The God of Chaos or Order
By Jeff Goins
March 26, 2012
Sometimes, I get a little sick of the “Jesus fixed my life” testimonies. Don’t get me wrong—I love it when people come to Christ for the first time or are healed of lifelong addictions. But when everything is so resolved and wrapped up with a nice, pretty bow, I tend to question the story’s validity. Because, let’s be honest: life, sometimes, is just plain messy.
It has been my experience that God is not always a God of order. Sometimes, He intentionally invites chaos into our lives for our own good, and I’m glad that He does.
I just got back from a mission trip. To be honest, I didn’t expect to be quite this stunned from it. It’s been two weeks since my return from Costa Rica, and I’m still having trouble adjusting back to life in the United States. After spending 12-hour days in the 100-degree sun, sharing the Gospel in the middle of soccer fields, watching resources miraculously multiply, and seeing God stir young people’s hearts to action, it’s difficult to concentrate in front of a computer screen. I find myself going for long walks at night, daydreaming of the sounds of roosters crowing at 5am, and imagining the taste of a freshly picked mango.
To put it lightly, I am struggling with re-integration. It’s silly, because my trip was only nine days, but sometimes that’s all it takes for God to disrupt your previously ordered world, causing you to question what you used to take for granted.
Our last day in Costa Rica, I gave the group tips for readjusting to life after a mission trip. The irony is that now I’m having a rough time acclimating to what used to be “normal.” I expected the usual “mission trip high” and proverbial stars in my eyes after the trip, but I never anticipated feeling this crappy. Frankly, my faith seems a bit chaotic lately, and I’m struggling to make sense of it.
When people ask, “How was your trip?” I don’t know what to say. There were so many intangibles that are impossible to express. One instance was when our group entered a small village with no other agenda or ministry program than to pray and trust God. They returned with stories similar to those of the disciples in Luke 10. It was a special time where church seemed more like a lifestyle and less like an activity—we lived in community, broke bread together, shared our struggles with one another, and proclaimed good news to the poor and hurting. For a week, everything seemed to make sense, but now nothing does.I want to make a point—maybe we’re supposed to feel this unsettled. Maybe this is all part of the plan. Maybe, sometimes, God can be a little chaotic. Even in the midst of my confusion, although, I know that this is better than the alternative. I don’t want to go back to thinking less about the poor or praying less or losing my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s moving. I prefer the chaos.
I have a hunch that I’m not the only who feels this way—that those of you who have encountered God’s heart for a broken world feel a little bit wrecked yourselves. While I do believe that God ultimately brings order to chaos, I wonder if how He does that is through breaking our hearts.
Maybe God’s perfect will for your life isn’t to just make you comfortable. I know that we ought to learn to be “content in all circumstances,” but I’m talking about this feeling of unrest that you sometimes sense in your soul. I’m talking about that passion that gets stirred when you buy a homeless person lunch or have a trip like I did. It’s the sense that all in this world is not right and that you might have the tools to fix it.
I believe that God actually wants to make you uncomfortable—to the point that your old way of living is ruined, that you have no other ambition than to seek and serve the least, left-out and forgotten. At first, it may seem painful, hard, or even confusing, but it’s worth it. It’s all worth it.
Despite the fact that my world feels a little upside-down, I know that this chaos is good, that it is from God. It’s a bit of a contradiction, but maybe Chesterton was right when He said that the truest things in the universe are contradictions. This concept of being heartbroken so that we can heal is a mystery. In it, God is showing us the contradiction of life—that in order to live, you must give up your life, that in order for a seed to grow it must first die. Henri Nouwen writes the following about this concept of contradictions:
“The many contradictions in our lives–such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts—can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us. They make us feel that we are never fully present. Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.
“But there is another response. These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy. Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.”
Part of me just wants to remember. I’m afraid that Western amenities will soon make me forget how wonderful it felt to be uncomfortable in Latin America. And that’s something I just can’t afford to forget.
I don’t know exactly why God chooses to make us feel so broken, but I do know that it has something to do with how He wants to use the Body of Christ to demonstrate healing to the world. After spending a week in the developing world and returning home in time for Easter Sunday, celebrating the Resurrection seemed so significant, so real—as if Jesus were actually being raised from the dead that very same day. The beauty of Christ conquering death and rising from the dead was magnified for me. Costa Rica messed me up, but it also made me whole. And that’s a contradiction I’m willing to embrace.