When a Tree Falls on Your Car: Tips for Dealing with Unexpected Chaos
Sometimes life gets chaotic. It happens to all of us. Maybe you’re feeling crushed under the pressure of a new job. Maybe you’re trying to pack up all of your earthly belongings for a cross-country move. Maybe you’re in the first weeks of your freshman year of college. While these scenarios are chaotic, they are expected…you plan for the new job to be challenging, and you mentally prepare to live out of boxes for a few weeks, and you read books about being a college freshman.
But, there are times when you haven’t prepared for the chaos. There’s a sudden death in your family, or someone breaks into your house. Or maybe, just maybe…this is a long shot…a tree has fallen on your car and rendered it useless. Whatever the case may be, you have to choose how you will proceed.
Will you allow the chaos to crush you (the way the tree crushed the car), or will you see this chaos as an opportunity to draw closer to God?
Right now I’m working through the chaos of a tree-crushed car. There is a part of me that wants to curl up in a ball and just give up. I’m asking God, “Can’t life just be normal for a minute?!?” And He’s just sitting there…waiting on me to draw near. In case you’re going through unexpected chaos (or even expected chaos), here are some observations from my experience that might help you out.
Tell your community
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." -Galatians 6:2
This is something that I struggle with. I am not good with vulnerability — I like for everyone to believe that I can handle whatever is going on in my life. As a result, I often keep everything to myself. But God gives us community for a reason. Part of being a Christian is being surrounded by people who will lift you up when chaos threatens to weigh you down. Take advantage of that! I can’t tell you how wonderful it has been to have people offer me cars, rides, hugs and jokes. In so many subtle ways their love has lifted me up from the weight of this burden.
Ask for advice
"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." -Proverbs 11:14
Do you know what to do when a tree falls on your car? I sure didn’t…and no one really has experience with this type of incident. But in the midst of chaos, I wasn’t thinking clearly, so I needed someone to remind me to contact my insurance. When chaos suddenly strikes, it’s easy to forget the simple things like filing an insurance claim.
So, look at your community, and ask for suggestions. They may remind you to contact the authorities, file an insurance claim, or ask for a couple days off of work. They also may be able to direct you to someone who can provide even more support for your specific situation. Remember: there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Let go of new-found fears
"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’" -Romans 8:15
Often, fear descends upon our lives as a result of some sort of trauma. For example, I’m now slightly afraid of trees. But if I allow this fear to settle into my life, then it can limit me. I won’t go hiking. I won’t climb trees. I won’t go bird-watching (I currently engage in two of these activities….I’m not telling you which two). So, I have to acknowledge this fear and then let it go. Now, I realize that my tree situation is mild. There are fears that are much more legitimate and life-altering. However, God does not want us to live with any sort of fear. So whatever your situation may be, I would encourage you to lean into God and let go of that fear.
"Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools." -Ecclesiastes 7:9
It can be tempting to bottle up all of your frustrations or to channel that frustration onto an undeserving party. Have you had to deal with a car insurance company lately? It’s frustrating! However, I know that the voice at the other end of the phone line is not the responsible party. That voice is just doing its job to the best of its abilities. The frustration that wells up inside of me when I’m on the phone with them needs to be redirected. So, I start writing articles like this in the hopes that someone else can benefit from my chaos. As a result of putting all of these words on paper, I start to feel better.
If you feel your shoulders tightening up towards your ears and your jaw clenching, stop and think: “What can I do with this frustration?” Don’t let it out on an undeserving party…channel it into something worthwhile.
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13
Once the chaos descends, it can seem like you’re going to be stuck there forever. You need to get out at least for a moment. What’s going to help you relax? What’s going to take your mind off the current situation? Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve done a lot of rock climbing and a lot of baking. That’s how I de-stress. I’ve also spent a lot of time with friends who make me laugh and help me find the light in a dark situation. Wherever you can find a brief spot of joy, go there (Bible study and prayer are guaranteed stress relievers and joy givers!). Let yourself settle into that place for a few minutes before re-emerging to face the chaos one more time.
Moving forward, I pray — first of all — that you don’t experience an unexpectedly chaotic scenario. But should you encounter this sort of situation, I pray that you can lean into God and that the lessons I have learned can help you along the way. And if nothing else, remember: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).