Overwhelmed? Yes, by the Power of God
"I'm overwhelmed. I just can't handle this anymore. There's too much to do. I wish I could crawl away, go to sleep, disappear." How often have we felt this way -- hopeless, powerless, swamped, depressed? Too often!
You know, when we say that we're overwhelmed, we're really believing in some pretty negative things:
- We are feeling a false sense of responsibility and are acting pretty egotistically by taking on burdens that might not be ours and thinking that we have to handle our own problems.
- We're believing that God really isn't in control of our lives.
- We're admitting that there's a problem that's too big for God to handle.
But do we really want to take God out of the solution?
We don't have to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by these destructive and deadening feelings. We don't have to give up our sanity, peace, and health to accomplish what needs to get done. We don't have to be crushed by a tremendous sense of burden. There is a way out.
Changing our concept of what it means to be overwhelmed is one of the most important steps we can take to find our freedom. Usually we associate being overwhelmed with feeling defeated -- most often by outside forces. But what if we thought about being overwhelmed -- immersed and submerged -- by the power of God? How would we feel then? Hopeful, empowered, light, joyful!
After Jesus' resurrection, the apostles and disciples finally understood what it meant to be overwhelmed by the power of God, by the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. Luke records in the book of Acts numerous occasions of people being "filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:4). Let's think about the word "filled." If we are completely filled, then there is no room for anything else. A car simply cannot take any more gas when it is full. So, if we're filled with the Holy Ghost -- filled with the Spirit of God -- then there is no room for depression or defeat.
The apostle Peter told the multitudes that God said, "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). God is pouring His Spirit into us -- in fact, we reflect His Spirit! His Spirit is energetic, compassionate, principled. Moreover, God is not stingy with His gifts: He "pours" his Spirit out -- floods, dumps, submerges us in His glory. The disciples acknowledged this Spirit with gratitude, humility, joy, and conviction in its power; as a result, they converted the multitudes, healed instantaneously, and transformed lives. And we can feel this Holy Spirit, too.
But first we have to be receptive to all the good that knowing God offers. How do we do this? How do we get to the point where we can refuse to be overwhelmed by problems and, instead, allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by God's love and Spirit?
Six Practical Steps
Here are six practical and prayerful steps that will enable us to free ourselves from the burden of feeling overwhelmed so that we move through challenges with ease, poise, and grace.
- BREATHE. Let's stop what we're doing and breathe. It's amazing how calming this one action can be. In the Bible, "breath" stands for life and inspiration:
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. (Job 33:4)
When we breathe, we are allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by inspiration, flooded with a new sense of life.
- When we breathe in, let's think about breathing in (bringing in, filling up with) all the good qualities from God -- love, peace, joy, harmony, understanding, poise.
- When we breathe out, let's let go of all the built-up tension we may have. Let go of all the ungodly qualities that go hand-in-hand with feeling overwhelmed -- stress, strain, fear, worry, impatience, depression.
This process, which replaces tension with ease and peace, enables us to be inspired. The Bible tells us that inspiration provides us with understanding:
But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. (Job 32:8)
Inspiration is key to defeating the overwhelmed state of thought. Inspiration is the quality of "allowing" or "letting" things happen rather than trying to "make" things happen.
- When we try to make things happen, we often force things and create bigger problems for ourselves. When we're not inspired, we plod methodically through homework or other tasks. Life seems dull and boring.
- But when we're inspired and allow things to happen, we have a sense of freedom and purpose. We allow ourselves the liberty to wonder, think freely, and be creative. We discover solutions to problems. We are joyful.
- RELAX. Let's consciously relax our muscles, our thoughts. We can do this while we breathe in thoughts of peace. Take a break and pray. Jesus said:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30)
What a difference it would be if we thought of our "burdens" as "light!" We would feel happy and carefree. Jesus had more cause to feel overwhelmed and burdened than any of us. Yet, he did not give into the pressure; he did not quit, collapse, or complain. Rather, he allowed God -- not persecution, betrayal, or even death -- to overpower him and fill him with a sense of confidence and assurance. Though he knew what was coming, he did not worry about it or ignore it. He prepared for the crucifixion and resurrection by living a God-directed life moment by moment. He rested in God. As a result, he met each and every challenge with a relaxed (not lazy) and calm attitude because he knew wholeheartedly that God was in charge.
- BE STILL AND LISTEN. Let's get quiet so we can hear God's voice. It's easy to do when we're still.
Feeling overwhelmed affects our overall attitude. Our mental weather and, therefore, our actions become stormy. We become short with others, moody, or irritable. But the Bible gives us hope:
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. (Ps. 107:28-30)
God calms the storms on the ocean and in our thoughts and lives and leads us to our "desired haven." That promise is powerful! God brings us to the place where we want to go. We are "glad" because we are "quiet." When we are quiet, we can hear the "still small voice" of God (I Kings 19:12). God's "still" voice tells us the "who, what, where, when, why, and how" of accomplishing or fulfilling our tasks, goals, and dreams.
- YIELD AND TRUST. Let's allow God to do things for us and trust in God's voice, which we can hear when we're calm.
Once we hear God's voice, it's sometimes tempting to ignore it because what we hear doesn't go along with our plan for our lives. That's when yielding and trusting come into play. It's easier to yield when we realize that our plan for our lives, even though it's incredible, cannot possibly be as great as God's plan for us. Why would we want to interfere with God's plan by trying to do things in our own way?
We have to remove the burden of planning from off of our shoulders and place it where it's supposed to go -- with God:
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. (Ps. 55:22)
That's a pretty awesome promise -- God will "sustain" us! But God requires us to do some work: we have to "cast" -- to yield, to let go. We don't have to make, force, or fix. And if we're really yielding, then we are turning everything about our lives over to God, not just a few things. This takes a tremendous amount of trust. If we're truly trusting, then we "know" -- we don't just think we know -- that God's will is operating in our lives. Such trust gives us a sense of peace.
- LIVE IN THE NOW. Let's not worry about the past or future. This is easy to do when we're yielding up your lives to God and trusting in Him each moment.
Even when we feel thoroughly confused, stressed, and overwhelmed -- to the point that we want to give up -- we can take comfort in knowing that God doesn't give up on us. The Psalmist wrote:
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. (Ps. 142:3)
Isn't this a comforting thought? God knows our path even if we don't. God is directing each and every moment of our lives. Therefore, we don't have to be concerned about what has already happened or what may happen. Now, there's nothing wrong with learning from the past or preparing for the future. But if we LIVE in the future or the past, we rob ourselves of experiencing the good that is happening NOW. The only real time and place we live in is the present. We can make decisions about the present, the now. All we need to do, a friend of mine reminds us, is to ask ourselves a simple but powerful question:
- What is the best thing for me to do at this moment?
Living in the "now" allows us to be fully present and do what we need to do. And if it's the BEST thing for us to do, then we can see our "to do" list as a "get to do" list. Thus, we can lift ourselves above a sense of burden. We can enjoy the people we're with and enjoy the things we're doing without feeling overwhelmed that there are other things we "need" to get done.
- MOVE FORWARD WITH CONFIDENCE. Let's confidently do the "best thing to do" at the moment.
Once we have stopped to breathe, relaxed, gotten still so that we can hear God's voice, turned our lives over to God in complete trust, and decided to live in the moment, then we can move forward, knowing that we are doing God's work.
Doing God's work is not a burden; it is a joy! When we choose to love God supremely and trust in Him, we have chosen to release ourselves from the oppressive thoughts that would overwhelm us and send us downward into a pit of despair. We have chosen to be overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be revitalized, to be reborn anew. With such power and Spirit, we can't help but heal -- heal ourselves and others. And with such Spirit, we have an unlimited sense of energy and joy that enables us to move through our days. Our days may be full, but they are now filled with the harmonious rhythm of love.