Overwhelmed by Chaos

February 28, 2020 by Beth A. Richardson

One evening last week I hit a state of maximum overwhelmedness. The months and months of news about fires in Australia and the spread of the coronavirus, chaos in national and world politics, the crisis in The United Methodist Church, the wounds that we human beings inflict on each other … all this finally got to me at a deeper level. I had the feeling that I just couldn’t stand one more story of disaster, hatred, or dysfunction. I had arrived at incapacity. 

It happened that I was at Camp Sumatanga for a session of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. There was no way for me to (figuratively or literally) pull the covers over my head and withdraw from the world. I had to get to sleep so that I could lead morning prayer. I woke up, had my cup of coffee, lit the candles in the worship space, and waited in silence for the community to gather.

As we said our morning prayer from The Upper Room Worshipbook, these words jumped out at me: “All day long you are working for good in the world.”* 

I heard myself ask these questions. “God, where are you? Where is this good that you are working for? I’m just not seeing it. And I’m kind of irritated at you!” 

Later in the day, more words came. “Wow, how presumptuous of me … expecting that God would show me the good that God is doing in the world. Just because I can’t see it …” 

By the end of the week I had arrived at some sort of tentative trust and an understanding that I am worn down and afraid. “This world is so broken. I’m broken, too. Are we going to make it? Holy One, I want to be able to trust in you. Give me faith.”

The news is not any better today. The 24/7 news cycle continues to generate stories of overwhelming brokenness. And, yet, we walk through this day, accompanied by a God who desires wholeness and healing for all creation. When we are overwhelmed by brokenness – the world’s and our own – we can trust in a God who sits with us when we are afraid, who weeps with us when we cry, who mends the broken places and peoples of the world. We can have faith in a God of hope, a God of Shalom.

Friends, I invite you to use this prayer as the prayer of your heart, your breath prayer, your statement of faith: “Loving God, all day long, you are working for good in the world. Amen.”

Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel.

*A Liturgy for Morning Prayer, Upper Room WorshipbookReprinted by permission from the Book of Common Worship, © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.

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