My teenage son Robert, like most of us, really likes his comfort zone. From a very early age, he hasn’t liked trying anything new, including foods. I would estimate that more than 95 percent of the time though, when he has finally tried something, he has gotten a sheepish grin on his face and said something like, “I do like it.”
The same is true with activities. Because he is one who likes routine and because of some negative experiences on the baseball diamond and basketball court, he is pretty content to stay inside and watch TV or play video games. That is his comfort zone. A couple of years ago, I told Robert that I wanted him doing something physical. He said, “There’s nothing to do that I like.” I recognized that what he was really saying was, “I don’t want to try anything new. I’m happy right here.”
Several people had encouraged me to have him try mixed martial arts so I arranged to have him try this. On the way to the facility, he was extremely agitated with me and told me that he was sure he would hate it. When we arrived, he was so mad that he wouldn’t even look the instructor in the eyes. The instructor suggested that Robert and I do a little sparring, and he put us through the paces. I could tell Robert was enjoying this. Afterward he asked my son what he thought, and Robert responded, “It was OK. At least it was better than I thought it was going to be.” What I sensed he was really saying was, “I liked it, but I can’t say that because I thought I would hate it.”
So, for several years now, he has been taking classes for a couple hours per week. He often doesn’t want to go because the sessions are demanding and sometimes painful; however, immediately afterward he tells me he is so glad he went. This process is helping him to gain in skill and in confidence. He is growing. However, in this case, it took me, his dad, to push him into it. If left to himself, Robert would stay at home.
The fact is that I love my son so much that I am willing to push him into this “pain” so that he can get better and grow. The same is true with our heavenly Dad and us. He will allow us to experience pain, trouble and chaos because He loves us so much and knows how this will help us.
No one is immune to this. When we don’t follow God’s way and we go off on our own, we pay the price. However, living righteously does not mean we will have a life of tranquility, free from pain and chaos.
No one lived a more righteous life than Jesus, yet He suffered more than anyone ever will. Another example is a man named Job who is described in this manner: “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).
He was blameless and upright. However, you probably know his story. Despite living right, he endured pain that I cannot even imagine and his life was turned totally upside down. In the midst of this chaos and pain, his “friends” wondered what evil he had done to make God bring this upon him. Like Job’s friends, I have had thoughts that if I can just live right and do the right things, then I can avoid pain and chaos — a huge lie. The truth we all must come to grips with is that righteous living, while being very good for us, doesn’t get us off the hook. There are many benefits in seeking righteousness, but avoiding pain and chaos is not one of them.
In addition, pain in our lives actually helps to steer us toward righteousness and peace: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”(Hebrews 12:11).
We all desire inner peace. It is because of this desire, whether we have decided to follow Jesus or not, that God allows chaos (pain, turmoil, trouble) in our lives. He knows that the only place to find true peace is through Him. Hopefully, the chaos in our lives draws us closer to Him, where we can find true peace.
Therefore, it is imperative that we learn to embrace the chaos. Know that it is for our good — to help us. Simply knowing this should help us to overcome whatever we encounter, regardless of how chaotic it may be.
1. In hindsight, when have times of pain or chaos been beneficial or led to positive results in your life?
2. In your own words, can you explain how chaos can help you to find greater peace?
Jim Lange is the president of Five Feet Twenty and the author of “Calming the Storm Within: How to Find Peace in this Chaotic World” from which this article is an excerpt. He attends Crossroads Community Church in Ottawa Lake, Michigan.