This is a guest post by Julie T., who was stuck in a state of disorganization, overwhelm, and chaos, all the while trying to appear to the outside world like she “had it all together.” When her lifestyle choices took a drastic toll on her health, she came to the realization that she needed to make a change. Through her newfound commitment to caring for her body through diet and exercise, spending quality time with God, and refocusing on Him, she gained a fresh perspective, a renewed sense of peace, and complete clarity – even amidst the chaos. The wisdom she shares in her testimony, From Chaos to Clarity, will help you learn how to break away from the busyness of life, be still, and find God.
Confusion. Disorder. Turmoil. Disarray. Disorganization.
These are words associated with chaos. At one time in my life – perhaps a few more times than I care to admit – I felt as if my life was chaotic and there seemed to be no way out of the mess. My poor mother tried her best to make me a more organized person when I was growing up, but it never seemed to “catch on.” I’ve always managed to operate in a sort of functional disorganization. Sometimes being a disorganized person on the outside (e.g. physical disorganization) can translate into being disorganized internally. As life moved on and I was raising children, this is exactly what happened to me.
By nature, I am a “do-er.” Even when I don’t have to be busy, I find a way. Remember the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible? Well, I am Martha! I always have been and most likely always will be. While being busy can be good it can also be hazardous to your health if not managed properly. A busy person usually has a hard time saying “no” to others and tends to wear all kinds of hats. They appear to be juggling many plates at one time, but in reality they are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted.
Yep. That would be me.
While others might be impressed with your ability to handle so much at one time, there eventually comes a time when it all comes crashing down around you and completely wipes you out. I was quickly approaching that point in time – a complete state of chaos – and I didn’t even see it coming.
Until one day in the “not-so-distant” past (last October), I had taken on way more than I could handle. Along with my normal working schedule and church duties, I had added to my plate two ministry classes, playing hostess to my parents for three weeks, taking on multiple special cake orders for my cake business, and planning a special event at our church. I kept piling it on and it began to affect my health. I was eating poorly, gaining weight, not getting enough sleep, and my blood pressure was out of control. Still, I pressed on to complete every task set before me – even if it killed me – and it almost did. I felt like I was holding it all together, when in reality I was falling apart inside. Outwardly, I was smiling and functioning, but on the inside I was a “hot mess.” I was sad, frustrated, angry, and disappointed. I was unhappy with the direction my life was going – my family life, church, my business, etc. – and it was as if the storm just kept getting worse. Drastic and intentional changes were needed if I was going to live to see my next birthday.
In the beginning of 2016, I made a commitment to spend quality time with God, read through the Bible in one year, and take care of my health. This time, it wasn’t about just reading through the Bible so I could check it off my “to do” list. It was about really getting to know God and explore the relationship I had claimed to have with Him.
While God was teaching me peace through His Word, the storms continued to rage. My husband had to take a leave of absence from his job, my son and his daughter-in-law both lost their jobs and were having a hard time paying rent, church attendance was falling, my parents were uncertain about their future, and the list goes on. The chaos had extended well beyond me, but I stayed focused on Him. I clung to this verse from Isaiah 26:3:
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
In late April, a ray of sunshine came upon the horizon when I received an invitation to join a 21 day “challenge group,” that involved exercise, eating right, and spending time with God. At first I was apprehensive because I had been in a couple of groups before and they had left me feeling worse about myself than ever. But, I decided it was time for a real change and I joined the group.
After years of failed attempts to lose weight and keep it off, I committed to following Jen’s program to a tee. I completed the workouts, followed the eating plan, read the daily devotionals, and started a journey I hope I never come off of! When I had feelings of doubt, I relied on my faith to help me persevere. For the first time in a long time I experienced REAL results – not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. I lost 11 pounds, but what I gained from the group was so much more than weight loss, learning how to eat right, and feeling good. It was about the change that had occurred in my mind and in my spirit. God was teaching me how to see things more clearly despite the mess that was going on around me. I was learning about what it meant to have His peace that surpasses all understanding and what true joy really was.
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 NLT
Has life gotten any less chaotic for me since then? Not really. But one thing I am learning is that I can control my response to whatever is going on in my life. Instead of responding with haste and anxiety, I can choose to respond calmly and rationally. I am learning to rejoice in my trials because the tests that come about only make me stronger, drive me to my knees, and draw me closer to God.
I have learned how to refocus so that I can move from chaos to clarity. For me, this means getting up early, finding a quiet spot in the house, and spending time in God’s Word. Right now, I’m reading through the Bible using the YouVersion Bible app (Bible in One Year reading program). I also add an additional devotional about something I want to improve upon or that I’m going through in my life. Some of my favorites are: Scary Close – Reflections for Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller, The End of Me by Kyle Idleman, Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd, and Hearing From God Each Morning by Joyce Meyer. Some of my favorite bible.com reading plans are The Lies of Busyness, Optimal Women’s Health with Dr. Bob, Comfort Zone: Stretching Beyond Your Limits, Peace – Life in the Spirit by Oswald Chambers, A Jolt of Joy, and Holy Emotions- Biblical Responses to Every Challenge. Following a reading plan helps me stay focused, become disciplined in spending time with God, and gives me something to look forward to every day. It is no longer just a chore I check off my “to do” list or my “lucky charm,” wherein if I don’t set aside the time for it my day just won’t go right.
To experience clarity amidst chaos, Jesus had to become the focus of my life. As I continue to grow spiritually, I realize that good things will happen and not so good things that will happen, but through it all I can find comfort in His Word.
“In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33 MSG
The key message I want to leave is that peace is not the absence of chaos – it is being calm in the midst of it and trusting that God has life under control. Joy is not always being happy, but knowing that no matter what is going on in our lives we have an opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. I have learned that I don’t have to live on what my feelings dictate, but that I can think about what is going on and react responsibly. No more chaos – only clarity in the midst of chaos.
If you would like to reach out to Julie, you can leave a comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a story you would like to share, please email me with “Broken to Beautiful” in the subject line and I will follow up with you. Thank you.