Trusting God in the Chaos

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This summer, God has provided me with an amazing opportunity to travel overseas to Botswana, a country in southern Africa. There, I will be working with Bible translators to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a missionary out on the field. I’ve been packing and re-packing for days, trying to get everything just right and also trying to fit everything I need for three weeks in Africa into a duffle bag and a backpack without breaking the zippers. I have everything I need – clothes, snacks, toiletries, my Bible… but not my passport. The one thing I need most, my golden ticket in and out of the country, is floating around somewhere in the United States Postal service.

It was supposed to arrive on Monday, but recently my parents moved and since all our mail is being forwarded to our new address, it hasn’t arrived yet. The problem is that we leave for Chicago on Saturday and Monday is a federal holiday, so if the passport doesn’t arrive by Saturday, I’m not going to Africa. This not only means I’m out thousands of dollars that I spent on the trip, but my plan of getting my toes wet in the field of Bible translation is gone.

Today has been a flurry of activity: checking the mail every 10 minutes until it’s delivered, only to receive two envelopes, neither of which were for me; driving to the post office and spending thirty minutes to discover that the post office from which the passport was sent has no record of it being mailed; trying to find a way to contact people when we only have email addresses and no phone numbers; false hope that it was delivered to our previous address; endlessly frustrating dead ends and near-tears. I’ve been on the edge of an anxiety attack all day. I was up all night, unable to sleep because I kept having dreams that it had arrived in the mail, only to wake and realize that it was only a dream.

My point in all this is that I’m stressed. I’m very, very stressed and I feel hopeless. I don’t think I’ve prayed this much in a 24-hour stretch before. My life feels like complete chaos.

So why do I tell you all of this? I was standing in the post office with my mom, waiting for answers, and I mentioned that I had a devotion due today, but that I had no ideas. She gave me a sidelong glance that said, Isn’t it obvious?

But I can’t write about that, I thought to myself. It’s not resolved yet. There’s no happy ending yet.

And then I realized: trusting God is not about happy endings and resolutions. It’s not an amazing story where everything turns out okay that we laugh about weeks later. It’s stressful. It’s hard. It’s feelings of frustration, desperation, anger, hopelessness. It’s not fun. Trusting God is messy. But it’s not about our feelings, it’s about the fact that God is sovereign.

It doesn’t matter that this story doesn’t have a happy ending right now, or if it ever will. Currently, my mom is on the phone trying to find out where in the system my passport is. We still don’t have an answer. Maybe we won’t in time. But that’s not what trust in God is about. It’s knowing that He’s still at work, even through all the chaos in life, even when it feels as if He has abandoned us. It takes a lot of strength, and that kind of strength can only come from one place – God.

God may not be a machine where you put in your prayer requests and receive desired results, but He is faithful. He loves us. He desires what is best for us. I’m not saying that things will always work out the way we want them to in the end. We still have heartbreak. We still have sickness. We still have trials of all sorts in our lives, but we also have a God who is steadfast and never changing, who is worthy of all of our trust. When everything in life overwhelms you, hold on to that.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

[Psalm 9:9-10]

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