“Chaos” is such a loaded topic. I thought about sending in one of those bubble mapping outlines we used to do in high school English class, except it would look like a pot of spaghetti. As I attempted to begin writing about chaos, I found no coherency in my thoughts, whatsoever! One day, while procrastinating scrubbing the bathroom or writing this post, I picked up the book sitting next to me and read this:
“I shivered, looking up at the stars, wondering for a moment if all of it—everything I was seeing—really was just random. Just chaos. An unguided byproduct of an unguided universe that was completely indifferent to everything we were going through down here. But no, there had to be more to it than that. There had to be more than I was seeing. All of this might not make sense now, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t ever.” P.92 Fallout C. Morphew
Here’s the thing I wonder about (and I have a hard time containing my wonder to 800 words): does God allow/create/use chaos to guide his people? Or, is chaos ALWAYS from the enemy? When we experience chaos, should we hunker down, dig in our heels and determine that we will stay put, hold our ground and endure no matter what the world throws at us?
In my experience, there are no cut and dried or black and white answers here. I can’t choose one or the other. I believe that chaos is, at times, a ploy from the dark forces at work in the world to throw us off track. At the exact same time, I believe that God can use chaos to lead us on.
We endured plenty of chaotic seasons and situations during our time in China:
- Melamine in infant formula (thank God I was breastfeeding!)
- H1N1 scare (no visitors, no entry to campus buildings even though I lived on campus, no leaving campus . . . except maybe you can . . . we don’t really know)
- Toddler screaming, baby crying, neighbor banging on the ceiling (repeat every day for a long year)
- You’re moving, no you’re not, oh yes you are . . . pack your boxes . . . wait no you’re not
- Your visa’s good, no it’s not . . . wait . . . yes, it is (head spinning in confusion and neck hurting from whiplash)
I could write a chapter of a book about each of the 10+ chaotic seasons and situations we persevered through while living in China with the daily chaos of life on the streets of a pragmatic city of 8 million people as the backdrop. We saw that in the big moments that looked too chaotic to bear, God provided! The situations that were bigger than my well-laid plans and at the mercy of the unorderly nature of life turned out better than I could’ve imagined.
I’m humbled and thankful when I think of the big stuff, such as the births of two children in a hospital in a city where we weren’t residents, visas that came through at the last minute, and the arrival of the best kindergarten teacher in the whole world just in time to teach my child when I thought we’d have to leave to survive (you know who you are, A.P.)
But, then we met up with chaos we could no longer bear, or no longer had the endurance to handle. I’m still wondering if God used that out-of-this-world confusing year to usher us into a new place where He had carefully laid plans for us. We prayed our way through that season and felt the call to leave. We trusted that beneath the chaos, God was working FOR us and had a plan, even though we couldn’t see it.
I’ve heard a wise woman tell a room of younger women they need to develop a theology of suffering. She told us we need to decide before suffering happens that God is good and nothing—no worldly circumstance no matter how dire—will EVER change that. When you’ve set your heart on God’s goodness before the trial, when the trouble comes, you’ve got a much better chance of standing…or at least crawling through it.
As I process this idea to develop a theology of suffering, I think about chaos. What’s your theology of chaos? Mine is that God can use chaos to bring about his plan, and a change in your heart or even a change in your geographical location. None of it is wasted, and none of it is an accident.
Maybe you need to hash out your theology of chaos before life gets all hectic and upside down so you don’t find yourself questioning whether it’s all just “an unguided byproduct of an unguided universe that was completely indifferent to everything we were going through down here.” Persevere, lean in, seek God’s will and trust that he will speak louder than the tumultuous hand you’ve been dealt.