I recently read, “Heart chaos is the result of a worship disorder, not circumstances”. You see, my world is anything but chaos free. A minister’s family with seven children ranging from age eleven all the way down to eighteen months, there is always some kind of busyness and noise. Sometimes just accomplishing dinner for that many people can be chaotic!
But it is more than just noise from the sheer amount of people living together in a small space. Sometimes there is unrest, bickering, clamoring, spitefulness, anger, frustration, irritation, and snapping at the smallest thing. And that’s just in my own heart! Now multiply that by eight more.
I have been praying for us to have a peaceful home for many years now. Given our circumstances, many would say that’s impossible. I would have agreed with them. But then I stumbled upon that quote. It isn’t my outward circumstances that cause me to feel chaotic; it is my own heart. If I want a peaceful home, it starts from the inside with a peaceful heart.
In the foreword to the book Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood, Elyse Fitzpatrick writes, “Heart chaos comes from thinking that all the goodness in my personal world depends on my getting my act together. Chaos is a worship disorder: it results from worship of myself, my abilities, my plans, me. It happens when I believe the lies that if I could just ‘try harder’ and ‘do better’ everything would be okay.”
What does all the chaos in my heart boil down to? Pride.
Lately, I have been trying to work through my own struggle with anxiety by studying scripture and reading other Christian books on the subject. I finally pinpointed what was causing my anxiety (which also likes to morph itself into its ugly cousins—self-loathing and depression). The thing that normally causes my anxiety is fear of failure. I would think about all of the things I had to do the next day or that morning and my heart would immediately start palpitating. I was afraid of all the things that could go wrong, namely, how I would fail.
If I can’t be up at the crack of dawn doing my Bible and prayer time before the kids awake, I’m failing at being an exemplary Christian mom and pastor’s wife.
If I can’t fix a homemade, healthy breakfast every morning (or have one already prepared from a stockpile of freezer meals), then I’m failing as a homemaker.
If I can’t start off the morning like Sleeping Beauty singing to all her animals as the kids flock around me, then I’m failing as a loving mom.
If I can’t get our kids to do their chores without a fight, then I’m failing as a leader.
If I can’t get them to sit down and listen to our Bible lesson, or start their schoolwork, or manage the toddler tearing up the preschoolers’ activity while I tried to teach the first grader how to read and field questions from the older kids, I’m failing as a teacher.
If I discipline my children in anger, or provoke them, or yell at them when they are having a fit instead of loving them, I’m failing at being a good Christian parent.
If it all feels like too much and out of my control, then I’m failing all around.
But I couldn’t figure out why I was afraid to fail. Until I realized the common denominator: All of the sentences above have one important thing in common. The word “I”.
If I can’t boast in myself, I feel like I am failing. Pride.
If I feel like I’m failing, then I start to loathe myself. Pride.
If I start to loathe myself, then I slip into despair that I’m never going to get myself out of this hole. Pride.
An article from The Journal of Biblical Counseling stated it this way:
“Even self-belittling tendencies, low self-esteem, self-pity, self-hatred, timidity, fearfulness, diffidence, fears of failure and rejection fundamentally express pride failing, pride intimidated, and pride despairing.”
When my abilities fail me, my pride starts to get intimidated. “What if I’m not good enough?”
When I can’t pull myself up by my own bootstraps my pride starts to get fearful. “What if I can’t handle this?”
When I feel my autonomy and self-worship are in jeopardy and I might get knocked off my own pedestal, then my pride starts to despair. Call it “pride-pity”. Now I am depressed. I’ve gotten myself into this funk and I can’t get myself out.
I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. Mankind’s fundamental problem ever since the Garden is wanting to be our own god. We have always been afraid to let someone else be in control and call the shots. If you are human, then this will resonate with you. So how can we deal with our fear biblically?
Our bodies’ natural response to fearful situations is “fight or flight”. We either fight the fearful thing or we run from it. When we are fearful of losing our “golden” status in our own hearts and minds, a chaotic, noisy heart only makes sense. When our abilities or our plans fail us, we panic, despair, or get angry. We are either raging inside to regain control of the throne or raging at others who threaten our sense of control (fight), or we feel things spinning out of our control and want to run and hide in avoidance (flight).
So how can we get a peaceful and quiet heart?
We’ve already learned that a quiet heart does not come from a change in circumstances or being removed from them, as in “if these kids would just behave better!” or “if I just didn’t have to be around them all day long!”
Heart chaos is a worship disorder.
We must realize that our desires are not of utmost importance; instead, it’s our willingness to bend our knees to the Father, trusting that He will always give us what we need. We must pray for a heart that wants what God wants, and then our desires will be fulfilled and satisfied, but only in him (Psalm 37:4).
We must realize that we are not actually the ones in control. God is. Our perfect plans are not the end all be all of existence, neither are they perfect. God’s are (Isaiah 55:8-9).
We must realize that our strength is not what gets us through the trials of the day. We are actually pretty weak. Like the apostle Paul, we have to learn to be content with our weaknesses and even boast of them (that sounds crazy!!) so that the power of Christ may rest on us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
And we must realize that a peaceful heart is one that is steadfast. To be steadfast means to be resolutely firm, unwavering, not easily stirred up. Think of calm waters without a ripple or a wave even though they are surrounded by a tumultuous storm. Or think of a man asleep on a boat in the midst of a tempest (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus was able to sleep on the boat because he had power over the wind and the waves. We do not.
Instead of worshipping ourselves, we must submit our chaotic, clamoring, frantic, angry, and proud hearts to worship to the only One who has the power to command “Peace, be still!” We must exalt the One who will be exalted among the nations and we must, like the psalmist says, tell our tumultuous hearts to “Be still, and know” that He is God (Psalm 46:10). And we are not.