A Word of Encouragement for the Overwhelmed
by Kay Harms
I will always remember the year 2005 as one of the most difficult for my family…for me. Good things happened. Hard things happened. Life changed drastically. We said hundreds of goodbyes. We said hundreds of hellos. We were all overwhelmed.
For several months of that year, every day felt like a battle. We weren’t warring against each other, thankfully. But we were each struggling to get our footing, fighting to press forward, swatting at pesky frustrations and gasping for air. We felt disoriented, challenged, uncertain and tired.
Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you feel that way today.
I felt overwhelmed because a ministry opportunity and a calling had moved my family to another state. My son was beginning high school and my daughter was starting middle school that year. Those are hard transitions to begin with, but when you throw in extreme changes in school sizes and cultures and shift from public school to private, things become more complicated. As the mom, I felt overwhelmed with the task of helping my children adjust to these changes. And because the culture in our new location and church was so different from anywhere we had been before, we daily faced nuanced challenges that we couldn’t possibly anticipate.
Some days I felt like I was holding my breath, waiting for the next unexpected issue to surface. Others I was gasping for air, trying to catch my breath as I dodged one hurdle after another. And then there were days I breathed shallow because I was literally sobbing in frustration.
Honestly, it wasn’t until about two years after our move that I realized I was finally breathing normally again.
But I did begin to breathe easy again. You will, too.
I tell you this today because I simply want to offer some encouragement to those of you who may be gasping for air through your own overwhelming season. As I’ve often told my children, I don’t know if it’s going to be okay, but I can assure you that, by the grace of God, you’re going to be okay.
Friend, there is undoubtedly a battle going on, but it may not be the one you think you’re in. You, like me, may be swatting pesky situations, changes and discomforts, thinking that therein lies your nemesis. But the real war you’re engaged in may be much more significant than those visible troubles.
God may be refining something beautiful in you and the enemy may desire to thwart His hand. Or God may be preparing you for something down the road and the enemy may intend to sidetrack you from that destiny. Or the Lord may be doing something eternal in the life of someone you love and the enemy may be drawing your focus to the discomfort of the here and now.
Today you need to know that God is at work (John 5:17). His work will not be stopped by the enemy…or by you or anyone else (Job 42:2). You need to know that God is doing something good, even if it doesn’t feel good or look good right now (Genesis 50:20). I encourage you to trust that God sees, that He knows, that He is deeply involved and that He cares about your feelings.
But I also encourage you…oh so tenderly, I encourage you…to ask God to open your eyes to the bigger picture. The up close and immediate may continue to take your breath away occasionally, but you can take deep gulps of refreshing air as you allow God to adjust your perspective.
Ask Him to open your eyes to see more clearly how He is working in those situations that seem to be absent of His presence. I assure you, He is there. Ask Him to help you see His astounding power and His ample provision. Pray like Elisha prayed when his servant panicked at the threats surrounding them:
Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17; read 2 Kings 6:8-23)
And remember, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
And, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31)
To lift your gaze higher yet, ask the Lord to give you some insight into the enemy’s motives and schemes in your situation. Perhaps God will show you glimpses of what He is working into your life – godly character and spiritual fruit – that the enemy desires to thwart.
Ask God to show you where you are focusing on the temporal rather than the eternal, the physical rather than the spiritual or the emotional rather than the truth. Jesus reprimanded Peter when he tried to distract and distress Him because the disciple’s focus was on the things of man rather than the concerns of God (see Mark 8:31-33), but you could stay in step with God’s plans by asking Him to open your eyes to His kingdom purposes in your life and the lives of those around you. Read beyond the familiar assurances of Romans 8:28 to the important reminder in the following verse.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” (Romans 8:28-29, bold print added for emphasis)
Friend, I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by your circumstances. And while I claim to empathize, I don’t assume to know the depth of your frustration, the length of your struggles or the weight of your concerns. They may be dire indeed.
But I do know that when we cling to the character, the ways and the Word of God, we can overcome, survive and even experience victory through anything we face. Don’t let the enemy suck the wind out of you today. And don’t allow your circumstances to leave you panting as one who doesn’t have the resources to survive.
Instead, breathe deeply from God’s goodness, His faithfulness and His provision. Breathe, sweet friend, breathe deep.
Kay Harms is a pastor’s wife and the mom of two adult children. She has written several Bible studies for women and speaks at Christian women’s conferences and retreats. In her book, Joseph - Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place, Kay shares biblical truth and perspective to find complete healing and victory after a season of painful change. Visit Kay's website at kayharms.com
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