Overwhelmed. We’ve all felt it. Whether it be with school, work, kids, chores, or feelings! I know I use overwhelmed to describe how I feel quite often, especially being quarantined with a two-year-old and ten-month-old while trying to support my husband with a new church plant and find any time to.. paint my nails? I wouldn’t know what to do with time by myself! Although “I feel overwhelmed” can be a common phrase, what does it really mean?
One definition is “to overcome completely in mind or feeling.” Overwhelm can also be interchangeable with anxiety or worry. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or worried is not a sin, but our reactions to our feelings can be sinful. I know when I feel overwhelmed, I just want to sit down, shut everything off, and cry. Anyone else? Or maybe you’re more prone to anger. When too much is going on, you feel the urge to yell or throw something? You’re not alone. We all know what it is to be overwhelmed.
Thankfully, scripture gives us insight on how to confront feelings of being overwhelmed. We are called to fight our feelings of overwhelmingness with reliance on Jesus.(Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 40:31, Matthew 11:28-30). Relying on Jesus is casting our worries and burdens on Him because He cares for us. Relying on Jesus is looking to the One who gave His life in order for us to know Him and have life through Him. Relying on Jesus is remembering that “from Him, through Him and for Him are all things.” (Romans 11:36) We rely on God for our daily bread, our hope, and our salvation.
But what does it look like to rely on Jesus?
We do not see and touch Jesus like the disciples did, so how do we bring our troubles before Jesus and receive His help? We can look to God’s word to see how Jesus tells and shows His disciples and followers to handle being overwhelmed. Three ways we can see are by praying and thanking God, using what you have, and remembering the gospel.
Praying and Thanking God
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)
God knows what we need and like any loving father, wants to give us good things. In Matthew, Jesus asks us to seek Him instead of the material things, and He will provide for our needs. Despite knowing this, I can feel anxious about many things. During the times of a global pandemic, we have even more things to worry about. What if my family or I get sick? When will I get to see people again? Are my kids missing out on their childhood? When will I go back to work or what if I lose my job? God may not give us the answers to these questions now, but we can pray for the peace and wisdom to go through any situation. Like Moses in the desert, He will lead us daily and give us each day our “daily bread”.
Many times during the week, and sometimes even the day, I feel overcome with discouragement or frustration. I literally just close my eyes and pray, “God, help me”, with all sincerity. I can look around, at my husband, kids, friends, house or activities and wonder if I’m enough. Am I loving my family and friends well? Do I talk to friends about Jesus in a meaningful way? I will not be able to shoulder all my burdens or fears without being overwhelmed by the pressure. Instead, we can pray and place our burdens in God’s hands, and He will give us the peace that surpasses our understanding.
While it is hard to “get rid of” our overwhelming feelings, we can grow over time as we practice the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). We can give Jesus our feelings, worries, fears, and know that He will be enough. Similarly to the way I am always close to my two-year-old who needs my help, we can always call on and pray to our Heavenly Father who is our ever present help. He doesn’t even need sleep like we do! When we are overwhelmed, we can talk to Him. Praying to God humbles our heart into reliance on Him who provides for us in our inadequacy.
Use what you have.
“Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”Matthew 14:16-20
Can you imagine this scene? The disciples feel overwhelmed by Jesus’ request to feed the people because they feel inadequate. By every standard, this food is not enough. Nevertheless, Jesus thanks God and the food multiplies and nourishes the 5,000 men plus women and children. This is a miracle that we do not expect to see often, but what can we glean from the way Jesus handles an overwhelming situation? We can thank God and He makes what we have enough.
We may feel overwhelmed with big things like the state of the country, injustice, sickness, hunger, or smaller, personal things like paying bills, family relationships, work, and so on. When you do not know what to do in overwhelming scenarios, use what you have.
You may not have much down time, but do you have five to ten minutes? You can use that time to talk to God, encourage a friend, or read the Bible. God can use even these small things to grow us and show His love to us or others. Do you have a home or apartment? Invite others over (with masks for now). My family recently moved to a house in the neighborhood where we are planting a church. Now, the house is not large by any means. It is not fancy or even well decorated, but no one expects or even wants you to have a Pinterest-perfect home or life before inviting them in. Beckon others to show their true selves, flaws and all, like you show yours.
Thank God for what you have – the short time, imperfect home, less than perfect talent or ability, and let Jesus use our little “somethings” to make beautiful things.
Remember the Gospel
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
Jesus describes His death, the grief the disciples will have and the joy that will come when they see Him again. They may be overwhelmed at Jesus’ foreshadowed death, but Jesus tells them to take heart because in His resurrection, He is victorious over all things. When we rely on Jesus in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, we are putting our trust in Him to take our inadequacy and make it adequate. Jesus Himself is our adequacy, and He says that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, gladly bring your weakness to Him instead of striving to do better in your own power.
Every day, I am face to face with my weaknesses when I see that I do not have enough time, patience, money, ability. Thankfully, we can look to the one who has all things. God knew we could not make our way to Him. We can never do enough righteous things to be in right standing with God. Therefore, He took our inadequacy, our sin, and our worst shortcomings, on the cross. He died the death we deserved and resurrected in order to bring us into His family and relationship with Him. What is more overwhelming than striving to do our “best” in order to tip the scales in our favor and earn God’s love? To our relief, we cannot earn God’s love through works. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” If you believe in Jesus, you are brought into His family, not as a result of anything you have done or can do, but because of Jesus alone. All I can say is, “Thank you, God!”
So how are you feeling today? Tired? Overworked? Barely keeping your head above water? Or maybe right now you’re taking things slow and steady, but there have been past seasons of feeling overwhelmed. We all go through the feelings of inadequacy and overwhelmingness. These feelings can either make us want to keep striving until we exhaust ourselves, or lean into God. Leaning into God can look like praying, using what we have to love God and others, and remembering the good news of the gospel. The gospel shows us that we are not enough, we are not perfect, and can not be good enough on our own to please God. This is overwhelmingly good news because Jesus frees us from the pressure to be good enough. Freedom comes when we see that Jesus takes our sin and gives us His perfection, His righteousness, and His life. Dwell on the overwhelming love of Christ for you; not as a result of your works, but as a gift of grace.