What can or should we do when we become overwhelmed?
It seems like life itself is overwhelming. Almost like the very nature of life is to weigh humans down. We ultimately know that is not the case because God created us and gave us life so that we could experience fullness and abundance from Him, but our feelings many times tell us there is no hope.
The circumstances of life multiply and, like trying to swat at gnats swirling from every side, it’s as if our efforts are futile, and there is no hope of getting away. We know we can’t stand there and do nothing; we have to try to walk or run away or swat away as many gnats as we can from our faces, but are all our efforts in vain?
Is life bound to be a futile effort of swatting at gnats or a blowing into the wind?
Or can it be different? Can it be something more?
Let’s take a quick moment and address four reasons why life is overwhelming:
There are just too many things going on simultaneously, too many voices clamoring for attention, too many choices and too many fires to put out.
The pain is unbearable, the pain is relentless, the pain seems like a constant companion and there is no end in sight.
Unpleasant, bitter, broken memories of the past keep echoing through our minds and hearts stealing any possibility that this moment can be fully experienced and enjoyed.
The guilt and shame of our own mistakes, sin, and failures seem like a cloud of doom which will not only envelope us but will surely suffocate the breath and life out of us, leaving us with nothing but a hollowed-out shell with no life, no meaning, and no fulfillment.
I know of course that there could be other reasons why you are overwhelmed, but these four seem prolific in my life and according to what I see and hear from those around me.
So, how indeed can we keep from suffocating under the avalanche of too much and/or the harsh and unyielding pain and/or the resounding noise of past trauma and/or the crushing load of guilt and shame?
Let me give you four suggestions:
If there are just too many things, voices, choices, and crises:
Stop everything. Get into a quiet place, turn off your phone and simply kneel or lay in prayer before the Lord. Let me clarify what I mean by prayer: in this situation, I don’t mean filling the time and space with your words, concerns, and complaints but instead simply waiting in complete silence before the Lord with the simple prayer, coordinated with your heartbeat and/or breathing: “Lord, help… Lord, help… Lord, help.” And don’t be in a hurry to hear something or have a mental epiphany. Let there be silence, go slow, and wait; God makes all things beautiful in His time.
If the pain is like unending torture in your body, mind, or spirit:
The most important thing is to find the root cause. Treating the symptoms or simply covering up the pain will not ultimately help. Find a doctor, a counselor, and/or a pastor to help with the pain in your body, heart, mind, and spirit. Track your pain and what causes it to flare up. With prayer and wise counsel, try and connect the dots to determine what triggers the pain, and then carefully follow the treatment plan. It’s not enough to know what is causing the pain; do the difficult and disciplined work of changing patterns of behavior or circumstances, etc. that are consistently trying to shipwreck your health.
If the past is like a broken record:
Pray and then try and practice a type of “temporary amnesia.” Consider how you might respond to this situation if you didn’t have any past experiences (positive or negative) with said situation. Try and look at the present moment as an adventure to be had and the possibility that you are getting ready to receive a moment full of delectable tastes, soothing sounds, majestic views, and satisfying/uplifting experiences. If you had no past experience to compare it to, let us consider the possibility that this forthcoming moment could be a gift from God for our joy or comfort or growth.
If guilt and shame are smothering and suffocating you:
Remember that guilt can be a tool from God to lead you away from painful, sinful, and unhealthy behaviors and that shame is most often a weapon utilized by Satan to try to accuse, condemn, steal, kill, and destroy. The answer to both shame and guilt is found in the gospel and person of Jesus who will take our burdens, forgive our sin, cleanse us from unrighteousness, and remove any decrees or accusations against us. Jesus disarms all of our enemies and sets us free. We can receive this freedom as we pray and confess, giving thanks and praise to the One who loves us, died for us, and saves us, as we walk in His holy ways, instead of in the ways of darkness.
Remember in all these things to look at situations and people like Jesus does (with a heart and eyes full of love, desiring the Father’s glory and redemption for all creation). Also, remember to believe whatever God says about us personally and accept His conviction, promises, warnings, and commands. Though we are often looking for quick and easy answers, let’s learn to wait upon the Lord. We must always remember that God is who He says He is, and He does what He says He will do. We are who God says we are, and we can do what God says we can do.
These few brief words that I have given you today may not serve as an end to the crushing weight and overwhelming oppression that you feel in life, but what I hope my words will do is point you to Jesus and His words, the Bible! And then to the prayer room and to Godly professional helpers so that in partnership with God’s people you can be lifted up, set free, and made new. Then you can live each moment in joy and peace and fulfillment in and with Jesus Christ, our friend and our Savior, as you share the hope with those around you!