Feeling overwhelmed can be suffocating. Like a brick on your chest that seems to just get heavier and heavier. But it can be hard to know how to stop feeling overwhelmed.
As a mom, the never-ending to-do list (and my obsession with it) is what drains me mentally. No matter how much I check off the daily list, there’s always so much more. Can I get an amen from my fellow moms? Worry, worry, worry. It only leads to stress and makes me somehow feel like nothing I do matters. I can strive and sweat, and yet it seems to get me nowhere.
Have you been there? I’d be willing to guess we all have. But when you’re overwhelmed, it sure does feel like you’re on the struggle bus all alone.
It’s happened for me more recently than I’d like to admit. Yesterday morning to be exact. Yikes. It also happens more frequently than I’d like to admit.
Life gets hectic, and it can be so much easier for us to focus on what’s right in front of us than on what God says. Logically, I know there’s nothing in this world that should overwhelm me. God has all wisdom and authority, and I’m His daughter. But when the going gets tough, it’s so easy for me to cop an attitude. I want something immediate to gratify my struggles in that moment.
And I absolutely do not want to hear the voice of positivity reassuring me everything will be okay. My poor husband tried to be that voice for me yesterday. It didn’t go so well for him.
The Trouble with “Perfect”
What was at the center of my worrying? An obsession with perfection. It’s probably true that I take everything a little too seriously. I get so caught up in the moment that I often forget to just step back and enjoy life for what it is.
I really have been blessed with a life worth loving. And I want to be fully immersed in every aspect of it, giving all of me to all that I do.
But the truth is, no matter how much I love my life and no matter how badly I wish I could be perfect at everything all the time, perfection is an impossibility. It’s a fatal standard that overwhelms anyone who tries to hold it. The moment I begin to idolize perfection is the moment I set myself up for failure, heartache, and a distorted identity.
One of my favorite professors reminded us every class period, “You don’t have to be perfect.” Every time he said it, I would nearly bawl. I can be a bit of a sap, but his words touched that deep part of me that was always striving. And he was right. In fact, we can’t be perfect.
The Three Keys: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
Maybe perfectionism is something you struggle with too. Maybe it’s not. What’s overwhelming you may be far greater than what overwhelms me.
Regardless, the answer is the same.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.”
Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV, emphasis mine)
In these verses, Paul instructs the Philippians on eliminating worry and receiving the peace that God freely gives. The three keys to allowing our hearts to receive the free gift of peace are:
- Meditating on the good.
Prayer takes our situations out of our hands and puts them into the hands of our all-knowing and loving Father. We don’t pray because we need to tell Him what we’re thinking. He already knows. Prayer isn’t for God. It’s for us. Talking with God sorts out our thoughts, aligns our will with His, and releases the burden from our shoulders. In prayer, we consciously hand over our troubles to the Conductor of the universal orchestra and by faith trust that He knows infinitely more than we do (because He totally does).
Finding time to be thankful opens our eyes to what we do have and what is going right in spite of whatever negative circumstances are fighting for our focus. Sometimes we may have to force ourselves to sit down and think about it. It may take some practice, especially if we have a lot going on. But there is always something (no matter how simple it seems at first) that we can thank God for.
Meditating on the Good
Meditating on the good (mulling it over in our minds again and again) then turns our hearts and minds toward the blessings instead of the problems and gives us praise! As my wise husband recently said to me, praise is our battle cry. As we go through rough patches in life or enter into seasons that we know are going to be hard, we can choose to praise anyway. And when we do that, walls come tumbling down.
He Has Gone Before You
Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.'” Deuteronomy 31:7-8 (NKJV, emphasis mine)
In the above passage, Moses “passes the torch” to Joshua, making him the man who will lead the Israelites into the promise land. There was going to be trouble. It wasn’t going to be easy. There would be battles to fight and so much to overcome. No doubt, it could have been overwhelming. But Moses tells Joshua that the Creator of the universe, the God who holds all authority, had gone before him to prepare the way.
The same holds true for us. He has a plan for our lives that is good. Isn’t it comforting to know that nothing comes as a surprise to Him? Not the situations we face. Not the mistakes that we make ourselves. He knew it all before the world began and went before us to orchestrate a way!
I’ll leave you with one more verse to encourage you today in the midst of anything you may find overwhelming. In Psalm 32:7, David writes:
“You are my hiding place;
You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.”
(NASB, emphasis mine)
I don’t have to worry about perfectly executing everything on my to-do list. All I can do is put my best foot forward (as cliche as that sounds) and go to God for the rest.
He has gone before me. He will never leave me.
Until next time,
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