As a student of history I find the Second World War fascinating. Tragic, of course, but irresistible to study. I wish it, and all wars, were foreign concepts to us. However, I cannot ignore the reality of this conflict where man was at his best and worst during those times of monumental struggles. While studying the early stages of both the European and Pacific theaters of war, history tells us that the forces of evil overwhelmed their opponents. It took considerable time and effort for balance to be achieved and the proportion of defeats to become victories for the allies.
I pondered the sense and reality of being overwhelmed and what it must have felt like for both sides. What comes to mind when you consider this word, overwhelmed ? It is a very powerful word with many intense thoughts and feelings associated with it.
For the athlete, watching one team dominate another team; one boxer pummel another boxer; or one individual rule her opponent, can evoke a sense of helplessness for the defeated and energy for the winner. Whether the victor or the vanquished, the concept of being overwhelmed is very real for both parties.
For the over-worked, the seemingly endless days of pressure, deadlines and fatigue – the feeling that you will never catch-up – may simply wear you down. The thought of “Not again” and the reality of added responsibilities can lead to stress and disillusionment.
For mothers of young children, the daily routine and pressures associated with caring for her children, managing the household, balancing the budget, the endless trips to stores and events and appointments can certainly lead to exhaustion and feelings of futility.
For the over-extended; be it financial, time-related or with relationships, depression can result.
And for those who have endured years of chronic pain, without the hope for a cure, life can seem pretty pointless. Some suffer from the acute pain of losing a loved one with the hurting as real as any physical pain can be, and lasting just as long or longer. Then there are those who care for others who cannot care for themselves. These are special people, but the responsibility can become unbearable at times.
The sense of being overwhelmed is, well, overwhelming. This feeling may seem relentless – like powerful waves crashing on to a rocky shoreline, wearing away the stone, one resounding crash after another.
Our inherent “fight or flight” reaction to adverse (threatening) situations, especially over prolonged periods of time with little or no hope of relief, often results in our wanting to flee the situation. When trying to stand against the onslaught of a hurricane, escape often seems like the best choice. However, impulsive fleeing can lead to harmful behaviors and drastic consequences. As we struggle to understand what is happening to us, we become confused and lose objectivity.
The sense of being overwhelmed can cause physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual damage. Because of the feelings of confusion and hopelessness, we often attempt to medicate our symptoms. There are a variety of ways to do this; most of which harm not only ourselves, but those closest to us. What are we to do? How can we gain the upper hand and triumph over such adversity without turning to those things which ultimately end up hurting us?
My recommendation, based on personal experience, is to begin the journey towards safety, healing and wholeness by expressing our vulnerability to God. This step is difficult for most of us because it is an admission of weakness and reveals our inability to overcome adversity in our own strength. But this is exactly where God wants us. We must empty ourselves of pride and the false sense of self-sufficiency in order for Him to fill us with His power and His peace.
David, the shepherd boy-turned-king, expressed regularly his vulnerability and fears to the Lord through the Psalms. David, far from perfect, was highly favored by God because of his heart condition. Even after sinning, he returned to his God time and time again in an attitude of submission and humility. David learned to trust his Maker through repeated situations when his life was in jeopardy; as he confessed his inability to overcome his foe, he sought after God’s divine intervention. So must we.
In Psalm 61, David begins, “Hear my cry O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed.” He then asks God to “lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” David goes on to say, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” If you can’t relate to walled cities with fortified rock towers then consider a different image which serves the same purpose of protection and safety…an impenetrable place where the enemy can’t reach you.
Whatever your foe is at this present time, confess it, and your powerlessness to overcome it. Tell God the Father, who knows you and your circumstances intimately, that you need Him. Ask Him to help you, protect you, and to be near you. Call out to Him and ask Him to lead you to Christ the Lord. As you affirm Christ as the true Lord of your life, the sense of feeling overwhelmed will begin to dissipate. Sometimes the heaviness leaves immediately, and sometimes it takes awhile, but don’t give up.
Adjustments in lifestyle and circumstances will need to be made to reduce or eliminate the causes of your life feeling out of control, but one must be rescued before one can be free! As balance returns to your life, meditate on the words of David spoken in Psalm 62 when he said, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
May that become our proclamation and our reality.