The Gift of Being Overwhelmed

Over the past several of months, I’ve frequently felt overwhelmed. Occasionally this has been attributable to an overly busy schedule, sick and whiny kids, or the to-do list I just can’t tackle. But typically it’s related to more emotional reasons. It can be connected to personal struggles, such as waiting for my daughter. Other times it’s wrapped up in the overwhelming tragedy that fills this world — the dire straits of orphans and refugees, the problems of racism and oppression, natural disasters and disease, ceaseless wars and violence — the relentlessness of it all can leave me in despair.

However, over the last few weeks God has tenderly and progressively revealed to me that sometimes being overwhelmed is a sweet gift, and something that should be experienced on a regular basis.

Let me clarify.

I am not saying that we should live in a perpetual state of chaos and burn-out!

However, we should be living in such a way that we are consistently aware of our desperate need for God. If I always feel that I have my schedule, tasks, and responsibilities under control (or am constantly striving to attain those ends), I may be in danger of living a self-sufficient life that is unwilling to embrace the discomfort and disruption that accompanies following Christ. If I resent feeling stretched and weak, and think I should only make decisions that feel sustainable in my own strength, I may be in danger of neglecting the strength found in Christ. If I refuse to engage the harrowing process of being exposed to the pain and suffering of others, I may be in danger of neglecting the compassion Christ calls me to have.

Ultimately, being overwhelmed can cultivate a closer communion with God.

It also reminds us that we are not God.

When we are overwhelmed with our schedules, or all the endeavors we want to but cannot pursue, we are humbled to remember our weakness, limitations, and need for rest. This evokes awe of our limitless God, who always accomplishes His purposes in His timing, who is completely self-sufficient, and in need of nothing.

When we are overwhelmed by people — tired of dealing with the same tantrums, the same attitudes, the same conflicts, the same disappointments — we are humbled to remember the steadfast love of God. This evokes awe of His perfect patience, His long suffering, His forgiveness, and His grace.

When we are overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world, and frustrated over our lack of power to fix it, we are humbled to remember that the weight of the world is not on our shoulders, but is in subjection under His feet. This evokes awe of our sovereign God who has the power and gives the promise to execute perfect mercy and justice.

When we are overwhelmed with questions and struggle to reconcile what God says with what we observe or feel, we are humbled to remember that our understanding is finite. This evokes awe of His infinite and unsearchable wisdom. The more deeply we know Him, the more His incomprehensible greatness is accentuated, which offers great comfort as we learn to trust His unchangeable attributes rather than rely on our limited knowledge.

I think we’re often tempted to assume that being overwhelmed indicates a need to step back from what we’re doing (and sometimes it does). But I think more often than not, being overwhelmed is meant to drive us to know God more deeply.

Sometimes we have no choice but to remain in the source of our struggle (such as my wait for my daughter), but sometimes we could avoid it. In a season of particular struggle about human suffering, I could lessen the temptation by not reading about trafficking, by not praying for orphans, by not serving refugees, etc. In a shallow sense, disengaging and numbing myself would make it easier.

But, by the grace of God, the struggle that tempted me to recoil from Christ forced me to draw closer. He convicted me of my casual pursuit to knowing Him, and how such an approach was beginning to endanger my walk as I started to question His character. In a painful but necessary way, He let me get to the point of being overwhelmed with despair to show me how thirsty I was for more of Him and how the only way to quench that thirst was to dig deeper into the well of His Word.

Whatever we feel overwhelmed by — schedule, circumstances, relationships, or more theological issues — we have reason to take heart. God is seeking to show us more of Himself.


6 thoughts on “The Gift of Being Overwhelmed

  1. wmunsell11 says:

    It is so tempting to pull back from the things that make us feel overwhelmed and powerless, and sometimes we do have too much on our plate. But your right that we need to go first to Jesus to receive what we need in moving forward. Self-protectiveness is not always the best way to proceed. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!


  2. themomgene says:

    This is my prayer today inspired by you: God keep me from the danger of living a self-sufficient life.

    The reminder is true. We are not supposed to be capable all the time. If we were, we would not need God and what a scary and impossible place that would be to live. I am also praying that you also get a little less overwhelmed. Maybe just…whelmed.


  3. elizabethfstewart says:

    I’m reminded of that verse that says something like “when I am overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.


  4. Emily Swanson says:

    Wow this is precious and convicting. Knowing that being overwhelmed shows me, shows us, our inherent weakness and causes us to look at Jesus, to look at God and behold His might and power, to behold the power of the Holy Spirit to give us joy and peace, is humbling and amazing at the same time. It really does take our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on Him who can do anything and has ALL the power! ❤ Thank you so so much. I need to remember this when I get overwhelmed and always.


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