bondage we don’t acknowledge exists.

The darkness is necessary.
– It reinforces our need for dependency on God.
– It reminds us of His presence in our lives.
– It requires we surrender our fears.
– It redirects our perspective from our struggle to His sovereignty.

Without the darkness, we can’t experience the amazingly powerful transforming light the Lord offers.

Dear friend, if you have been overwhelmed by a journey through the darkest valley, there is hope. You are not alone. Jesus can and will meet you in the pit of despair and guide you into the light of freedom. Just ask.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your light that casts out darkness. I pray for anyone reading this today who struggles with insecurities and depression. Satan wants nothing more than to enslave them to the darkness. May they experience the freedom that only comes from You.
Amen