Facing What is Overwhelming

A new year lies ahead – uncharted territory full of potential and pitfalls, opportunity and obstacles.

matterhorn-968_1920What do you do when you face an obstacle?

Depending on the size of the obstacle, we may become angry, frantic, and demanding. Or sometimes we get discouraged and give up. Either way we miss out on the opportunity.

It could be a financial debt that seems insurmountable. A client who asks too many questions. A son or daughter who can’t seem to make wise decisions.

Me? One of my biggest obstacles is my to-do list – every day I seem to have more things that need to be done than I have time to work on the list. And the resulting frustration can freeze me in my tracks, meaning I make no progress and possibly miss out on the greatest opportunities of the day.

Let me suggest a different way to approach our obstacles – actually, a different way to think about them. It’s found in one of King David’s Psalms.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

-Psalms 131:1-3

There are several helpful principles here, and I’m going to write them in the first person, in terms of what I choose to do, because that’s where I need to live with these truths.

1 – I set aside my pride. I need to not puff up my heart or my vision and think I can do more than I can. I can’t fix everything, and I certainly can’t fix things in the timeframe that I might like to. I must realize and embrace my limitations. I’m only human. Pride projects me into a false reality where I’m supposed to be Superman. By setting aside my pride, I open my eyes to see reality.

2 – I don’t fixate on what is beyond me.There are obstacles in my life that are too big for me. There are simply some circumstances I cannot change, or can’t change on the timeline I would like. I will need help with these – from another person, or from God Himself. I may need help with the task, or I may need help with my attitude. Admit these limitations, stop trying to change them myself, and move on.

3 – I calm my soul.¬†Our souls are the “brustish,” animal-like part of us. The part that reacts by instinct rather than responding rationally. When we are overwhelmed by obstacles, our souls often become fearful, anxious, even angry. King David said he “calmed and quieted his soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” The contrast of a weaned child is a screaming, demanding infant – one that is hungry and wants its food NOW, maybe because it’s fearful the hunger is not going to be satisfied. A weaned child with its mother is calm and quiet, because he now trusts that he will be fed and have his needs met.

When my soul wails and demands relief from hunger or tension or fear RIGHT NOW, I need to remember that I can trust my heavenly Father to satisfy my need, to stay with me through the challenge, to help me face this obstacle in His perfect timing.

Letting go of what is beyond my ability frees me to do what is within my ability.

Next time you face something that’s bigger than you can handle, become aware if you are trying to force your way through, or if you are giving up. Consider a third alternative: that of letting go of what you can’t do, embracing God’s provision in your life, and pressing forward with what He has empowered you to do.

Question: What helps you trust the Lord when you are overwhelmed?

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