God over all chaos

We live in a time of uncertainty. The ending of the ‘cold war’ brought what seemed like a more secure world, and the unity of divided Europe seemed to bring a greater sense of peace. But in the past four years that illusionary calm seems to be a fading memory. We have gone through a pandemic that, almost literally, turned our lives upside down; we have seen the first war on European soil since WW2; we have witnessed old orders give way to new threats; we are almost daily facing news of climate upheaval; we see new tensions between communities in our own country; and we even see chaos in fundamentals of who we are – in thinking about identity. So, the time we live in seems very chaotic, and the chaos can lead to a deep sense of insecurity or heightened anxiety.

How are we to respond in such times? Its easy to get pulled in by the calls to be anxious. Its easy to live in heightened fear. Its easy to follow in the division and suspicion within the communities we live within. But we are told “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb 6:19), and we are reminded: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God” (Is 41:10). Each of these verses is in the context of reminders to God’s people in chaotic circumstances, and each is based on the character and promises of God. So, what are we to remember that changes our outlook in these chaotic times?

Right back at the beginning of time we see God illustrating His sovereignty over chaos. In the beginning the Universe “was formless and empty”. As God acted in His work of Creation He brought order, dividing the darkness from the light (Gen 1:4), the sky and water (Gen 1:7), and the sea from the dry land (Gen 1:9). All plants and animals were created “according to their kinds” (Gen 1:11–12, 20–25) and in creating mankind He created distinction between male and female (Gen 1:27). Significantly, God made us in His image and placed us in His ordered creation “to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15) – we were made to image Him in bringing order in creation.

The fall had a devastating impact (Rom 8:20-21). Rather than order, sin brings chaos: there was confusion instead of certainty, deception instead of truth, hiding instead of openness, weeds instead of crops, and pain instead of ease. Because sin creates chaos, in our day we are not to be surprised as we see more chaos as people increasingly turn from God.

But God is not defeated by chaos! His salvation plan has always been that Jesus would step into the chaos, and defeat sin and death, the ultimate cause and effect of chaos. He reminded us that: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life” (Jn 10:10). He restores not only our relationship with God, but writes on our hearts His eternal plan to bring all things back into submission to God (Eph 1:9-10). As our character and desires become like His and by the power of His Spirit in us, we become the “salt and light” in this world, bringing order in chaos. This is why ordered family life, ordered marriages (Col 3;18-19), ordered work life (1 Pet 2:18) and order within the church (1 Cor 14:33) are a vital part of our witness to the work of Jesus. This does not mean ‘control’ – control and order are two very different things. It means obedience to Him, submission to His will and word, and walking in His pathway, under His rule, resting in His sovereignty in every part of our life (cf Mt 6:19-34).

Understanding God’s rule over chaos dispels fear and anxiety. Rest is found, not in the absence of chaos, but being with Him even in the midst of it. Jesus perfectly illustrates this when He walks over the waves in the storm the disciples cannot master themselves. They find peace when they invite Jesus into the boat with them (Mt 8:23-2;, see also Ps 77:13-20, Job 38:8-11). This is illustrated amazingly in Paul’s life when he is also in the storm in Acts 27-28, and he alone among the frightened sailors, soldiers and passengers is calm, without fear, trusting in God’s promises to him.

One day, gloriously, God will deal with all chaos (Rev 21) – no more tears, death, mourning or pain because “the old order of things has passed away”. Until that time we glorify Him as we walk with Him in the chaos, unafraid, confident in Him, bringing with us in the way He enables us to order our lives a taste of all that is to come in Christ.