You’ve stared at the list of things to do for days. You’ve tried sorting it into neat piles, but the list of piles itself only gets longer. You’re starting to feel overwhelmed. The lists of your lists are starting to run several pages.
You wish you could just stop the crushing feeling, but wave after wave of stuff to do keeps pounding you into the surf, leaving you wondering if you’ll ever get a chance to come up for air.
And that’s not even counting the important stuff you know should be on the list but isn’t urgent enough to make the cut today. Maybe tomorrow. If you make it that far. All of it tends to make us even more afraid.
You know the feeling. Maybe you’re feeling it now. But you are not alone. The Psalmist had a similar experience of feeling overwhelmed:
I cried out to God with my voice– To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. (Ps. 77:1-4)
Talk about feeling overwhelmed! Sounds as if he’s got it bad. Know the feeling?
It get’s worse. I suspect we can all relate to what happens next as he begins to question God:
I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? (Ps. 77:6-9)
Let’s face it. It’s hard to stop thinking this way when we’re feeling deluged by real life. Who among us hasn’t questioned whether God was still paying attention when stuff didn’t make sense from our perspective? But as John Maxwell put it, “Life begins at the end of our comfort zone.”
The Solution to Feeling Overwhelmed
The solution comes in the next few verses as the Psalmist gives three simple steps to stop feeling overwhelmed:
- Remember God’s works. The writer chooses to change the way he thinks by choosing the thoughts he will have. “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” One reason we often feel overwhelmed is that we so easily forget just how big God really is — and how small we are. It’s as if we’re flailing away, face-down in the kiddie pool while the Heavenly Lifeguard who makes dry land appear with a word stands by, arms folded, waiting for us to finish our tantrum. Take time to remember whose pool we’re in.
- Meditate on God’s works. “I will also meditate on all Your work.” It’s not enough to just remember that God has done wondrous things. We need to ponder them, process them, and absorb them into our DNA. If we are to be transformed by the “renewing of our minds,” it will take more than an occasional postcard to remind us of God’s greatness.
- Talk about God’s works. “I will talk of Your deeds.” Words are powerful, creative things. When we begin to speak what we are thinking, our thoughts become more real. We go on record, as it were, in support of God’s awesome track record of providing and caring for His people. We begin to stop lying and start speaking the truth — to ourselves.
In case you hadn’t noticed the obvious, all of these three steps revolve around God’s works — not our works. Funny isn’t it, that when we feel overwhelmed we usually are busier than ever? Kind of gives a whole new depth to God’s command to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Where our focus is, there will our heart be also.
Perhaps we need to recall the words of Martin Luther who said that he had so much to do that he simply must spend at least three hours in prayer to prepere for it all.
More Practical Tips
And once you’ve applied this heart treatment, try on this highly practical infographic at Copyblogger (HT Guest Post by Lucille Zimmerman at Michael Hyatt’s blog) for practical tips to stop feeling overwhelmed. Just make sure you get the treatment in the right order or nothing’s going to change.