How To Be At Peace When Life Spins Out of Control
Shannon’s husband was in the military, and her family was frequently transferred to different locations. As soon as it seemed they’d put down roots in one spot, they were inevitably moved to a new place.
One day, a long-time friend asked Shannon how she managed to cope with the constant change. Shannon explained, “I’ve learned that peace isn’t something that comes from perfect circumstances. Peace is something that flows from my relationship with Jesus.”
Sometimes, it’s tempting to think that you'd be at peace if you had ideal circumstances. Maybe you say you’d be at peace if your job weren’t so stressful. Perhaps you tell your friends that you’d be at peace if you had a better marriage. Maybe you say you’d be at peace if you didn’t have that chronic illness.
But as Shannon has learned, peace doesn’t stem from your circumstances. You can live in the best or the worst moments of your life and still be at peace.
3 Hard Truths about Peace
Peace can seem elusive at times in your life. Maybe you’re going through a crisis or a season of chaos. Everything feels unpredictable and outside of your control. But the secret to maintaining your peace lies in remembering three important truths…
Truth #1: There Will Be Trouble
Before leaving this earth, Jesus told his followers,
33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus reassured his disciples that they would have trouble. Not that they might have trouble or could have trouble. He said that trouble was a 100% guarantee due to living in a fallen world.
But he didn’t stop there. Jesus also made a promise. You can have peace. You can have peace because he has already overcome the world. This is a victory that he freely offers to all of his followers.
Truth #2: You Can Choose Your Response
It’s easy to be at peace when your marriage is flowing smoothly, when your teenagers aren’t moody, and when your boss has a string of good days. But what about when those things aren’t happening? Is it still possible to be at peace even then?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. You can be at peace…but you must rest in the truth that only you can choose your response.
You can’t help it if your spouse is trying to pick a fight. What you can do is respond with a gentle answer to prevent the argument, as advised in Proverbs 15,
1“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
You can’t help it if your teenager is moody. What you can do is let them know that you’re here to listen when they’re ready, as mentioned in Galatians 6,
2“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) NLT
You can’t help it if your boss is having a bad day. What you can do is focus on doing the best you can to complete the tasks you were hired for, as Paul commanded in Colossians 3,
23“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)
When you focus on your response during a situation instead of what everyone else is saying and doing, you’ll be able to stay clear-headed and be at peace.
Truth #3: It Might Be Time for Change
This is a hard truth to swallow. But if you’re continually surrounded by chaos and uncertainty, it might be time to consider making different choices.
Maybe you’re in a marriage where your spouse is an alcoholic. Perhaps you’re living in a small home packed with clutter. Maybe you’re in a job you hate that drains you.
You can’t help the choices others are making—you can’t change your spouse or force them to stop drinking. What you can do is make choices that protect the interests of you and your children.
You may not be able to change the size of your home, but you can make different choices when it comes to the clutter. You may not be able to walk away from your job right now, but you can start building an online business that will allow you to have freedom one day.
Sometimes, God allows your circumstances to press in on you because he’s showing you there’s a new path he wants you to take. Sometimes, it’s difficult for you to see this in the middle of your chaos. It was the same way for the Israelites when God spoke to them.
18“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Accepting that God is leading you to a different path can bring up feelings of fear and worry about the future. That’s because even if you don’t like where you find yourself, there’s still a feeling of safety in what’s familiar.
Your marriage might be painful, but it’s a familiar pain, whereas the pain of separation, so your spouse can repent, is an unfamiliar pain. Your clutter might be making it difficult for you to live the life you’ve envisioned and minister to others, but it’s a familiar pain.
But as scary as change might be, you don’t have to be afraid. You have the assurance of God’s constant presence and faithful provision.
9“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Know the Difference Between Chaos & Toxic Environments
Sometimes, we can mistake a toxic environment for a chaotic one. That’s what happened to Deidre. She was an office worker in what she thought was simply a high-stress job.
But it wasn’t until she began seeing abusive traits in her boss—such as yelling at employees and berating them—that she began to understand it was a toxic environment.
It took her a few months to get everything in order, but Deidre was able to leave her job. She took another position in the same field but with a different company. Instantly, the change was like night and day.
She still had the stress from making sure her job was done correctly. But she wasn’t walking around on eggshells in front of her new supervisor, and her co-workers welcomed her with open arms.
What If It’s Toxic?
You might just assume that your marriage is going through a chaotic time, your job is stressful, or your life is disorganized right now. It is important to remember that stress and chaos often come in waves. This means there are lulls in between the stressful moments.
But if you’re constantly dealing with stress and chaos with no end in sight, you may be in a toxic environment. Maybe your spouse always yells at you, and you finally realize your marriage isn’t healthy. Perhaps your boss continually asks you to lie to clients, and you’re seeing that your workplace isn’t a healthy environment.
What If You Made a Plan?
It’s a good thing to leave a toxic situation. Some Christians believe that you should simply endure it under abusive or dysfunctional environments. But keep in mind that Jesus removed himself from an unhealthy situation.
The townspeople of Nazareth had plans to throw Jesus from a cliff. Yet look at his response in Luke 4.
30“But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:30)
There are numerous other situations where Jesus left because the environment he was in was unhealthy. He didn’t make a huge stand or cause a fuss. He simply left, knowing he wasn’t in God’s will.
Now, you can’t always leave a toxic situation the moment your eyes are opened. Maybe like the Israelites in Egypt, you are stuck and awaiting God’s rescue. While you can’t change your circumstances, you can begin to set up boundaries and limits to protect yourself.
Could you avoid that one co-worker who just likes to stir up drama by switching to a different lunch hour? Could you find free classes twice a week in the evenings to avoid being home when your spouse is most likely to get drunk and pick fights?
Looking at what you can do to protect yourself while you wait for God to open the right door can be helpful. It can give you a sense of peace and help you see solutions you may not have otherwise thought of.
What If It’s Just Regular Stress?
Perhaps you’re looking at your chaotic life and realizing it’s just normal, everyday stress. After all, you’re in the middle of moving halfway across the country. Naturally, things are going to be a bit stressful for a while.
Maybe you’re in the middle of remodeling your home, and you’re living back with your parents again; you can expect to feel a little more stressed than usual.
If it’s just regular stress, you can still focus on being at peace during this time. Staying peaceful may include doing activities that help you cope. Maybe you need to take a day off now and again, go for a walk in the park, or take up an old hobby that you used to enjoy.
Identifying which situations are the normal, stressful kind and which ones are genuinely toxic is important. If you find yourself in a toxic environment, don’t be afraid to be like Jesus and slip away from the crowd.
Soothe Yourself with Calming Activities
Peace is something God freely offers to all of His children. But sometimes, it can be challenging to be at peace. In these moments, it can be helpful to soothe yourself with calming activities. Here are a few you might find beneficial…
Knitting or Crocheting
These are both types of needlework that some people find very relaxing. You manage two needles to knit designs such as scarves, socks, and sweaters with knitting.
With crocheting, you manage a single hook to create similar designs. Some people find one activity easier than the other, so you may want to experiment to see which one works best for you.
You might find it relaxing to keep your hands busy by creating art. There are many types of art, including drawing, painting, and coloring. With these activities, you’ll be distracted from your circumstances by the tactile feel of objects in your hand, such as pencils, crayons, or paintbrushes.
You don’t have to be an artist to create art. Despite being a creative activity, art is really just a skill. Anyone can learn a skill at any time. You can find books that will teach you how to draw portraits, design comics, paint the sunset, and more by looking online.
If you have a low budget and need to save money, check at your local library. Many libraries have a section dedicated to the arts, including books filled with helpful tutorials.
Journaling or Writing
For some, the easiest way to be at peace is to simply pour out their feelings on a page. Maybe you like to journal, create fictional stories, or write out your memories. By putting your emotions into words, you release stress and anxiety.
Often, you’ll find that after writing, you may feel a sense of emptiness or even relief. This can be due to clearing out negative emotions and surrendering the things you can’t control.
Sometimes during difficult circumstances, the best thing you can do to calm your heart is simply to distract yourself. This can prevent you from overthinking your situation and doubting your ability to get through it.
The type of entertainment you enjoy could be reading a book, streaming a show on Netflix, listening to music, or playing a game.
With entertainment, be mindful of the content you choose to consume. Watching a show about the difficulties of single parenthood might be hard if you’re going through a messy divorce of your own and feeling especially low.
On the flip side, you may find comfort in knowing that you’re not the first or last parent to tackle the challenging task of raising kids on your own. It’s all about knowing where you are in your journey and understanding what you can handle right now.
Self-Care Can Soothe You
Another way to be at peace in the middle of the chaos is to choose self-care activities that soothe you. These don’t have to be expensive or complicated. You might find that some simple activities include taking a bubble bath, going for a run, or drinking a warm cup of herbal tea.
Keep in mind that you might need to switch up self-soothing activities from time to time. If you usually spend an hour reading before bed as your form of soothing, but lately, it’s not helping, try something else. Maybe experiment with adult coloring or knitting and see if one of those activities clears your head.
Be At Peace by Embracing Your Community
Sometimes, God sends you a beautiful community to walk with you during stress and chaos. The support of friends and family can remind you that God is holding onto you and working all things for your good (Romans 8:28).
Unfortunately, society makes it difficult to connect with those around you as you’re bombarded daily with notifications, reminders, and social networks all vying for your attention.
But it’s often in a community where we find the courage to face our darkest moments. That’s because the community can remind you that you’re not alone. You get a mood boost from spending time with others and a powerful outlet for expressing your emotions. Here are a few ways to embrace the community in your life…
When you cuddle, your body releases three powerful hormones: oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. Individually, these hormones can make you feel good, but they can give you a definite mood boost when combined.
And the best part? It doesn’t matter who you cuddle with. Whether you’re snuggling with your spouse, your kids, an elderly parent, or even a beloved pet, you can still get the benefits.
Talk with a Support Person
Think of someone in your life that’s always been there for you and reach out to them again. Take the time to open up and let them know what you’re going through. If they’ve been supportive in the past, they’ll want to support you again.
Date Your Friends
Make it a habit to regularly stay in touch with your friends by scheduling dates together. These can be fun things like shopping together, going to the movies, or grabbing a cup of coffee and gabbing.
But if you’re homebound or under lockdown, you might consider scheduling regular Skype or Zoom calls. It’s not quite the same as seeing your friends in person. But it does serve as a powerful reminder that you’re not alone.
Find A Christian Counselor
Sometimes when you’re going through a crisis or difficult situation, you realize that you just can’t cope on your own. You may need professional help, and that’s OK. No matter your situation, chances are there’s a Christian counselor specializing in your particular circumstance.
You might be reluctant to go to a counselor because you worry that it will be too expensive. If that’s the case, look for a therapist or counselor in your area that uses a “sliding scale payment.”
These Christian therapists will look at your financial situation and decide what to charge you. Even if you’re low-income, you may still have access to mental health services.
If you’re homebound or your area is still under lockdown, you can also try online therapy. These services allow you to connect with a Christian therapist online using a video session. These virtual visits may be covered based on your health insurance, just like in-person visits.
You Don’t Have to Suffer Alone
For some people, a crisis or chaotic situation can lead you to feel as if you’re alone in the world. But the truth is there are plenty of people around you who care about you. Although it may not seem like it, this can be the ideal time to build a community of people who love and support you.
The Peace from Presence
There are moments in life when finding peace feels nearly impossible. But staying in the presence of God is a surefire way to be at peace. Coming back to the throne room and remembering that God still reigns over all heaven and earth (Psalm 103:19) can soothe even the most troubled hearts.
Isaiah 26 reassures you of this truth,
3“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)
Keeping your thoughts fixed on God and your gaze heavenward is the only true way to be at peace.
Grace and peace,
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