Is Sanity Possible in the Midst of Chaos?

After four years on the field, a change of agency, working through finances, a change of house and the process of finding a suitable church to serve alongside, we started serving with a traditional, mainline church which values the Catholic roots of this culture.

The priest had a heart of outreach and wanted to disciple and pastor people from where they’re coming from. Despite many of our reservations about working in such a formal liturgical church setting, both my husband and I were convicted by the Holy Spirit and found ourselves in tears in two services on separate occasions. (And this is not a church which could be considered by many to lend itself to that experience naturally!)

With it came a sense of relief and the feeling that we could start the “real work” God had brought us here to do. We started to get to know people and worked with the priest on plans.

However, things on the field are ever changing. At short notice the minister moved away for family reasons. And just over a year into working with the new minister, there was growing concern that there are considerable differences between us; that there may be no way to work it out. I had a long conversation with my personnel director in our sending organization who suggested it might be time for me to move on. And I realized he’s right.

The pain of taking a step back. Of saying I may not renew my agreement.

How do I “give up”? It’s like losing my arm. “What are you doing God?” We thought we were in the right place, in a church I would pour my blood out for. Yet the same church I could see us working with for a minimum of ten years has become an arid, painful place. There is no space for me to flourish and grow now, or to nurture others.

Despite it being the right decision, everything’s up in the air again. Life feels unstable, moving to and fro. And I don’t know who or where I am.

My husband will stay working with the church. It will be better if we’re not both in the same difficult circumstances that are wearing us down. The personnel department will help him to work out an agreement with flexibility to allow him to keep working in the community as well as in the church.

There is raw anger, sadness at what will not be, and a sense of deep loss.

It’s a concealed loss, not obvious to people around me. People I see day to day won’t understand, even if I explain. It’s harder to be “without community” and with-out (outside of) community.

As I encourage and pray with my five year old, who has seen the strain on us in the last few weeks and months and is having nightmares, I think, “It’s okay, God is still there. This hard road you’ve trodden has made you stronger. It’s transition; we’ve been here before.” And I hope it’s true.

I try to model talking about what we are experiencing and it being okay to be sad. I try to model talking it through with God, and not holding problems with church against Him. I try to accept my own sense of chaos and anxiety and lack of “sense of place” as normal things that go with transition.

A friend and mentor in the UK encourages me that if we can’t use our gifts in one way they come out in another. Maybe God will use this experience to re-direct me again in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For better. For His glory? I hope so. “But is that just wishful thinking?” I wonder. “What do you want of me God? Have you forgotten me, thrown me aside?” I feel left on the edge of the path.

The definition of sanity is “the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner”. Often battling anxiety, I’m not there quite yet, but I know somewhere deep inside me that God hears me and allows me to panic. He copes with my emotions, I can be real with him, and based on previous experience, I’ll come out the other side of this pain more whole, eventually, even if it takes much too long for my liking.

Where has your sanity taken a hit recently?



  1. Emily Smith June 3, 2015

    It’s a concealed loss, not obvious to people around me. People I see day to day won’t understand, even if I explain. It’s harder to be “without community” and with-out (outside of) community.

    I had quotes jumping out at me from every paragraph. Being willing to give my blood for a place I am no longer useful. Grieving the loss of what will never be. So much of this feels like you were copying my own journals, but what stood out the most is the idea of concealed loss and being outside of the community. There is healing in being able to share your story. Concealed loss is a story that can’t fully be told.

    You have written about the pain, but the between-the-lines pain sounds so much deeper. I am so sorry. There are times when saying “me,too” brings a sense of relief, but not here. This time all I can say is I can hear your pain and I am so sorry.

    Thank you for your courage. I am praying right along with you to have the strength to find a way through this pain. God can redeem all circumstances. There will be scars, but maybe even the scars will show stories of His faithfulness.

    1. Anon June 4, 2015

      Thanks Emily. It is nice to feel understood. Especially on that point of being “outside of community” and thanks for your support. You´re right. It’s an individual pain. There’s quote somewhere about each person having their own pain that nobody else can fully enter into, but having others who are willing to share theirs and acknowledge mine definitely helps!

    2. Anon June 5, 2015

      Hi again Emily, came across this poem by Amy Carmichael again in my readings this morning (have a feeling it might have been quoted in the week on “Scars” here on VA but I can’t find it.) Seemed appropriate and challenging again and it hit me again when I re-read the last sentence of your comment that I might need it to sink in in an encouraging way!

      Hast Thou No Scar 
      by Amy Carmichael
      Hast thou no scar?
      No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
      I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
      I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
      Hast thou no scar?
      Hast thou no wound?
      Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
      Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
      By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
      Hast thou no wound?
      No wound? No scar?
      Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
      And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
      But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
      Who has no wound nor scar?

      1. Anon June 5, 2015

        Thanks for your prayers and it sounds like you have “passed through the waters” too. I am sorry we have to go there in a way. But in another way I was thinking this morning about partnership with God and how perhaps we could have prayed that Jabez prayer “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!”and asked for everything to be comfortable but we would have missed out on so much, and so much healing comes out of our pain. I pray that blessing of healing on you and your story today too.

  2. ErinMP June 4, 2015

    I think what jumped out to me the most was the misunderstanding of others…of trying to not blame God for the problems with church…and thinking at one point you will be at a place forever, and then realizing that the season was much shorter than you thought and God has a different plan you have to trust. Thank you for sharing, and I hope you find peace on this road…and if your spouse can’t leave due to whatever reason that he is given protection and peace.

    1. Anon June 5, 2015

      Yes, I found the “expectations and burnout” book really helpful as I realised my joy/peace at the thought of finally “settling” somewhere for a good long while.. an expectation broken. And while we’re not moving house at the moment, this huge change of “work” for me, feels like a slap in the face to that comfort.

      “I’m not “ready” to adjust again, God, make it not so!”  It so looked like this was going to be a long “season”, so there’s a lot of working through to do in that, so thanks for recognising that and checking in Erin :).

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