Five Things to Remember When Life Becomes Overwhelming

One of my friends shared on facebook that she is really struggling with all the things that life is throwing at her right now. Unfortunately, I think we can ALL identify with that feeling of being overwhelmed on occasion! Women, who tend to be fixers, sometimes have difficulty admitting they need help when life becomes overwhelming for them. So how do we learn to swallow our pride and ask for help? How do we let our friends and family know that we have reached a point where we are ready to scream, or cry, or just hide, until we can face life with equanimity again?

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

For those of you who find yourself in this circumstance, here are five things I’ve found helpful.

5.  Everyone feels overwhelmed occasionally–you are not alone. When life is coming full throttle and sometimes circumstances are conspiring to get us “out of whack” we sometimes feel a sense of helplessness and a loss of control. We may often feel that we are unworthy and unloved because we cannot keep it together. Most women I know have been there at one time or another. It’s okay to express your feelings of inadequacy, fear, frustration and even anger to a person you trust. You may be surprised at how many others have felt the same way.

4. It is okay to be honest about your feelings. For most women, friends and family really do care, even though sometimes it may not seem like it. They may be oblivious to your feelings because you have never let them know you are struggling! It is okay to be honest with your spouse and children to let them know in age-appropriate ways that you are sad, or overwhelmed, or even angry with life. You may be surprised at how honestly sharing with them can make a difference. Just be sure not to make it a blame game, which only complicates everything in unhealthy ways. My husband would often say he was not a mind reader, but many times I expected him to be one!

3.  Feel free to ask for help!  Don’t feel like you always have to do everything on your own. Sometimes people just need to know you are struggling and when they do, they will be there for you. Find a trusted friend, a pastor, or a counselor to give you honest feedback and support. In all honesty, I am not always good at picking up those verbal and visual clues when someone is struggling, but if they share their struggles with me, I am there for them. So if you are acting like everything is alright, do not be upset with your friends and family because they do not know how you really feel. Sharing burdens is actually a biblical concept.

2.  Take drugs! I say that jokingly, but seriously, sometimes there are chemical imbalances that lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and sadness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with your physician and GET HELP if you need it. There should be no shame in seeking the help of a professional, be it your physician, a therapist, or a psychiatrist. I say kudos to you if you recognize that it can be a life changer.

And just as a side note, it is okay as a Christian to be treated for depression or anxiety. Do not let someone guilt you into thinking you are not a good Christian just because you are struggling.

1.  Take your struggles to the Lord. Pray about it, journal about it, trust in Him to send you deliverance. He truly cares about our struggles and hurts. It is easy to feel distant from God when we are struggling, but this is the time we most need to saturate ourselves in His Word and recognize that He is ever-present in our lives. Even if he feels far away, do not stop immersing yourself in his word. Even if you feel that he doesn’t hear your prayers, he does. Sometimes we cannot trust our “feelings” when it comes to thinking about how God loves us, but instead we just cling to his word and trust his promises are true.

I caution women not to be too hard on themselves when life seems overwhelming and they have a crying spell about some seemingly insignificant thing. Sometimes it is a good release valve for all that tension. It happens when we live in an imperfect world, so we need to cut ourselves a little slack on occasion! Life happens and struggles happen, but it helps to know, we’re not in it alone.

Psalm 55:22, NLT Give your burdens to the Lord and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

I Peter 5:7, NLT Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Other verses to study: Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 41:13, Joshua 1:9 There are many verses in scripture that remind us of God’s care for us. Scriptures about fear, anxiety, and worry abound. The fact is that God encourages us to rely on him and reminds us over and over again that he loves us and cares about our lives.

The Alabaster Jar

Recently in my morning reading I arrived to Luke 7: 36-50. Before you read the rest of what I write, I would like you to read this passage (below). There is much speculation as to the identity of the woman. Some say it was Mary Magdalene, but any other time in Scripture where Mary Magdalene was involved, her name was given. It was speculated that it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Indeed, we do read in Matthew 26 of a woman anointing Jesus with costly oil while he was in Bethany and it is likely that it was Mary. But in this passage, the woman is not named, just her reputation was what defined her.

Here is a woman who has learned that Jesus would be at Simon’s house. I have to wonder, was she part of one of the crowds that listened to Jesus’ teaching? Did she stand at the back of the crowd, with her face mostly hidden, so that she could hear this man of whom she had heard so many tales? Did she know someone who had been healed by him or had she just heard the rumors and stories that were floating around? Whatever it was, it was obvious that Jesus’ words and actions had deeply touched her life.

The imagery of this woman standing behind the feet of Jesus while he is reclining at the table is powerful. She wets his feet with her copious tears and then wipes them with her hair. Not only does she wipe his feet with her hair, afterwards, she pours very expensive perfume on them. In many ways, the sheer magnitude of what she did is amazing.

For a woman who was a sinner, possibly a prostitute, to enter the home of a Pharisee and weep at the feet of Jesus had to be uncomfortable for all the guests at the table. She was probably discouraged from entering at the door, and entered anyway. She had to be conscious of the waves of disapproval sent her way, but that did not stop her from lavishing Jesus with her adoration. She humbled herself by her actions and in doing so she made sure that Jesus knew what an impact he had on her life.

There is no doubt that I deeply love my Savior. But I often wonder if that love would be strong enough for me to enter a home where I was not welcome, and humble myself to wash the feet of Jesus with my tears. Would I be willing to anoint his feet with a jar of perfume that probably cost more than a year’s wages? I would like to think that yes, I would be willing to show Christ my love in this way.

Every time I read this story, I am moved by the compassion and love that Jesus showed this woman. The fact that he acknowledged what she had done for him once again gives me a picture of the depth of his grace. And in more ways than I can even articulate, it challenges me to develop the depth of this kind of love for my Savior. I am so grateful that this was included in the gospels to give us even more insight into the Jesus who loves the sinner, no matter what their past may be.

Luke 7: 36-50, ESV

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Finding Joy in the Chaos, Part 1

If most of you are like me, the last two years have been frustrating. Covid has changed our world and stress levels are at an all-time high. Our lives are nothing like we envisioned them. I retired when Covid-19 hit such high numbers in 2020.

My expectations for retirement were drastically changed. My bucket list hit the trash can. There would be no road trips to see family and long-time friends, no cruises, and no extra vacations. Suddenly instead of the retirement I envisioned, I was left with the fall-out of Covid and it was hard to find joy in my life.

The fact is that many of the women I talk with are struggling to find joy in their lives amidst the chaos right now. They are tired and worn out. They are juggling their lives, trying to be everything to everyone. You are not alone if you are struggling.

According to Dr. Steve Stephen, in his book The Worn Out Woman notes studies done estimate there are more than sixty million worn-out women in the US alone and just as many are on the fast track to becoming exhausted and overwhelmed! It is no wonder we are having difficulty finding joy in our lives. I suspect those statistics are higher since 2020.

The fact of the matter is what we are feeling now is not new. Psalm 6:6 says, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” Psalm 10:1 is a cry from David, “Why O Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

I want to find joy in my life and instead it seems that stress has become a daily part of it. So, what happens when you are stressed?  Stress can lead to health problems, broken relationships, severe depression, and a number of other difficult consequences. If you ignore these issues, they do not go away. Trying to tap into joy when you are struggling is extremely difficult because the issues sometimes grow and steal our joy.

And the thing about joy is not that we are happy all the time. Instead it is an intrinsic emotion that helps us know that things are well with our soul. The Webster definition for joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, but for the Christian it combines that with a deep satisfaction and knowledge that no matter how our lives are going, God is with us every step of the way.

Joy is a term that appears approximately 165 times in the KJV translation, 182 in the NASV, and 218 times in the NIV.

Crosswalk website notes, “As we read in Scripture, joy is a state of being, and it differs from happiness, which may come and go. Happiness is usually measured by our circumstances, whereas joy is measured by what we have been given. As Christians, we have been given something that cannot be taken away. We have joy because of the grace of Jesus Christ that lives in us. We can hold onto joy, we can feel joyful, and we can rejoice with praise no matter what our circumstances may be because no matter what is going on in our lives God is always near.”1

Valorie Burton, A Christian life coach who regularly appears on the Today Show says, “If you want to be happier on a regular basis, there’s one really simple piece of advice to follow… Happiness is actually contagious, so be intentional about surrounding yourself with happy people.”

So, how do we find joy in our lives? The first thing is to recognize that we really do need to identify the areas in our lives that are joy stealers. In others words, we need to evaluate what circumstances take away our joy and then try to develop healthy habits that help us renew our joy in life. So how and why do we do this? Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow as I lay out a key Scripture to focus on to help you find your way to joy.

A Day of Disappointments

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

Recently I had one of those days. You know the kind. The kind where nothing has gone the way you planned–where because of Covid, you had to cancel an activity you were looking forward to, where something broke and you need to decide if you will replace it or fix it, where a friend found out they had cancer. Those are the kind of days a lot of people experience.

My list of disappointments can go on and on. However this is the thing–all of us can find all kinds of things to be disappointed about in life. And dwelling on our disappointments just magnifies feelings of anger, frustration, worthlessness, and bitterness.

The good news is that life’s disappointments do not define us and cannot defeat us if we hold strong to some tools for overcoming disappointments. One of my favorite verses is found in Philippians 4:8-9. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Continue reading

Resilient or Defeated

re·sil·ience/rəˈzilyəns

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. “the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

Today I was reading through the book Successful Women Think Differently by Valorie Burton. I sincerely wish I had been able to read a book like this when I was in my twenties (which is way further back than I like!). The chapter I read today was on resilience. As I read through the chapter I realized that resiliency is one key thing that makes all the difference in the world for people who have faced adversity.

Burton defines resilience as “the ability to bounce back from setbacks.” She further notes that “resilient people thrive and grow in the face of adversity, challenges and change.”1

While I was in the Ozarks I noticed that throughout the rocky ground, there was life. Bushes, trees and even weeds managed to thrive and grow despite their less than ideal environment.

Continue reading

You of All People

Today I was reading a scripture that leaped out at me in a way it never had before. Maybe it is because I have been reading a lot of headlines, twitter feeds, and Facebook posts. Maybe it is just that I am tired, both mentally and physically.  Or maybe it was because God was speaking to me through His word, like He never fails to do.

I can imagine God looking down on us from the Heavenly throne, with a heart that is heavy. I can imagine Jesus Christ, shaking His head and weeping copious tears for His church, His bride, His body. We Americans who call ourselves Christian are losing our way and becoming more and more like the people he came to set free. We are becoming legalistic, self-righteous, political, and judgmental.

Before you start calling me out, please understand that I do realize there are Christians out there who love and serve Jesus with all of their heart. I hear their voices and see their acts of service and their love for God. I know there are Christ followers out there who have compassion for the unlovable, the poor, the orphans, and the widows. There are servants who speak the truth of God and live it out daily.

But what I see a whole lot more of is people like me. Continue reading

Come as You Are

This morning as I was pondering so many of the difficulties my friend’s are having, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness as I realized all of the needs out there. The diagnosis of breast cancer, the possibility of losing a spouse, the challenges of being a parent, the ravages of grief, the unanswered questions of why God does not answer prayers the way we think should happen–all of these issues came at me like a starship in hyper drive. Life can become overwhelming at times, and even as Christians who know we should put our trust in God, we sometimes become shaky in our faith.

Life is frequently hard–even for those who put their faith and trust in God. I love Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 and often cling to them when my life seems to be in chaos (which is more frequently than I like to admit!). Continue reading