For a woman who loves everything tidy, harmonious, and tied up neatly with a bow, this season of sorting, packing, and cross-country relocation during the holiday season is teaching me enormous faith lessons about trusting God, even in the overwhelm. No event in our lives ever occurs in a vacuum. When there is a trial, a challenge, or even the blessing of a fruitful, productive, and busy season, more chaos will pile on.

This is so universal, that we should expect it. Yet, we’re usually blindsided. In fact, a few days after writing the rough draft of this post, I ended up overnight in the emergency room. That, a possible surgery, and fraught emotions were unexpected additional bumps in the moving-across-the-country experience.

Being pushed beyond our human abilities to cope in our natural strength is how God grows us. When everything is under our control, when nothing is robbing us of sleep or throwing our carefully crafted lives into chaos, it’s easy to live like a Christian. But when the bumps hit, that’s another story.

Jesus showed us how to live. Imagine his life. He was never comfortable. He was so exhausted, he could sleep in a storm-tossed boat with cold water washing over him. He came during a time in history when merely living was uncomfortable. Food was difficult to obtain. Indoor plumbing wasn’t the norm, and there was no central heat or air. Water had to be hauled. Mobs of people barely allowed him the space to eat or to sleep, let alone attend to personal needs.

Yet, in unpleasant circumstances, he never sinned. He wasn’t flustered. He followed God’s leading.

Now think of us. We get knocked out of kilter by conflict in our home, by moving, by holiday travels and holiday shopping, by disagreements with one another, by the emergency room, or even by the weather being too hot or too cold. Yet we live in relative comfort with food on hand, warm clothes, and our physical needs attended to.

But still, we are out of kilter. I am out of kilter.

The daily challenge is to capture my thoughts, which wander off into anxiety, regret, and angst, and to rein them in, conforming them to obedient trust. Yet, when I pray, I find myself thinking through my handwringing considerations, rather than praying.

My mind’s wanderings reveal to me the true state of my heart. Without challenging times, this wouldn’t happen. I might be tempted to think that I’m fine, doing well, trusting God.

The apostle Paul, a man who lived a very difficult and uncomfortable life for the sake of the gospel, spells it out for us: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:5b-9 NIV).

Look at how this section begins and ends. Here are the essential points we often forget:

  • The Lord is near.
  • The God of peace will be with you.

This is what we need. God with us. This is what I often forget. An awareness of this guards us from anxiety, pulls us into tighter communion with God as we talk to him constantly about our chaotic thoughts and emotions. Awareness of his nearness gives us a heart of gratitude, provides us with the peace we need, and guards our hearts and our minds.

Jesus himself is the sentinel we need in our overwhelm. And he is already near, indwelling us. Recalling this allows us to keep our minds from wandering to the dark corners of our situation and enables us to place our minds on the good, to dwell on these things and Jesus himself.

When we put this into practice in the chaos, we have peace. This is what the overwhelm teaches us – Christ is near and dear. He is with us always. He gives us what we need. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus.