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A Pastor’s Reflections: Sanity in the Swarm of Gnats

December 12, 2017


In my college days, I used to play in my church’s softball league. I had a lot of fun playing softball with my fellow teammates. In fact, I played in the fall, spring, and summer leagues—almost year-round. But my least favorite season to play was summer. It wasn’t the hot, muggy, Georgia nights that bothered me, it was the summer gnats. There were some nights when I’d stand in the outfield looking like a madman—continually swatting the swarm of gnats away from my face. We found a little relief from the gnats by holding our glove hand over our heads. For some reason, the gnats were drawn to the glove and away from our faces. But as I’ve thought about those hot summer nights, they’ve made me think of struggles in life.

For the most part, I believe I have lived a very peaceful life with little-to-no suffering in my life. At the same time, there have been periods in my life where seemingly small and insignificant things begin to pile up: a bad head cold, a jury summons notice, a flat tire, one or two mildly ill children, an unexpectedly high utility bill, a number of restless nights with poor sleep, and the like. Taken by themselves, they are relatively small and minor things. Like an individual gnat, you can handle these things. But when all of these things pile up in a period of two or three weeks, it begins to feel like that swarm of gnats swirling about your face! It’s enough to drive you crazy. So, what’s a person to do?

I think in the midst of this type of chaos, there are two things you should consider. First, there are common sense things. If you’re suffering from health ailments, do what you can to address them: take medication, get as much rest as you can, drink fluids, go see the doctor, etc. If there are things piling up on your schedule, do what you can in terms of planning, organizing, and scheduling so that your responsibilities don’t overwhelm you. When it comes to this swarm of gnats, try to take one thing at a time. Even though you might have ten things on your to-do list, you can typically only do one thing at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Do what you can, if possible, to get help. Ask family, friends, and those around you to lend a helping hand, if they can.

Second, and I think this is the most important—ensure that you’re doing everything you can to partake of the means of grace: word, sacrament, and prayer. If you’re feeling physically stressed out, one of the best things you can do is stop, take a few deep breaths, and re-orient yourself. A parallel to this is to breath in the air of the new heavens and earth. Fix the eyes of your faith on Christ, listen to his word, and ask him in prayer to fill you with a sense of peace in the midst of the storm. As you pray for peace, also take a moment to take inventory of your life. This is something you can do in prayer as you give thanks for all of the blessings in your life or even when you’re driving in the car to your next appointment. As you think of the challenges that you face, think about others that you know who are suffering—those who have serious life-threatening illnesses or who are in the midst of persecution for their faith—and pray for them. As you pray for those whose suffering is great, it’ll provide perspective on your own situation and make you realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

In the end, I don’t want to minimize the stress and chaos that often engulfs us. Seemingly small and insignificant things can pile up and swarm us until it seems as if we’ll go crazy. Use common sense to order your life, but ultimately seek to put everything in perspective through seeking Christ through prayer.