Finding Joy in the Chaos

  • Does failing at something you’ve been assigned or entrusted with cause your stomach to knot? When you miss a deadline, does your thought life run amuck? The bigger question is, are you living in grace? That’s not to say we shouldn’t hold ourselves accountable and honestly assess our shortcomings and errors, but when we do, may we do so with an eye on grace.

As my guest today explains, that’s when we find peace and joy, even in the chaos.

Joy in the Chaos by Ralene Burke

As a writer and editor, there’s nothing like missing a deadline to take the wind out of my sails. That feeling of failure that wraps around my heart, squeezes, and then pops any modicum of self-esteem. Darkness falls over my day, and joy leaks away with each deprecating thought.

It didn’t start out that way, though. I was excited to receive the opportunity. I wrote it on my calendar, even setting the deadline a little earlier than the one that had been given to me. But as with many best laid plans, chaos intervened.

My husband and I got locked into a home improvement job that took more time and money than we had originally intended. Two of my social media clients had some “urgent” stuff that had to go up on social media or in newsletters right away. My allergies went into overdrive and had me laid out for a week.

My self-imposed deadline came and went. So did the one I’d been officially given.

It’s funny how the enemy knows those exact moments when we feel like a failure. When we could choose to accept the mistake and learn, joy and peace follows, but instead he presses those thoughts of what a mess we are, how there is no hope for us. He tells us God is so disappointed, along with everyone else.

Deep breath.

Ultimately, life isn’t about the missed deadlines. It isn’t about the crazy schedules or long to-do lists. Life is about opportunities. The opportunity to follow God, to be obedient, and to be His light in this world. We already know we were not made for this world, but for eternity.

We are responsible to one person: God. We are His children. And He loves us so much. He delights in us. But He’s known us from the beginning of time, long before we were born, long before time itself. He knew the lives we would have. He gave us a reason for being, passions, goals, and more. And He gave us purpose despite the mistakes we would make. Our lives are a constant learning curve.

When we put our focus on God and how He sees us, we should also find joy ourselves. Joy in the opportunity. Joy in the moment. Joy in the fact that He loves us no matter what.

God knew I would have health issues, and they would force me to find ways to work around the normal 9-5 job. He knew being a homeschool mom would keep me hopping, making it feel like I had 2 full-time jobs. Struggling to find my place in the world would give me the grace to work with others struggling to find theirs.

Failure is something I’m quite familiar with—and not just when it comes to deadlines. With each mistake, I’ve learned that it’s an opportunity to trust God and step deeper into grace. I know God is with me at each turn. And even when things don’t go as planned (and how often does that happen?), He still loves me. He still delights in me. And my joy is found in Him.

How has God been revealing His joy to you?

About the Author:

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to help everyone SHINE BEYOND! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for several freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is available on Amazon!

When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Let’s talk about this! I never would’ve thought I have a fear of failure. I’ve often said, which I believe, that there’s really no failure when we walk with God. It’s all learning, growing in Him and His will for us, and allowing Him to transform our thinking and will. 

But yesterday, something hit my insecurities (and revealed my people pleasing tendencies!), oddly enough, in the form of praise. A reviewer tagged me in a comment on Facebook that, in essence, let me know about THIS. It was a bit surreal to see my name listed among such great authors. That should’ve been cause for celebration, right?

Instead, I felt a tweak in my gut as I thought about the story I’m working on, one I’ve revised at least half a dozen times that I plan to release … in a few short months. (gulp.) And all I could think about was how terrible the story was, how inadequate I felt as a writer, and how I would let this reviewer and all my other readers down.

And then I had to laugh as I realized how easily I fell into the fear of rejection trap–whenever I turn my eyes off Christ and His will for me.

That, my friends, is the answer. But isn’t it always? For as Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). 

Hm … Maybe I should make that my memory verse this week. 😉

Rethinking Failure

 

contemplativeThe big F.

When you sense a divine nudge, step out in faith even though your knees are buckling, sweat is cascading down your spine, and your stomach feels as if an army of ants not only took up residence but are engaged in some crazy acrobatics, and nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned.

In those moments, we may be tempted to raise our fists at God or hide away in our nice, safe homes, determined never, ever, not in a jabillion years, to do ministry again.

But what if our interpretations are wrong? What if what we perceive as failure is but a stepping stone–and a necessary one at that? The hard thing about faith, about having a finite and often faulty brain, is that we may never fully see the results or reasons behind our actions this side of heaven. I’ve shared before, looking back on my life, I remember countless patient, loving Christians whom I have no doubt were called to reach out to and love on me.

In fact, I remember one family in particular. They lived in Ferndale, and they had a daughter my age. In those days, I was a mess. And I imagine, there were many times I was quite difficult to be around. But this family took me in. Fed me, sheltered me, loved on me.

But despite their love and patience, I continued my downward spiral. I imagine they felt they had failed. Or like maybe they’d heard God wrong. Because if God calls us to do something, we have to succeed, right? We’ve got the power of Creator God behind us!

But what if His version of success is different from ours? What if He sees something we can’t–like the slow but persistent softening or healing of a heart?adultchild A heart that might take decades–maybe even a lifetime–to change? And what if in the process, He was working on our heart as well–molding, guiding, teaching, equipping, transforming us from who we are now to who He created us to be? What if every action, every assumed failure is necessary training toward our future calling?

You see, I believe God is sovereign over our successes and our failures. In fact, I believe each moment, He is watching over us with care and love, keeping an eye not only on our hearts but on our final destination as well.

As a reminder of this, I often consider two Scripture passages. They have become my life verses. I recite them when it feels as if God is raining blessings upon me and when it feels as if He’s deadbolted every door.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16 NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece. Camp out on that for a moment.

These verses have shaped my definition of success. They remind me God has a glorious plan for me, my life, and every person I touch while here on earth. And He’s taken full responsibility to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) My role is simple: To surrender fully and obey without hesitation, seeking to learn and grow from each and every event or encounter.

That’s it. And here’s the beautiful thing: If I do that, I have succeeded, regardless of how things turn out.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate your assumed failures, looking for the hidden lesson God might be trying to show you through them? Are you basing your success on those things you have no control over, like how many people will come to Christ during your ministry events, how many promotions you receive, or how large your paycheck will grow if you do X and Y? Or are you basing your success on the only thing you can control and that which will bring your Heavenly Father exceeding joy–the extent of your surrendered obedience?

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Rejoicing in Closed Doors
What’s Your Jericho

Books you might find helpful:
<em>Beyond Me by Kathi Macias
Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby

Falling Forward by John C. Maxwell

Sharing the Journey

As you probably know, our family was leveled by our recent trip to El Salvador–in a good way. We’ve known about orphans, and have felt compassion for them, but there’s something about living among them. Holding a hurting child in your arms makes it personal–puts a name and a face to the statistics. On our last night in El Salvador, my husband and I made a commitment to one another and to God–a commitment to not forget. A commitment to do what we can to create positive change. We refuse to allow the downward spiral of apathy strangle out the love God instilled in our hearts for these hurting children.

And in the meantime, God’s opened our eyes to the millions of other children living on the streets right now. Initially, we decided to keep our journey to ourselves…out of self-preservation, I’m sure, in case we fail. But as we’re trying to navigate our way toward what we believe God is calling us to do, finding little by way of direction, we realized…what if someone else wants to follow in our footsteps? Maybe the reason it’s so hard to find information is because everyone’s like us–afraid to tell others what God’s doing for fear they’ll fail, or hit a dead-end, or fizzle out.

So we decided to be candid about our journey. We’re not saying we’re going to do anything great. In fact, our goals and dreams may come to naught. But…perhaps in watching our journey you will be encouraged to press forward, even when every door appears to be closed or when common sense tells you to seek the predictable and secure.

Because here’s the thing–we were never intended to live in a vacuum. We need each other.

And, if we’re following whole-heartedly after God, there’s nothing to fear. Even failure becomes a glorious stepping stone, because if we “fail,” but do so following God, then we know our failure was God-ordained. Meaning, there was something we needed to learn, or a weakness that needed to be strengthened, or a sin that needed to be sliced out, through that failure.

So join us as we, along with a few members from our church, seek God’s guidance on how to deal with the enormous problem of global orphans.

Our journey began in a 500 foot El Salvadoran hotel room. It was our first mission trip. You may remember, I’m terrified of flying. Terrified. Prior to this trip, I hadn’t been on a plane in about 10 years. We’ve traveled all over the united states, by van. (I always joke that my husband’s an enabler, giving in to a twenty hour car ride rather than forcing his neurotic wife on a plane.)

The plane ride was rough, and at one point, the plane actually dropped. So it’s pitch black, we’re flying through a storm, and my stomach’s knotted to the point of nausea, then we drop. It felt like one of those roller coaster rides when your stomach leaps into your throat. I thought for sure we’d die. Yep, my imagination flew. I white-knuckled my seat’s armrests the rest of the flight. Then, we landed with quite a blam! (Not a crash bam, but a very rough landing, as if the ground caught our pilot by surprise.)  As I followed my husband and daughter down the aisle I wondered how I’d ever make it back home because I never, ever wanted to get on another plane. Told my husband that very thing. “I’m never doing this again! Once we get home, I’m never flying ever again!”

He laughed.

Then we got to the hotel room. We were exhausted. We’d left our house at 8:30 that morning and pulled into our hotel about 11, maybe 12. The hotel was not quite what we expected, and once again, I told my husband I was never coming back. Honestly, I wondered how I’d ever make it through the week. I’m sure God laughed, knowing the three-sixty He was about to bring me to.

Because by day three, Steve and I realized we HAD to come back.

Funny how God flips our hearts taking a selfish couple from, “I can’t do this,” to “Show me what you’d have me do. Lord, please love through me. I want to STAY!” in less than three days.

But that’s how God works. If you give Him access to your heart, He’ll rock your world. And hopefully, the world around you.