By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
No doubt, this year has put people through the ringer. We may have found ourselves getting overwhelmed more than ones, and for many of us, for weeks at a time.
People may encourage us to turn to the Bible or to seek God in prayer, but sometimes even those solutions don’t always pan out. Or, we may find ourselves so trapped within our own minds that turning to Scripture or to a sermon may seem like a daunting task.
For those who feel overwhelmed, this article will dive into 3 truths to remind yourself when life overwhelms you, whether for a day or even for a whole year.
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What Can Cause Life to Overwhelm Us?
As one can imagine, people don’t get overwhelmed by just one thing.
For instance, perhaps someone struggles with a mental illness such as anxiety. For those who have clinical anxiety, no one thing may trigger anxious thoughts or feelings. Even one event can spark a catalyst in which a person may feel frozen by their sense of feeling overwhelmed.
As we have entered a new school year for many this can serve as something to overwhelm a great many. Students may feel the extra pressure to perform well under new school conditions. Teachers have to adjust to the new medium of teaching whilst balancing a curriculum.
Or parents, who have opted to homeschool, may feel the pressure of having to teach kids at home, a skill many hadn’t partaken in before this year.
A number of other factors can overwhelm us outside the academic field. Many of us can experience stressors at work. Several businesses have caved this year due to the pandemic, and those in a job may feel the pressure of doing the work of several people due to cuts.
Perhaps they feel worried about a potential severance in their future.
One can also point to the news as a source of stress for a great many.
We may watch the news on TV or in our social media feed and easily get overwhelmed by the state of disarray in our world. Feeling helpless, we may cry out to God and wonder why he doesn’t intervene in some circumstances.
Related: Listen to our episode of How to Study the Bible on Finding Hope in Stressful Times:
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Biblical Characters Are No Stranger to Overwhelm
It shouldn’t surprise us that many people throughout Scripture also felt the pressure and stress that comes when one is given a task far greater than their ability.
Elijah, a prophet, for instance feels so overwhelmed by the fact he feels has is one of the only few followers of God left, and that the King and Queen have called for his death that he says:
1 Kings 19:4b “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
This prophet, no doubt, felt the pressure and expectation placed on his shoulders. Nevertheless, after fed and slept, he no longer feels as stressed, knowing that God has provided for his needs.
Esther is another figure who also feels overwhelmed by the task set before her. When Haman, an evil advisor to the king, sets to destroy the Jewish people, Queen Esther’s relative tries to persuade her to go to her husband to overturn the verdict.
The problem is the Persians had a rule that no one could approach the king without an invitation, upon the penalty of death.
Esther 4:11 says “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
She feels the pressure that even her own husband hasn’t seen her in over a month. Had she lost his favor? Would he kill her if she went in his presence? Talk about having to walk in faith.
Hannah was overwhelmed by her desire for a child that hadn't been met. Job was overwhelmed by all the horrific tragedy he experienced. We could go on with more examples from practically every book of the Bible.
But throughout Scripture we see people called into tasks or situations bigger than themselves. That’s when they turned to God.
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1. Remind Yourself That God Has a Plan
This seems like the good "Christianese" example of what to say with someone who is struggling with feeling overwhelmed, but the quote holds true throughout Scripture.
God often calls us into circumstances or situations in which we cannot “power through” on our own. He needs us to rely on his power, his protection, and his providence to make it past a certain trial.
Think back to the time Jesus preached to thousands of people on a hillside in Matthew 14. The crowd has nothing to eat, and when Jesus commands his disciples to give them something to eat, they immediately feel overwhelmed.
It would take more than a year’s salary to feed all these people. And all they had was the lunch of a little boy: five loaves of bread and two fish.
With these, Jesus manages to not only feed thousands upon thousands (it was more than 5,000 because the 5,000 doesn’t include women and children) but they had twelve basketfuls of leftovers.
When we walk into a situation which is beyond our capacity we can remind ourselves that God has a plan.
If God has the power to do all of these things, we can have faith that he can walk alongside us during our circumstances. And that he has a plan to pull us through the times in which we feel the most stress or uncertainty.
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2. Remind Yourself That God Gives Rest to the Weary
Have you ever noticed how stress can take a physical toll on the body? After an intense day or week, we may find we can sleep through the entire weekend without any hindrances because of how much our body has gone through.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus promises us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
For those unfamiliar with the terminology of yoke, this was a common farming image the Israelites would’ve understood when Jesus originally preached this verse.
A yoke was a wooden beam that connected two oxen, so they could share the burden of the plow together.
Jesus has a light burden. If we serve him and follow him and yoke with him, we can experience the weight of this world lifted off our shoulders and placed onto his.
God highly reveres rest. He doesn’t want us stressed 24/7. This is why he instituted Sabbaths and even entire years dedicated to rest.
After all, even he rested on the seventh day of Creation, and all-powerful God.
When we feel most overwhelmed, we can cry out to God and know that he provides rest to the weary. We don’t have to overwork our bodies to death, and trust that if we give ourselves Sabbaths and times of rest that God will provide for us in the meantime.
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3. Remind Yourself That God Is Greater Than Your Circumstance
Better yet, we have a God who has scars. He stepped into the overwhelming world in which we lived, experienced the pains that we did, and died the death we deserved to die.
Every other religion will try to find ways to avoid, ignore, or deal with pain. Christianity is different. Christianity has a God who walks alongside us in the midst of pain.
Isaiah 53:4 says “Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted.”
Greater than this, not only does he bear our burdens, but we have a God who overcomes. If he overcame sin and death, imagine how much more he can help us during our most difficult times of life.
When we remember God’s character and his awesome power, suddenly our problems don’t seem as daunting or afflicting. We can also remind ourselves that the pain and suffering only lasts for a little while, but that we have the chance to experience eternal joy with God in heaven.
We can also remind ourselves about how God has come through for us in the past.
In the midst of our struggle, we may wonder why we can’t hear our Savior or why he has seemed to go silent. During these times, we can remember all the times he has come through for us before. We have a God who doesn’t change. If he has helped us in the past, surely he will come to our aid now.
There are so many factors that can contribute to our stress. Nevertheless, we have a God who has a plan. Furthermore, he has overcome, and waits with us in the midst of our struggle. No other religion can boast having a God so involved in humanity that he steps down into it and experiences our pain right along with us.
Better yet, he overcomes it and helps to give rest to the weary.
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