When someone asks me how I’m doing, sadly, my immediate response (if not filtered) is “overwhelmed”! I don’t want this to be my standard disposition. It is not one filled with gratitude, serenity or joy. It reflects a world-centered-performance-driven mindset. But in our world, in this day and time, there is so much to overwhelm us that it seems inevitable! Our work responsibilities, family duties, household demands, care for body, soul, mind, and relationships require and expect much from us. Add to this the never-ending email or the barrage of social media and the overwhelm only escalates.
As followers of Christ, we have so many promises in the Word from a God who cares and sees us. Rather than being weighed down by the demands of this earthly life, when we lean into the Bible as our guide, and ask for perspective from him, we gain an eternal and kingdom mindset.
Below are some of the promises and instructions from the Word that bring reassurance and peace to our weary souls:
- Lamentations 3:22-24: “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! I say, The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.”
We can put our hope in Him. Not in our ability to get our to-do lists completed, or meet the demands of our boss, friends or family. He is faithful. We will therefore not perish under the weight of our circumstances. Every day his mercies are new.
- Psalm 118: Throughout this entire chapter, the Psalmist gives praise to God for all He does. His faithful love endures forever, and He answers us in our distress. He is for us and is our helper. This brings great comfort, knowing that Almighty God is with us and is our great help.
- Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This invitation from Jesus to come to Him is for us- we who are weary and burdened! The rest he offers isn’t like any other rest, it is rest for our souls- to pause from striving and seeking to achieve and accomplish.
Given this biblical perspective, we can lift our eyes above, beyond the fray. Once we have this new perspective, we can more easily take some practical actions to move from a place of overwhelm to greater peace and the ability to manage what we carry. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Partialize our concerns– If we look at everything that is weighing on us as a composite- of course it is overwhelming! But if we can break things into smaller parts, oftentimes by writing it all down and parsing things out into tasks, personal burdens, questions we are overwhelmed by, we can then begin determining timelines, and action steps. This can help things become more manageable.
- Pray the Serenity Prayer- This clarifying and comforting prayer has been used for decades to ease the burdened soul. This prayer can become a guide for discernment:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.
Often times, I am overwhelmed by things that I cannot impact, no matter how hard I try. In those situations, trusting God and praying for acceptance is what brings me peace.
- Perspective Seeking- Sometimes I need to step away from my own life, and the burdens that I carry and get the perspective of someone else. Zooming out and thinking about people in other parts of the world, or eras of time, or in less privileged and supported situations than me, can help me see things differently. Additionally, reaching out to someone who can listen to me process my overwhelm and help me process, can be of great help. We need the viewpoint of others sometimes to help us see things more clearly.
- Take Action- When we feel overwhelmed it can sometimes lead us to paralysis. However, if we can take a small step, some kind of action, we can set things in motion and might gain some momentum. Decide what the next right thing is and start doing it. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out, or until the anxiety is gone. Just start moving!
The world may feel like it’s resting on our shoulders, but in reality, it is not. The sun will rise again and with it, new mercies, and strength for the day ahead. Take heart!
Julie Hunt is an Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of Field Education at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She is wife to Dave Hunt, a worship director and wood worker, and mother to a college aged son and two teenaged daughters. She also enjoys walking, baking, reading, food blogging, thrifting, and enjoying time with friends.