Mr. Mayhem's sardonic grin riles us because he has caught us unprepared, perhaps again. Yes, we have scheduling devices, reminder alarms, text and messaging systems, Post It notes, and strings tied around our fingers. Even so, the fire alarms will blast us awake at 2:00 a.m. and there wont be a 9 volt battery in the house. Or, the sound you hear turns out to be the burst water pipe under the sink that's been dripping for several weeks now. Or, that little red thingy on the instrument panel is below E when the car sputters to a stop out in the middle of nowhere. Or, the mobile phone is dead when you try to call for help. You get the picture. Mayhem happens.
OK, I know mayhem is not a person. As previously mentioned mayhem, that is, the unexpected, can create disorder and chaos in this life. One of the questions often asked when mayhem visits is. "Why didn't I see this coming?" With a shake of the head we're wondering how we were caught off guard by this set of circumstances. And, the truth is that we can hardly be prepared for everything. Yes, the Apostle Paul counseled his younger colleague Timothy to "be ready in season and out of season" (see 2 Timothy 4:2, ESV). Further, we know Paul wasn't referencing the four seasons---fall, winter, spring, summer---in his advice. He used words that are more accurately translated as good times and bad times (eukairos and akairos), perhaps opportune and inopportune times. The context of Paul's words is more about Timothy's pastoral duties---preaching, teaching, correcting, and guiding those entrusted to his spiritual care. Still, the idea of being ready for the unexpected challenges of life is a strong biblical theme.
Truly, however, God has not revealed everything to us. In some strange times Deuteronomy 29: 29 gives me peace and understanding---
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to
us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29: 29, ESV
Since we cannot predict the future and know what is coming down the road, it is impossible to anticipate and prepare for every eventuality. That is why readiness is more about knowing what to do when mayhem strikes than preventing or avoiding it. Being ready for mayhem should be an auto setting that guides us in any time of affliction, hardship, disorder, or even grief. We do live in a broken world and there is an adversary who crouches at our door (see Genesis 4:7) seeking to devour us (see
1 Peter 5:8). The discipline of readiness gives us hope and assurance when mayhem brings uncertainty to our lives. This discipline can involve these actions---
1. Look and listen up.
It is incredible how circumstances can rivet our attention. King David knew about hard times and the tendency of humans to be captured by them. He prayed, "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in your ways" (Psalm 119:37, ESV). He also wrote earlier about listening to God: "Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways" (Psalm 81:13, ESV). Our spiritual discipline should shift our eyes and ears upward when trouble comes so that God's provision and promises override the alluring power of our critical moments.
2. Retrieve his word from your storage compartment.
Our mother hid God's word in her heart and taught her children to do so as well. In our device driven world memorizing Scripture isn't a spiritual discipline practiced by many people. But, once again, King David revealed his spiritual discipline facing many trials and difficulties when he wrote, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11, ESV). When mayhem throws disorder and chaos into our lives we need more than platitudes and pop psychology to guide us through. The truth of Scripture gives us hope and certainty when things don't make sense. Store it up. Retrieve it when mayhem strikes.
3. Wait on the Lord. Human impatience often rules our darkest hours. We want relief or solutions like now. Waiting on the Lord is another of those consistent Bible themes that circumstances will overshadow when our human systems are dominating life. There are hundreds of Bible verses about the joys and relief when we learn the discipline of waiting. My two favorites are Isaiah 40: 31(ESV), "...but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles", and 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV), "Humble yourselves therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time". Waiting for that due time is hard but is always a blessing.
4. Seek counsel and advice.
Scroll through the Proverbs and note the number of times Solomon directed his readers to seek spiritual counsel when troubling times invade their lives. There are too many to list her, but one favorite is Proverbs 19:20 (ESV), "Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future". The wise voice of experience is often a sure guide through life storms when that person is spiritually grounded. Seek someone out when mayhem arrives.
So, leave it to James to give us a final note of reality. Remember, up until the resurrection of Jesus, James was a scoffer and an unbeliever. After the resurrection Jesus appeared to James and everything changed for him. In his Epistle, he wrote, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22, ESV). All of the above are valued truths of Scripture whether we're obedient to them or not. But, they're not going to guide us through mayhem if we are unwilling to obey.
Mayhem is real in our broken world. It can disrupt our lives in many ways. Knowing what to do when mayhem strikes will introduce some truthful discipline into the chaos, and give us hope and assurance as we move past it.