The world is full of chaos and at times it seems out of control. Too often we think that our era is the worst, but in reality every era has been bad.  Sixty years ago we had separate places for blacks and whites.  We incarcerated Japanese people out of fear.  Our world before that was completely at war.  Not a single place anyone could flee to, that was safe.  We held drills in America for the potential of an atomic holocaust.  If you think about it you can find that our world has never been “okay.”  If you want to see something interesting Google search wars throughout history.  There has never been a time that our world was not at war with someone.  As Matthew says, there will be wars and rumors of war, but do not be afraid.  And that my friend is the affect of Satan released into this world.  We are not evolving into a better species; we are just different people enduring the same kind of stuff.   So what do we do?

Right now those of us who are football enthusiasts are taking in the final games of the season.  The next time you watch football look at what the line does with their hands when they pass block.  They put their hands out and hold the defensive lineman away.  To allow them to get in close would mean the defensive lineman could control, move and manipulate them.  I use this analogy often because it is the best way to deal with the chaos of this world, and the reason why we get controlled and moved around.  Maybe for you it’s a difficult family member or friend.  Maybe you’ve felt betrayed and wronged.  Don’t let it in!  Don’t let it hit you in the chest i.e. your heart.  People are sinful and will do sinful things.  People hurt others knowing and unknowingly for a variety of reasons.  Some have been hurt so much they lash out at anyone.  Some are afraid and keep closed up.  Some of our problems today come because we either feel too much or too little.  Balance comes when we hold that thing that controls us at arm’s length.  It is the skill of “empathy.”  My psychology professor had a great analogy for this.  He said; imagine quicksand with a person crying for help out in the middle.  Sympathy is you jumping in with them and now you both are drowning, but it feels good sharing.  Apathy is standing on the land and yelling in instructions for how they can get out.  Knowing the more we struggle the worse it gets.  Maybe you have had a person be apathetic to your needs.  Great advice, but how do you execute it if you’re hurting?  And finally there is empathy.  It is reaching in with one hand while you keep your other hand on a branch.  Keeping people, problems, and chaos at arm’s length is the only way we can find our way through the chaos.  One author said, “compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity to feel what it’s like to live inside of someone else’s sin.”  That is good, providing we don’t put their skin on us.  I can empathize without becoming their pain too.

If you are going through something right now, you’re probably saying that sounds good but how do I do it?  How do I keep problems at arm’s length so they don’t hit me in the chest?

First, look at whatever it is honestly for what it truly is.  If you have someone with psychological problems there is only so much you can do.  If you have financial problems, you take one step at a time to crawl out.  Looking honestly at the problem is holding onto a branch.  It secures you to reality and not the feeling of swimming in soup.  In the movie Twister Helen Hunt was in a truck on a thin road between two bodies of water.  A twister came and she pointed saying, “there’s a cow!”  A few seconds later, “there’s another cow.”  The guy in the truck with her said, “No honey I think that was the same cow.”  Ever feel like the same issues or problems just keep coming around?  It stops when we see it for what it is and plan a realistic step by step path out, keeping it at arm’s length.  To take this to the extreme, even in finding out you have cancer, it is usually a long road to the final diagnosis.  We hold our fears at arm’s length and look at it for what it is.  It’s a mass and they don’t know anything about it yet, so we wait and hold fear and being assured we are dying at arm’s length.  Easily said I know, which is why we daily call on strength from our Lord and Savior who empathizes with our hurt and pain.

Second, the art of keeping it at arm’s length requires us to be able to get help.  That help comes from knowing that God has you.  Having been extremely poor and now doing very well I know how far down I can get and still be okay.  I’ve never thought I’d EVER stand in a food line, or need help, but I found that I can actually get that low and still be okay.  God would perform amazing miracles.  One Christmas when we had nothing, not even a tree, a farm boy pulled up out front and asked if we needed a Christmas tree and food.  He said he and his family cut down a few trees every year and take them to people they think might be in need.  It is that kind of experience that gives us comfort in the hard times.  Even if I lose my house and job, I can survive.  God may change my life, move me to some place different, or feed me where I am at, if that be his will.  Sometimes we may refuse to move until all is taken away, only to find out later that where we ended up was a necessary part of God’s plan.

Chaos in this world is a reality.  As long as Satan exists there will be chaos.  Revelation speaks of Satan and when he is in the water the water trembles, there is chaos, but when Christ is in the water it is a glassy sea.  Christ wants to give us a glassy sea, if we only trust in him.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be struggle!  His glassy sea is that we trust in him through the storm.   Hold those things that would destroy you at arm’s length.  Look at whatever is bothering you honestly for what it is and come to understand “why” it is the way it is.  Change what you can and accept what you can’t.  Never jump into the quicksand of someone else’s chaos.  Above all trust that this too will pass and there will be calm seas ahead, we merely need to trust in the one who can calm the seas.

So as you watch the games note how the linemen hold the opposing force at arm’s length, and then, through the power of prayer and trust in God, you act.  And when you don’t know which way God wants you to move, scripture says, God will make that known to you too.  God is the Master Craftsmen and I am a work in progress!  And may the peace which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.