I read today a comment from an observer in India that the central government seems to be paralysed in the midst of chaos.
When an enemy comes in, like the covid virus, and we are unprepared, blithely ignorant, distracted or simply overwhelmed by a multitude of other anxieties, then that enemy really does paralyse.
In India, the virulence of these new strains in the second wave of the pandemic has been extraordinary. City defences – health, social care, oxygen and even funeral facilities – like earth walls have crumbled before an ocean of sickness and death. When chaos rules like this, it is so big, angry and unmanageable that there is neither flight nor flight – it is freeze that takes hold of us. And sadly, this is the commentary on the Indian government’s response, strategy and tactics when faced with such devastation.
The prophet Isaiah uses this language in chapter 24:
The city writhes in chaos; every home is locked to keep out intruders.
Mobs gather in the streets, crying out for wine. Joy has turned to gloom.
Gladness has been banished from the land. The city is left in ruins, its gates battered down.
I have noticed that chaos has the same impact personally, too. Have you ever been in a position where you have considered all that you have to do – exams that need revision; a huge list of competing tasks at work; a whole lot of paperwork that has to be sorted for a deadline; a house or garden, full of stuff, that needs tidying or packing; a host of thoughts, memories, anxieties and pressures that crowd in all at once – and it is overwhelming? To the point of heart-beating, sick-feeling, sleep-losing, breath-constricting panic?
What is required is energy and vision; strategy and a plan; ordered steps and steady pace.
But instead, what is in head and heart is paralysis. A panicked numbness. An inability to do anything productive – and not even the ability to run away and hide effectively.
Chaos is the opposite of the Kingdom of God. Which does not mean the only picture of the Kingdom is one of stultifying and rigid order. But the Kingdom has within it the grace and truth to bring a natural order, to make patterns, to create pathways and to navigate, map and ultimately conquer all kinds of rocky terrain.
Chaos really needs ruling. Even the unordered nature of the preformed universe in Genesis 1 needed the Holy Spirit to overshadow and brood in order to be in a place to hear the creative truth of the word of God bringing light out of darkness. So, when it comes to the issues that we face – practical and real such as untidiness or too-busyness or mental and emotional overcrowding – before we flee, or even fight, we need to rule. Colossians 3:15 famously says: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
This peace brings the ability to control ourselves – to speak to our thoughts and feelings – in the same way that good governing brings order and peace to a city or a nation. Proverbs 25:28 says: A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.
This is not a condemnation, it’s more of an encouragement for each of us to ask the Holy Spirit to help us when we face chaos. And similarly, Proverbs 28: 2 says: When the country is in chaos, everybody has a plan to fix it— But it takes a leader of real understanding to straighten things out.
So we pray for India in these days – for effective central and state governance, for healthcare directors and workers, for Christian leaders to hear from God and know what to do and how to do it.
And we pray for each other when surrounded by our own personal chaos – that the Holy Spirit would be our ‘leader of real understanding’ and brood over our frozen paralysis with his warm love and courage.Pay close attention now: I'm creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy. Anticipate what I'm creating:
Martin J Young