Feeling Overwhelmed – What to Do When Your Life is a Mess

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much. ~ Mother Theresa

How’s your life? Are you feeling overwhelmed? … Too much to do, and too little time? … Are you drowning from life’s crises and emotional overload?

What should you do when your life is a mess? How can you cope?

First, let’s differentiate between overwhelm and distress. Overwhelm means ‘to bury or drown beneath a huge mass; to defeat completely; to be overpowered or crushed’. Distress is pain or suffering (either physical or mental). It signifies a state of danger or desperate need.  Both need dealt with, but for this article, we’re going to focus on those feelings of overwhelm and defeat.

Let’s begin by admitting that overwhelm is mostly self-inflicted. Distress is usually caused by external events – death, divorce, job loss. Overwhelm, on the other hand, is a result of your choices, cumulative decisions and actions that resulted in your current situation (like too much debt, too many commitments, etc.) The answer to overwhelm is to change those choices and begin to think and act differently.

Turn around. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. (Ps. 119:59)

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the tendency is to focus on the problems. The mountain in front of you seems so big, you can’t see anything else. Get a different perspective. Looking at problems is different than seeking solutions. God’s got your back. Look His direction. Peter walked on water as long as he focused on Jesus. When he looked at the mess (the wind and waves), he sunk! Trust God.

Look at Me. Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

In 1968, a group called The Vogues released a song called ‘Turn Around, Look at me’. A portion of the lyrics says, ‘And there’s someone who’ll love and guide you, turn around, look at me. … I’ve waited, but I’ll wait forever for you to come to me’.

God wants you to trust Him and His promises. You cannot trust someone, however, if you don’t really know them. Quiet time, prayer, contemplation and meditation (mulling over God’s promises) builds faith. Faith is essential to finding your way out of the mess. God’s got answers, but if you’re not listening to Him, or spending time with Him (instead of your mess), you will miss the answers He has for you. By focusing on His Word, you can quiet your mental turmoil and begin to see the small steps required that will begin to change your situation.

Ask. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

Too often, people think, “I don’t want to bother God with this. I made the mess, so I’ll just have to figure out what to do about it.” That’s not how God operates. He told us to ‘cast all our cares on Him’, not just the big ones. Will you trust Him? Be willing to relax, knowing that He does have a plan – one step at a time – to solve your problems.

‘Ask’ also involves people. God created us to work together as one body, supporting each other, sharing our blessings and concerns, meeting each other’s needs. I can’t help you if I don’t know you need or want help. I can’t pray for you effectively if I don’t know what you’re facing. People are inherently good. ‘Be a blessing’ is more than words – most of us want to do what we can to bless others. You just need to ask. Don’t let pride or shame prevent you from seeking help when you need it.

Expect. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off. (Prov. 23:18)

Expectation is powerful, both positive and negative. If you’re continually expecting negative things to happen (“I always get the flu this time of year.” or “I just know I won’t be able to pay the rent this month.”), why are you surprised when they do? Change your expectation! Train yourself to keep your thoughts positive. That’s where meditating on God’s Word fits in. His Word is full of promises of goodness and abundance.

The Bible says Jesus is ‘expecting’ his enemies to be made his footstool. Since you are a part of His body – the body of Christ – all things are supposed to be under your feet, too! Expect God’s blessing in every area of your life. Expect answers, ideas and favor to open doors and eliminate the sense of overwhelm. You are more powerful than you know. Faith and expectation are two keys to help you overcome your sense of overwhelm.

Day by Day. So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble. (Matt. 6:34 AMP)

Overwhelm is just that – overpowering feelings of inadequacy or inability. When you’re feeling out of control, stop. Breathe. Slow down. Take a few minutes to think about all the blessings in your life. Now, when you’re calm, find one thing that you can do today to improve your situation or alleviate some of pressure. Cut the big problems and projects into small pieces. Focus on one thing at a time. One day at a time.

Tap the power of gratitude. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (I Chron. 29:12-13)

The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of his people. Praise and thanksgiving brings God right into the middle of your situation. No matter how bad your situation seems, there are plenty of things to be thankful for. Gratitude is powerful. Tell Him how much you appreciate all the blessings in your life, no matter how small.

Share gratitude and appreciate with the people around you, also. I think you’ll agree that you’re more willing to bless someone who appreciates it. To get help with your own overwhelm, be sure to show your appreciation to those who help you.

Overwhelm is actually one of the devil’s tricks to stop or sidetrack you from fulfilling the mission God has for you. Remember that your Heavenly Father has already planned for you to have everything you need – day by day – so that you can be part of His blessing in the world.

God promised Abraham he would be ‘blessed to be a blessing’. That means God will not only give you what you need, but enough extra to be a blessing to someone else. Trust God’s benevolence, and your place as His beloved child. Recognize overwhelm for what it is – a diversion. Stop. Breathe. Be thankful. Ask for help. Focus on His promises and expect His blessings. That sense of overwhelm will just disappear.

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