Letting Go of the Word “Overwhelmed”
My brain is going to explode.
For so long, I guess since the kids left home, my calendar has been blissfully quiet and slow –just the way my introverted, home-body soul likes it. But I have some new irons in the fire these days. These are lovely irons to which God has directed me, but they require time commitments that are shocking my normal routine.
“I can’t do this” is my M.O. Followed by paralysis. Followed by shortness of breath.
But some of my learning over the last year is coming into play, and I’m finding a new way to live instead of in the land of overwhelmed.
The first idea I’ve been considering is that “overwhelmed” is an illusion of Satan. All this last year, I’ve been pondering what I read in Life without Lack, by Dallas Willard. With his encouragement, I’ve been working to practice what I find in Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” (NIV) If I feel overwhelmed, Satan is trying to convince me that I simply don’t have what it takes to live what’s in front of me in this day, this week, this month. He is distracting me from worshiping the Good Shepherd who is rich in resources and who always stands ready to give me whatever I need and a whole lot more.
I’ve also been thinking about the YouTube videos I listened to while I was painting the house this summer, called How to Detox Your Brain, by Caroline Heath. She’s a brilliant neuroscientist who teaches about growing healthy brains as we pray and worship God in our minds. God created our brains, and they are incredible. She says we are “neuroplasticians” who can literally change the growth of our brain material. She also says we can do four to seven brain functions at once, which means we “were designed to do busy well.” So in my feeling of being overwhelmed these days, I’ve been stopping to worship the Creator of my brain and have being saying to myself, No, God made my brain to be able to think in many directions. My brain can do this. IT WILL NOT EXPLODE OR BE INJURED by thinking about all of these irons I have in the fire.
I’ve also been listening to an audio book that my brother gifted me (Thanks, Bro!) It’s called The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson, and he talks about how Satan always wants to shut us down by making us feel ashamed. He wants us to feel weak and “not enough” and paralyzed, so that we give up on doing the good work God has put in front of us.
So I’m combining all of this rich truth these days:
God made my brain to be able to function in many directions.
I can use my brain to plan and calendar well, so that I’m getting work done but also taking care of myself and my home.
God is the Resourceful Shepherd who can give me whatever I need to do what he has asked me to do. I only need to ask.
I need to be a sheep and only worry about the grass in front of me, trusting the Shepherd will be there to care for me in all of the days down the road.
I need to be a sheep. Dependent, weak, and needy.
I need to be attentive to thoughts of shame creeping in –Satan whispering in my ear that there’s no way I can do all of this. I can ditch the language of shame, including the word “overwhelmed” and say to myself, God made me to be able to work hard and to think in complex situations. I can do the work in front of me and ask him to supply the need every day.
I’ll add, here at the end, that yesterday I started to panic about writing a blog post. I really wanted to sit down and write but felt like there was no way I could do it. Pretty soon I felt tightness in my chest and wasn’t breathing. So I practiced all that I’ve just written here and calmed down. In place of panicking, I said, “Lord, you know I want to write a blog post. Will you help me? Will you give me an idea to write and the time to write it?” Well, here I am at 5:22 in the morning, after a good night of sleep that was a gift of God. You are reading the very answer to my prayer.
Let’s leave the word “overwhelmed” behind, shall we? We can discard the language of “I can’t” and pick up the language of worship, meditating on the greatness of God and what he has created us to be able to do. To say, “With God’s help, I can” is to live in beautiful, life-changing faith.
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I like thinking that the word overwhelmed comes from Satan because then I have a reason to stop saying it. Thanks.
So Christy, I struggle with this. I believe you are speaking truth. And yet, for the past 6 months, God has been talking to me about accepting the limits He gives me, how saying yes to “many irons” is really my inability to bravely say No when I need to and my overwhelm is the result of trying to do way more than God asks of me. He has been showing me how I am not the Messiah-He holds the world and He doesn’t need me to address every problem that gains my notice or help every person whose needs I see. In other words, I’m not called nor will he enable me to do all the good things I would like to do. Rather, I need to sit at his feet and listen and obey him in doing the small things (to paraphrase Teresa of Avila) He is asking of me. My biggest difficulty with living into this teaching has been the years of Christian teaching that says I CAN (and should) do tons of stuff (“in Christ”) and that God’s grace is sufficient to help me etc. I’m totally with you on worshipping, just not sure if I can say amen to the current evangelical culture of “doing it all -in Christ”. I welcome your thoughts.
Ah, this is an excellent point! Yes, many times believers fill their plates carelessly and then end up exhausted and overwhelmed because they’re not making wise choices. It’s a good question to ask, “Does God expect me to do all of this or are there activities I should stop doing?” I was writing this post from a place where I know I am doing what God has put in front of me, and his word to me, in this new season of heavy responsibility, is that he will supply what I need. Sometimes he does ask us to take on more than we feel we can handle, for the glory of his name. It is a joy to do this hard work, if the Lord has filled our plate instead of us just trying to keep up with cultural expectations or to be people pleasers.
Hmmm. great thoughts and encouragement here! Thank you, Christy!
Oh, how I desperately needed to hear this message. Overwhelmed is my usual response these days when others ask how I’m doing, and the things you describe such as the paralysis, anxiety and feeling so ill-equipped are often part of my daily experience. God gave me the gift of my artwork and business 17 years ago, and I have had the incredible privilege of sharing it with my mom. 7 1/2 years ago, my mom, at 64 years of age, started having balance issues that were triggered by the sudden death of her brother. We soon learned that she had Lyme Disease, and I have been walking through this season with her since as her full time caregiver. I often feel that we are in a full on spiritual battle as the enemy works over time to stop us from spreading God’s Word. He has made me feel ill-equipped and so incapable, and I have believed his lies – especially in our current circumstances. Thank you for your insight and encouragement and the reminder that God has given us everything we need to fulfill His good work and purpose. Looking forward to following your blog. Thanks again.
You are walking a hard road, but I love that you are taking care of your mom! I pray God will encourage you every day, just as you need it. Much love to you!
Thank you for these words! I have noticed lately that many young women seem to wear being overwhelmed as a badge of honor. They almost brag about it and talk about their anxiety and medications as if these things are sources of pride. I have tried to think of a way to redirect their thinking patterns to the sufficiency of God in all situations. Your post will help me do that.
That’s an interesting observation. Of course, there’s also the flip side of this -that many people say yes to things and truly overwhelm themselves with activities, just to meet cultural expectations. Sometimes the answer to being overwhelmed is to stop trying to keep up with the Jones.
Thank you for writing this! I need this!
You are very welcome!
“Let’s leave the word “overwhelmed” behind, shall we? We can discard the language of “I can’t” and pick up the language of worship, meditating on the greatness of God and what he has created us to be able to do.” —-
*just one question: the NiV I read doesn’t say the same thing yours says?? It says, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing.’
There are different publication years of the NIV. I was looking at an old one.
Wow! Great post! I needed this. Thank you for taking your time to post this.
You are most welcome!
Thanks, Cristie. I think I do what Dr. Leaf is saying. Gift from God’s Spirit. Good lovely thoughts.. Prayer filled, constant contact with Jesus. That is confirmation for me. I hope I make sense here?❤️
Yes, she says that when we are in contact with Jesus, our brains are physically growing at their best!
Amen! Awesome word today. I, too, had purged “Overwhelmed” from my vocabulary. Until I looked at the word in the sense that I am OVERWHELMED by GOD and all He has done for me. Satan doesn’t get to do this to me any more, but I crave the time I can spend with the Creator in such a vibrant connection that my spirit is OVERWHELMED by His love for me. Thanks for all you do!
That’s a great new look at the word. Thanks for sharing.
Your writing is seriously like a huge hug…a delightfully hot cup of coffee…a Summer breeze (minus humidity and skeeters)….the smell of brownies baking…a deep cleansing breath…thank you! Hugs from NC (where we are still in the mid 90’s with frizzy hair and lots of skeeters! Lol)
You’re so kind! I still have a fan in the window here, but it’s in the 50s this morning. Maybe time to put the fan away for the winter! 🙂
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