Do you remember the “All the Things” Meme? I may be showing how uncool I am, as Memes have given way to GIFs in popularity. Alas, “All the Things” is me, except I’m “All the Feelings.” Seriously, the readers that know me right now are nodding along. I may be happy, annoyed, overwhelmed. excited, and scared all by the same opportunity.
The thing is, when I feel all the feelings, I’m focused on me, me, me. When someone insults me or hurts my pride and I spend hours obsessing over what I should have said or what I will say the next time I see them, I’m focused on me. When the roar of politics makes me feel like the world is crashing, I’m focused on me. When the everyday decisions of life leave me completely overwhelmed, I’m focused on me. When my kid’s meltdown makes me meltdown, I’m focused on me.
How do I shift my focus when I am overwhelmed?
Now, one of the best things that I can do when I’m feeling all the feelings is to read the Old Testament. You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? No, I’m not kidding. I’m completely serious. Most people turn to the New Testament for comforting words, or if they turn to the Old Testament, maybe Psalms. Personally, David can be a bit dramatic for me (insert irony here). When I am focused on how someone has slighted me and all the ways I could respond or not (silent treatment), there is no better pick me up than say…. 1 or 2 Kings.
You must think I am crazy but hang in there. See, The Old Testament is a fascinating narrative of God’s hand on His chosen people… except when it’s not. Not fascinating at least. Right? You know the passages I’m talking about? The long, and admittedly, dry so and so became king when he was 32 and reigned for 40 years and then he died… and that goes on for a while with occasional nuggets of intrigue. I by no means intend to belittle the study of scripture here, but rather to encourage it; I do want to recognize that sometimes reading the Bible doesn’t feel exciting. It is those unexciting passages that are RIPE fruit waiting for us to pay attention.
I recently wrapped up reading through Kings and Chronicles (which reads like a repeat of Kings). There were times that my eyes and mind struggled to keep track of my place on the page, but it was the perfect quarantine reading. Why? In the midst of my chaos, I need the perspective only Biblical history can provide. Through the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms, God is God. He is not frightened or surprised. Worldly catastrophe does not compromise God’s plan, in fact, often it is part of God’s plan.
But what about 2020?
2020 has brought more turmoil than is “normal” for most of us. Raging forest fires. The death of celebrated figures. Terrible tornadoes. Covid-19. Looming elections. Racial inequities. Economic devastation, Murders. Protests. If can be so overwhelming when we look at the wreckage of “normal” scattered around us.
But as Christians, we are called not to focus on the things of this world, rather, to fix our gaze on Christ Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). This is not God’s first pandemic. It’s not his first presidential election or unwieldy political regime. He’s in control if the Supreme Court swings the “wrong” way or if natural disasters strike. He’s God whether we live in a democratic republic, communist dictatorship, or full-on anarchy.
And when we look at the world through the lens of the Bible, we remember that these events are not happening to God. He’s not part of the audience; He’s the author of eternity. His narrative doesn’t go on despite these things, it goes on through these things. He causes the rise and fall of nations, and sometimes his purposes are not immediately evident or even evident for hundreds of years. His chosen people were exiled repeatedly and persecuted relentlessly; why do we think we get a free pass?
When suffering, chaos, and big emotions overwhelm me, the knowledge that this life is not about me is like a balm to my wounds. It sounds like the least comforting thought possible, but it calms me in the deepest turmoil. It is as if God takes me to the top of the highest mountain to give perspective on all the beauty or turmoil around me. God’s plan is bigger than my suffering. He absolutely loves me and knows me individually and, at the same time, His narrative spans thousands of years and billions of lives. When my feelings will pass. My bad day will be forgotten. When bad things happen, they are not happenstance. God’s word reminds me that I am squarely in the middle of a narrative he is writing – and that’s He’s done this before.
So when you start to feel all the things, stop and read all the things so you can remember all the things.