She walks into the classroom, feeling herself engulfed by the demands of the course. He buckles under the weight of increasing duties at work. The swirling storm of life pulls him under as he struggles to balance all his responsibilities. She feels as though she's drowning amidst the responsibilities, expectations, and consequences coming at her from all sides. Anxiety sets in. Fear rises up.
All around, people are yelling and screaming, fighting with one another. Wars rage, disaster strikes, families struggle to get by, government digs in its heels. The lines between right and wrong, good ad bad are blurred. Sensory overload washes over us in the form of smartphones, television, music, social media, Netflix, and video games.
It seems that chaos reigns.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:35-41, ESV)
Chaos arose on the sea of Galilee. A windstorm broke out and water crashed into the disciples' boat, threatening to drown them. In the midst of the chaos, they turned to Jesus and cried out for him to help. He woke from his latest effort to get some rest (thwarted like the others by ministry demands) and uttered three simple words: Peace! Be still! The storm ceased and the water became calm. And the disciples in fearful wonder whispered amongst themselves, trying to figure out just who this man was that made the wind and the sea to obey him.
There are times, especially during the university years, when students can uniquely feel the chaos of life in this broken world. The chaos of sudden change, new opportunities and challenges, loneliness, and the fear of the unknown; not to mention coursework and jobs. Balance and order is crucial, but can quickly fall to pieces and spin out of control. Similarly, the pressures of academic life, with its departmental meetings, research, teaching, and publishing expectations, as well as helicopter parents, student complaints, and family responsibilities, can wreak havoc on faculty members.
The university presents itself as a place of peace, order, and excitement. However, because the icy fingers of sin and depravity have also touch this institution, it is frequently a place of chaos, disorder, and despair. So while hopes may run high, expectations can run even higher, and, as a result, wellness centers and counseling services are overrun. Chaos seems to reign.
Yet, just as he did on the sea of Galilee, the true King, Jesus Christ, continues to work. In the midst of the storm, he brought a calm upon the water. In the midst of his suffering and death on the cross, he brought forgiveness and reconciliation. And in the midst of our chaotic lives, he continues to work, extending his peace to us. It comes in the form of reminders and promises from Scripture (John 6:39, John 14:27, Romans 8:28, 38-39, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 1:6), in the refuge of the local church and other saints on the Way with us, and through the Spirit's ongoing work in our hearts and minds, comforting us and applying to us the redemption accomplished by our Lord and Savior. Not only this, but he is at work in the world, redeeming all things from the chaos at work, using people like you and me to be his ambassadors of peace and reconciliation in our communities, the workplaces, and institutions like the university.
This is a good time to read and reflect on these truths. To prepare in advance for the chaos to come with the semester still two months away.
So take heart students. Take heart faculty. Take a deep breath of the life that comes through Christ and find your rest in him. Remember that he is king; he is peace; and he is hope. And live, work, and play, knowing that he is at work--within you and our world--for His good pleasure and for our good, even (and especially so) in the midst of chaos.