For the past several weeks, I’ve looked a lot more like a transition mat than a triathlete.  That’s what happens when your back goes out in the midst of training.  In case you are wondering if that can happen to someone who is fit and in their mid 30s (or as I like to call it, my “endurance prime”), please allow me to remove that veil of mystery…the answer is a painful yes. So, what do you do when life throws you a curve ball? What happens when you suffer an unexpected injury (like we ever expect them), or worse yet, when the doctor calls with bad news, when you lose your job, a loved one, when your family or relationship is falling apart, or when any one of a thousand other life shattering calamities strike?

You suddenly find yourself caught in a whirlwind. You turned your head for just a moment, and life sucker punched you square in the jaw. Now what?  Can any good come from the apparent chaos?  Is there actually such a thing as constructive chaos? As unlikely as it was for someone known for having the flexibility of Mr. Fantastic to throw his back out, the equally unlikely prospect of what we see as chaotic being used for good is not only a possibility, it can actually be a promise.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to the radio, and I heard a talk show host ask a question that went something like this; “can chaos actually be used as a force for good?”  He went on to make a comparison between chaos and a home renovation project.  That struck home with me, no pun intended.  You see, several years ago my wife and I bought a 20+ year old rental property.  It was pretty trashed when we got to it, but it hadn’t seen any “real” damage until we put our hands on it.  We literally dismantled that house from top to bottom. We had a great view of the upstairs master bath, unfortunately that was through a gaping hole in the kitchen ceiling caused by a 20 year old water leak.  If someone off the street would have walked into our house during the demolition process (and somehow missed all the signs that it was a work in progress), they would have surely concluded that this was the biggest, most unsalvageable dump they had ever laid eyes on.  However, as we systematically ripped the house apart removing floors, ceilings, and practically everything else (including the kitchen sink) we knew what the result would be after all the sweat, pain, and debris were just memories. What an outsider may have seen as chaos, we understood as a carefully ordered process. Now that our renovation project is complete, there is no evidence of the path of destruction we had to cut many years ago, only what we now simply refer to as “home.”

History shows us great examples of this paradox in life.  A long time ago, a man from the other side of the world named Joseph had many older brothers. They were jealous of their younger brother and his relationship with their Dad, so one day they threw him into a cistern (in those days, dry wells were often used as prison cells) with plans to abandon him in the desert.  Ultimately, they decided against shedding their brother’s blood and sold him into slavery.  From that point on Joseph endured many hardships, including slander and imprisonment.  But Joseph did not lead a life of despair.  What looked on the outside like his undoing was actually being used to his great benefit.  You see, Joseph trusted in God, and God chose to bless Joseph and make him prosper in the midst of his seemingly chaotic circumstances.  Make no mistake, God is never the author of evil, (Joseph’s brother’s got that train moving), but He did use those circumstances for Joseph’s good.  As Joseph would later tell his brothers after he had become the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, and had used his position to save an entire nation from ruin, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

God has a perspective far greater than any of us can comprehend, and because he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, he has the ability to use situations in ways we cannot fathom.  God does not cause evil to befall us; that is simply part of living in a broken world.  However, because he IS God, he can even take things that may have been meant to do us harm, and use them for great things. To those who have been adopted as part of His family, whom he claims as His children, He has given some amazing promises.  The Bible tells us that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.” What may look like chaos in our lives clearly falls into the category of “all things.” Apart from God, what we think of as our chaotic circumstances can seem pretty meaningless, and even hopeless. However, with Him, we have the promise that He is always working things out for our good.

Now back to my own little melodrama.  I have not been able to train like I normally would for 3 or 4 weeks now, but in many other ways the time that I have reclaimed for a short season has been of an even greater value to me.  I suspect that as I one day look back at this little episode I will see even more ways it was used as a blessing. I know that the ultimate outcome of my “unplanned” break will be good, and that gives me great comfort as a wait, rest, and trust in God.

(If you have never really thought about what it means to “know” God, and become one of his adopted children, please consider reading, “The Secret to Finishing Well.”)

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