CALM IN CHAOS
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
Have you ever had conversations about how outdated the bible is with its references to plagues, violence and general chaos? The western world has tended towards seeing itself as too civilised and advanced for such an ancient view of how the world can be. And yet now, the bible stories of disasters and desperation are actually bang on relevant to the whole world.
This week, nation after nation has admitted it is overwhelmed with the Covid virus; tensions are high as votes come in from the US election; taking offence and being on the offensive has led to new terrorist atrocities. So when we read in the bible of nations being in uproar, of sicknesses and plagues, of horrendous wars and battles, we also see God at work with mercy and power. We can also open our eyes now to see how God might be working, responding, moving, healing and forgiving in our world today, in order to give ourselves hope and faith that, in his unchanging nature, he will continue to work salvation in our brokenness.
I thought of the story of Noah and the flood – a disaster of epic proportions - and I was struck by three things that I think I can learn in order to make sense of what feels so out of control around me in the world. The first is that God had a plan – quite a detailed one that even included measurements for the ark and how to build it. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 8 that God works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. This means that he is able to bring about goodness and his shalom even in and through the darkest of times. He calls us into his plan and has instructions for us – how to live, what to do, how to respond. Noah’s relationship with God meant that he put these things into practice, even when they may not have made sense at first, and he then participated in the big plan of God for salvation. I realise that I should not only trust God to work his goodness into our despairing planet, but that I should also listen each day for him to lead me, prompt me and use me, even in the smallest of ways, so that I can work together with him and know his spirit in my heart and mind. I think that when each of us can listen like Noah did, God will talk to us about what to do and how to do it. I am sure that this will mean we can each build arks of some sort or another, and play our part in God’s salvation plan.
The second thing that struck me is the peace and rest that continues through the flood story of chaos. The name Noah means rest and it is this quality that was so different to the sinful chaos before the flood and the raging torrents and floods that then engulfed the ark. Rest is not just something we do when we’ve finished work. It is the state of heart and mind that enables us to have faith when everything around us is difficult. That's why sabbath was given to us – a way to be free from anxiety and toil. It is why Jesus said to come to him if we are weary and heavy laden. Noah was at rest, even as the ark was tossed on the waters. Jesus was at rest when he and the disciples found themselves in a horrendous storm on the lake. Paul was at rest when the ship he was in was in danger of sinking and eventually grounded. Shalom is the gift of God to help us through this present darkness. Taking deep breaths, bringing our bodies into a state of calm, fixing our minds on the face of God and the presence of Jesus are ways that we can find rest in this storm. Prayer, meditation reading the bible are not tasks for us to become good Christians, they are ways to help us be rested peaceful humans; they are tools for surviving and thriving
The third thing that struck me from the story was the fact that Noah was not alone. He was with 7 other people. They had each other during their lockdown. Being in a team is what helps us through. Before Jesus was put on trial, he kept talking about the relationships between himself, his heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit. And he opened himself up to his friends. God’s servant David made sure he was able to spend time with Jonathan when he was afraid of King Saul. Paul always had companions around him, especially under persecution. At times like these we need one another. We need to make the most of whatever small group, friendship circle, or partnerships we have. Fear has a tendency to isolate us. I am at my most fearful when I wake in the night with worry on my mind. But perfect love casts out all fear. And love is found in relating. What we need is team. Who can you enquire after? Who can you message and drop a line to? Who can you join in with? Who needs your reassurance and heavenly perspective? There were 8 people in the ark. That's a couple of sofas, some easy chairs and a bean bag. It's a great number to chat with, eat with, play a board game with go for a walk with. Not that we can do this at the moment! But we can try to connect on the phone and online and we can meet up one to one. And we can form those friendships now so that when we are allowed in one another houses, we can be like Noah, and have a great small group to be part of.
Listen out for God’s voice. Rest in his presence. Love some other people. Trust that God will work in and through this to bring his heavenly kingdom of shalom on to his beloved earth. And, believe it or not, Christmas is coming –
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
So, we will come through – in God’s plan, rested in heart and with others around us.
Martin J Young