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Words of Abundance

Your Host, Randy Petrick
  • Writer's pictureRandy Petrick

THE GIFT OF CHAOS

Updated: Mar 28

Re-discovering a secret I came upon long ago.


Have you ever wanted to pick back up a book you read many years ago, feeling like it might have a new message for you today? An urge like that came over me recently, and I picked back up a book written in 1995, The Silence of Adam, by Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr. (link at the end of blog).


A shadowed profile of a man leaning against a wall with his hands folded in prayer

The book’s subtitle caught my attention and caused me to pick it back up: “Becoming Men of Courage in a World of Chaos.” “Wow,” I thought. "If the world wasn’t in enough chaos 28 years ago, it certainly is now. I wonder if there are thoughts here that would still apply today.” And there were.


In the book’s preface, Crabb says,


A man is most comfortable in situations where he knows exactly what to do. When things get confusing and scary, his insides tighten, and he backs away. When life frustrates him with its maddening unpredictability, he feels the anger rise within him. And then, filled with terror and rage, he forgets God’s truth and looks out for himself.


Amen to that. I’m guilty as charged. I read on, jumping into the book’s Introduction on the next page:


This book is written by three growing but struggling men who openly confess that our struggles seem to deepen as our lives continue. Our lives are not together the way the Christian culture seems to think they should be. Christian men, especially those in leadership, are expected to feel consistently encouraged, be passionate about their vision, and have few problems. Mature men aren’t supposed to struggle with crazy thoughts, sinful urges, or despairing feelings. But we think they do.


Crabb’s use of the words “despairing feelings” took me back to a time when despairing feelings were at the forefront of my thinking. I don’t often express myself through poetry, but during that time, I did. Without further explanation, here’s a poem I wrote in my despair. (I’ll meet you back on the other side.)



A man observing a dry and dusty desert.

WAITING FOR RAIN


I’ve been living in the desert

Lost, alone, and full of hurt

Year after year

Tear after tear

There’s so much pain

Waiting for rain.


You? Or me? Who is to blame?

Word after word just fanning the flame.

Why is this happening?

I just want to know.

Am I truly being patient or just insane

Staying in the desert waiting for rain.


I just have to wonder

I can’t help but muse

Why do I feel so completely confused?

It isn’t so easy

In fact, it’s a strain

Waiting. Just waiting for rain.


“God,” I prayed, “please make it plain…

Have I caused my own troubles?

Am I somehow to blame?

You know where to find me

At my house in the desert

Waiting for rain.”


I seek Your hand, Lord.

I feel like I’m cursed.

This waiting feels endless

My heart’s ready to burst.

Holding on to these problems

Is really the worst.


I had just started to pray

When I heard a knock at the door

I knew Who was there

He’d been there before.

I sprinted right over and flung the door wide

What a relief to finally let Him inside.


His words were all precious

What He offered me, rare.

He would take all my troubles,

My grief and despair.

I just had to release them

Right then and right there.


To those who may wonder, let me be plain

I let go of all ownership and asked Him to reign.

You see, I had finally decided

There was nothing to gain

Staying in the desert

Waiting for rain.


As you can no doubt tell, I was feeling raw. I was feeling grief, strain, confusion, and pain – waiting and hoping for things to change, but also knowing in my heart that I was as much or more to blame for the despair I was feeling as anyone else.


If you are feeling despair as I was, maybe I can help spread some light into your darkness, just as Dr. Crabb and his co-authors did for me. In the book’s Introduction, they shared some thoughts that struck home:


God’s Spirit is less interested in telling us how to get our lives together, and more concerned with stirring - in the middle of our ongoing difficulties - our passion for Christ... There simply aren’t any formulas to follow in handling the things that matter most. And we think God designed it that way, not to frustrate or discourage but to call something out of us that he has already put in us, something that is released only when we abandon ourselves to him in the midst of mystery.


God used my situation to help me see that I was focusing on the wrong thing—my despair—and that in order to move forward, I needed to surrender myself and my situation to Him.


Open hands stretched out in prayer

In hindsight, I can see God’s lesson for me even more clearly than I could at the time. We will never handle our problems well until we fully surrender ourselves and our wills to God…to abandon ourselves to Him. When we are entirely undone, we need to be wholly dependent. As Dr. Crabb says, “In the darkness of confusion, you cannot see but you can hear; at least, you can hear the voice of God.”


What’s the best way to deal with despair and uncertainty? Learning to trust in God, not in ourselves. Dr. Crabb expressed it well:


The chaos of life is God’s gift to men. Without confusion and tragedy, we would never be the [people] God designed us to be. Through it all, he requires us to trust in him, not in ourselves.


Sometimes, picking back up a book you read years ago is helpful. For me, this was one of those times. I needed to be reminded that I can choose to see chaos as a gift. So can you. Like me, you’ve probably been through chaos before. We need to think back. We need to remember. If God had His hand stretched to us and brought us through chaos in the past, we can trust Him to do the same today. We need to hand our lives to Him just as we did before. It is as accurate today as it was in the past...


There is nothing to gain

Staying in the desert

Waiting for rain.


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