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.

My Comfort Zone

Do you ever go out of your comfort zone when it comes to serving God? It seems that since I have gotten older I have gone out of my comfort zone more frequently than when I was younger. I think when I was younger I was more consumed with parenting, being a spouse, and serving at church, than I was concerned about being out of my comfort zone. I think I worried more about making it through the day without a melt-down–either my kids or mine– than I thought about challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone more!

Recently one of my fellow church members contacted me and asked if I would be willing to speak on a rotation basis at a nearby assistant living facility. That was a stretch for me. I had been asked to speak for their small worship service and believe me, that was way out of my comfort zone. I speak for workshops and retreats for women’s groups, but I had never spoken for a service with older people. I was not sure exactly what to speak about as I wracked my brain for the normal topics I speak on. I prayed about what these individuals would want and need to hear about God.

Then I realized they want to hear the same things I want to hear. They want to hear about a loving God who sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for each of us. They want to hear about our walk with Jesus and how it can change our lives. They want to hear that the fruit of the spirit can still be cultivated in their lives, even though their time here on earth can be short.

So I chose to talk about joy. In January I did a two-part blog post on this topic because I firmly believe that like many things, joy is a choice for us. But how would I relate choosing joy to individuals who are dealing with multiple health issues and are just now recovering from social isolation from Covid? I realized having joy is a choice we make whether we are 20 or 80. It is not dependent on what is happening in the world around us or in the challenges of an aging body.

So yesterday I went to our early service at church (which was a stretch for me as I am NOT an early bird) and was challenged and inspired by the message. Then I left and made my way to the assistant living facility. And I talked about joy in our relationship with Jesus, joy in how we choose to interact with others, and joy in the midst of our circumstances (even if they are not of our choosing). I saw several nods and no one fell asleep while I was sharing, so I consider that a win.

I realized when I finished that I was grateful that God stretched me out of my comfort zone once again. And while I hope that the people who heard me speak were blessed by the time they spent with me, I have to say, I was probably way more blessed by being able to share my heart with them for a brief time.

So what about you? What has been asked of you lately that will stretch you out of your comfort zone? I always say, pray about it and listen to what God has to say. Sometimes you will be the one who walks away with the blessing.

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.”

My View from the Pew

Well, technically my view from the pew is really from the chair. We never had pews at my church. Believe me, chairs are far more comfortable and during the height of Covid-19 they were able to take out a lot of chairs in order to provide safe distancing. But I digress from the real point.

I am short and usually I sit toward the front of the church because I can see better. Invariably I will end up moving because someone tall sits in front of me. Last week, I came into the auditorium just before service started and had to sit toward the back. It was interesting how different the perspective was for me. But the cool thing was, I saw from the back what I normally did not see from the front.

I saw an arm with a tattoo sleeve lifted high in praise and a row back I saw a tiny older lady with her silver hair and dangling bracelets lifting her arms in praise also. I saw a man with black earrings in his gauge piercings, singing with all his heart. In the row in front of me sat a man dressed in a plaid flannel shirt who could have been an double for Paul Bunyan, beard, height and all. I saw black, white, and Indian cultures represented; and they were all brothers and sisters, worshiping the King of Kings.

Every Sunday you can count on two things being said from whomever is speaking. The first is, “Jesus is the lead story” and the second is, “This is a safe place for you to ask your questions.” The wonderful thing is, this is a body of believers who take that to heart. In an age when many churches are closing their doors, our church is reaching people with the powerful love of Jesus. We encourage everyone who comes through our doors to become involved in a ministry and be part of a home team, where they build relationships with other Christians.

As I observed from the back, I thought this is what the church should be–People from all walks of life who desperately need Jesus. We all have sin and we all have been recipients of Christ’s love when he ultimately shed his blood for us. From my seat in the back of the church I watched in awe as I saw God’s Spirit at work in a group of diverse people who crave a relationship with him.

We are not perfect, and anyone looking for flaws, can certainly find one. But the fact of the matter is when a church embraces their love for God and their love for people, God can work powerfully. What about you? What do you see when you watch from the back? What you see can tell you a lot about your church. I hope that it is God’s love shining through.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love our neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.'” – Matthew 22:34-40

My Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day that brings joy to some people, and stress to others. My cynical friends will say that it is just a day for merchants to sell more merchandise, and indeed I noticed the flower prices in my local grocery store went up substantially the week before Valentine’s Day hit. But my more romantic friends will anticipate receiving flowers, candy, or any number of things to celebrate their love.

The first year after my husband died, I found Valentine’s Day a difficult holiday to face. Now the thing is, it had never been a big deal day in our home. We didn’t do fancy dinners, or spend unnecessary money on a dozen roses. We were lucky if we gave each other cards some years. But we were together, and we loved each other. There was something about that security of knowing someone loves you and that you love someone that makes the day special. After he died, I found myself longing to be back where we were. But you cannot go back, you can only go forward.

For the single person who has never known the love of a spouse, for the widow or widower who has lost their loved one, or for the ones who find themselves in a difficult marriage and wondering if love will ever be theirs again, Valentine’s Day can be burdensome.

So you find ways to cope and find joy in the day. For me, it is taking joy in sending cards to my grandkids–although I must confess, somehow I missed doing that this year! The joy comes in watching other couples celebrate the day and being glad they are able to celebrate. The joy comes in not letting jealousy or envy get in the way of being happy for others who have found love and stayed the course in their relationships. Believe me, it took me a while to decide I would find the joy in the day instead of being envious of those who had their Valentine.

The joy also comes in knowing that I have the ultimate love, the best Valentine a person can ever receive, in the love of Jesus Christ. When God sent his son, it was like he was sending his Valentine to the world (I know that is not a theological concept, but I am just making a point here.). And for me, thinking about love, only leads me to think about Jesus. The lover of my soul. The rose of Sharon. The person who laid his life down for me. The one who was the Word when God created the very flowers we give as gifts. So Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. May you celebrate knowing that no matter where you are, no matter how alone you feel, God’s Love is the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift.

Finding Joy in the Chaos, Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the stress and chaos that often robs us of our joy. Today we are going to focus on some things that help us in regaining and maintaining joy in our lives. Having joy does not mean that we are happy all the time, or that we never have problems. Instead, for the Christian, it is a deep contentment and happiness that is centered on the Creator.

So how do we find this contentment and joy? I believe a large part of the answer 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.” Consider this–if we focus on the untrue, ignoble, wrong, unpure, ugly or abominable, then our minds will fill with depression and fear. But in focusing on the good things, we are much more likely to find joy.

Key to finding joy in our lives is to have a solid relationship with God.

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash

If you are struggling spiritually, learn to study his word, spend time in prayer with him, and listen to the Holy Spirit as he guides us. Not only will our spiritual walk continually improve, but this will help us by giving us the faith to hand our problems to God and let him work on them. Of all the things we can do to bring a deep, abiding joy in our life, it is to develop a deep relationship with God.

Colossians 2:6, says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

The fact of the matter is that joy is one part of the fruit of the Spirit and should be embedded in every Christian’s life. Galatians 5:22 reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” By focusing on whatever listed in Philippians 4:8, we will find ourselves changing and growing, and it will be easier to leave the joy stealers behind us.

Identify unrealistic expectations holding us back from true happiness.

We are bombarded on every side by media and even people we know who are telling us what we need to do to in order to have a better life. If we just peruse through a magazine, we will see how many products are being promoted to entice us into thinking if we buy them our life will be better. John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” We listen to lies and myths daily. And they set up unrealistic expectations in our lives.

Women especially are bombarded by the messages of being better and being perfect. Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, becomes a catch phrase for us as we review ourselves from a lens that is frequently skewed and sometimes even detrimental to us. Learn to discern your unrealistic expectations and let them go. Learn to lean on Jesus and let go of the expectations of others.

Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28 

Define ways we can actually bring joy back into our lives.

Immerse your self in God’s Word. Try some soul nurturing. Have a mini-retreat with just you and God (even if it is only 1 hour long!) Have a special place set aside where you can read your Bible, journal and pray. I found that was especially difficult when I had young children, but it can bring such joy to your life when you are at a good place with God.

Surround yourself with Christian friends. Good friends help provide perspective, companionship, a place to vent, accountability and encouragement. However, if you have a toxic friend, they provide doom and gloom and are critical and negative influences on your life. Finding friends is not always easy and I would suggest looking at common ministries at church, small groups, or even in a MOPS (Mothers of preschoolers) program.

The right kind of friends can share our faith and values. Choose someone who is positive, is a good listener, believes the best in you, communicates honestly and directly, and can keep confidences.

Learn to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. It is sometimes hard to find all the good around us, but sometimes we just need to focus on the little things that cross our paths every day. Finding a cheerful heart is important to our mental health. Psalm 119:111 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

If you are having difficulty finding joy, the following are a few ways to enjoy life’s simple pleasures:

  • Reconnect with the world around you
  • Take a walk in nature
  • Garden
  • Cook or bake
  • Develop a daily gratitude practice (I keep a gratitude jar and fill it with things I am grateful for)
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Sing and Dance
  • Laugh–a lot. Laughter is proven to relieve pain, reduce stress, and build our immune system
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take time to journal or read something that nourishes your soul
  • Meditation, Prayer and Bible study releases feel good hormones, reduces stress and improves cardiovascular health
  • Do Good for others
  • Maintain realistic expectations
  • Play
  • Dress Happy
  • Do volunteer work
  • Set goals – not only for where you want to be in life, but include some relaxing such as a spa day, getting your nails done, reading a good book, taking a bubble bath.
  • Send letters, poems, or drawings to first responders, essential workers, or elderly people on their own, for example.

I am sure we can find the joy that can be ours if we look for the “whatever” in life. One of my favorite scriptures is found in Isaiah 55:12. It paints such a rich picture that it fills my heart with joy each time I read it.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

So while joy may sometimes seem elusive to us, if we practice some of the suggestions above and make Philippians 4:8 a habit in our lives, we will find ourselves much more attuned to having joy. God wants us to have joy in our lives. A deep, abiding joy in him that is not contingent on our circumstances but rather rooted in his love and grace. Let’s start the journey today.

More Scriptures about joy: Psalm 5:1, Psalm 5:11, Psalm 71:23, Psalm 94:19, Jeremiah 15:16, John 16:24, Acts 2:28, Romans 15:3, Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 1:8-9,