Have you ever set out to try to have a peaceful day, when before even making it through your morning coffee, all hell breaks loose? Your kids start hitting each other. Your work throws another deadline on your plate. Your baby throws a fit. Your husband is heading out for the day. The dryer breaks and you have ten loads of laundry to do. All of a sudden, this dream of peace seems thrown out the window and impossible to achieve. My word for 2019 was peace. I was determined to set out this year and find a peaceful way of life. When in fact, it has been the most chaotic year of my life. I eventually just assumed I should give up on this word peace, until I discovered a secret.
Each year, I try to find a word to focus on, a word that I feel my life needs more of.
In 2019, it was peace. At the start of the year, we had been running on 9 months of no sleep with a very stubborn baby. While being an extremely tired momma and wife, I was also a business owner. My life felt anything but peaceful. In fact, it felt completely chaotic, like I was struggling to breathe most days.
Peace = Calm, quiet, still, freedom from disturbance.
As I was looking up definitions of peace, it automatically felt like an impossible goal.
Calm? Didn't God know I was juggling a million things? How could I be calm?
Quiet? Didn't God know I had a needy, loud, crying baby majority of the day? How could I find quiet?
Still? Didn't God know that when I did have a still moment, it required sleep? How could I just sit and be still?
Freedom from disturbance? Ha. Didn't God know I couldn't even make it through a text without getting disturbed?
So, for the next 8 months, I tried to do everything I could to accomplish this goal of peace.
In my mind, I needed to remove some stress. I needed to remove any negatives of life to try to achieve this goal.
There's this story in Acts 27 that highlights my 2019 so perfectly. Just follow along with me for a minute. Maybe you can relate.
It starts out with Paul warning this team of sailors that a storm was coming, but guess what? They didn't listen. They set sail anyway into what seemed like calm waters, while a major storm was just on the horizon.
Point 1: God tells us this life will have storms. He warns us. Yet, somehow when life gets crazy we are suddenly so surprised. This is why it's crucial that during the calm of life (if that even exists) we stay grounded in our faith. If you keep Jesus as center, then when the storm hits (and believe me it will) you can stand strong.
So here they are out to sea, enjoying the waters, and along comes a storm. At first, the sailors thought they could handle the storm on their own. They started doing everything in their own power to beat the storm.
Okay...let me just be honest. That's me 110%. When life gets crazy, my first instinct is to say "It's alright God. Don't worry about me. I got this. I can handle this all on my own." I start trying to control every situation.
Point 2: God never intended for you to hold it all together. Stop trying. Release control. When we are busy trying to hold it all together, we get in the way of the miracles only He can do.
The sailors quickly realize they can't hold the ship together any longer, so they start throwing things overboard. Get rid of this. Who needs that? That was me this year. When my marriage started struggling, I blamed it on my business. So what did I do? I decided to throw the business overboard. I stopped focusing on it. I put it up for sale. I decided to focus on my home life and completely throw away the mission that God had breathed into my life a decade before. Then, when the marriage didn't seem to be getting any better, I had thoughts of just throwing that overboard as well. Satan starting pushing lies into my head like "maybe I am better off without him?" When we are in a storm, it's easy for the truth to be clouded by lies.
You see, this is why Point 1 & 2 are so crucial. Had my eyes been completely fixed on Jesus (Point 1), I may have handled things better. Had I not been trying to carry the weight of the world on my own shoulders (Point 2), I may have never hit rock bottom. But, the reality is, I'm human and I don't always listen to God's warnings. I just keep going. Doing it all on my own. If I had to guess, I bet maybe you have did that before as well. Which brings me to Point 3.
Point 3: When the storm hits, don't give up on the things that matter most. Make Christ your anchor and let Him hold your feet in place while the storm rages all around you. Let the storm do what it needs to do, but don't quit on what's important in the midst of it.
So back to the story. The storm has been raging for days at this point. The sailors had tried to handle it on their own, then when that didn't work decided to throw things overboard, and by this point had lost all hope. Have you ever felt completely hopeless in your situation? Lord knows I have at times. This was the sailors. This storm was wrecking havoc over their lives and they had completely lost all hope. They stopped eating. They stopped taking care of themselves. They had basically given up. That's easy to do during the storm right? The last thing you want to do is listen to that encouraging friend or hear another person say they are praying for you or open your Bible or even pray yourself. I mean, you can barely get out of bed. How can you spend time with God?
Point 4: Don't stop feeding your soul in the midst of the storm. Don't starve yourself. There is no greater time than in the storm that you need to be filling yourself with God's Word. Don't let what seems like a hopeless situation take your last little bit of hope away as well. Cling to Jesus hard during the storm. Feed your soul.
So while the sailors were drowning in their misery (literally), there was this man named Paul. You know what he was doing? He was spending time with God. Despite the chaos around him, he was keeping his eyes fixed and focused on God. Although he was in the middle of a life-threatening storm, God spoke with a still small voice.
Point 5: If you aren't hearing God's voice in the midst of storm, it's because you aren't making space to listen. God doesn't speak in the chaos. God isn't a voice of chaos. He is that still, small voice that requires you to stop, slow down, and seek Him even when the waves are crashing around you; especially when the waves are crashing around you.
God assured Paul that everyone would arrive safely to land. Yes, there would be a ship wreck. Yes, it would get ugly. This storm would create a lot of wreckage, but they would survive. You see once a storm comes and goes, things are not the same. Things are damaged. Things are different. But if you allow God to, He can use the damage to grow you into a stronger, more faith-filled person.
Point 6: Let God use your storm. Let God work in and through you during this season of rough waters. Don't wait for smooth sailing. Ask Him to grow you right now, during the trial. Ask Him to change you. And then use that story to help others through their storm.
Even though Paul had assured the sailors that they would be alright, that they would survive, they still had their own plan in place. They had their life boats ready to lower into the water, just in case God didn't pull through. Anybody else guilty of that? If plan A doesn't work, you already have a plan B in place? Paul told them "you will die if you do not stay aboard." Sometimes in life, we have to stay in the midst of the storm. Your marriage is hard. Stay anyway. God is working. Your business is struggling. Stay anyway. God is working. Now of course, I can't speak into your exact situation and there are times when you need to leave something behind. But sometimes...just sometimes God is calling you to stay and work through the storm.
Point 7: Cut your life boat. Stop relying on your own plan B and trust that God's plan A for your life is the perfect plan. He will pull through. He will rescue you. You do not need your own life boat. You don't need your own back up plan. You need to just trust that the King of the World has you in His hand.
Once the sailors cut their life boat, Paul gave thanks to God. In the smack dead middle of a ship wreck, Paul gave thanks to God. The waters got rough. The seas were scary. But Paul thanked God despite the circumstance, and God rescued them, each and every sailor.
Point 8: Don't wait until the storm is over to give thanks. Thank God right now. Thank God no matter how hard your situation is. Thank Him that He is working even when you can't see it. And then trust, trust completely that even though the ship may sink, your life may feel like it is falling apart, God will step in at His perfect time and rescue you. And then, you will come out stronger.
God doesn't leave you in the midst of the storm. The victory will come. Just keep believing. The truth is a life of peace does not mean a life without stress or a life without storms. In fact, we are promised this life will have storms. A life of peace is all about finding calm it in the midst of the storm. The only way we do that is by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the "I" of the storm. I pray that throughout the rest of 2019, instead of striving for a life of less chaos, you look to Jesus in the chaos. That is where peace will be found.