To Overwhelm is defined as: “bury or drown beneath a huge mass”, defeat completely, or give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.
There was a time I didn’t think God spoke to conditions like “being overwhelmed”. I found this passage when I was overwhelmed and doing a word study about it.
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy.
I started out planning to talk about the fourth quarter planning that you, your organization, or church should be engaging in right now, and then I had a couple of conversations. These conversations were with people – brilliant, anointed people – who felt stuck and ineffective. In both conversations, the word “overwhelmed” came up. As we evaluate the year and make plans for what's next, some of you may have the same feeling of being overwhelmed. Let’s talk about being overwhelmed and how to get back into a productive place.
Being overwhelmed is a condition of the heart (not the physical heart, though that can get overwhelmed too). Today, however, we are talking about the sense of hopelessness and fatigue we feel in our mind, will and emotions. This feeling of overwhelm could be our response to feeling buried or drowning beneath a huge mass.
The work of ministry can feel like a huge mass. Not seeing the results that we hope or pray for, often for years, can feel like we have been completely defeated while still working hard. Sometimes we even feel like we have been given too much to have to manage or deal with.
We can feel all these things while going through the daily and weekly motions of work, family, church, dreams (which are likely on the back burner). We are exhausted and in battle, and it seems all we see are more battles with no reinforcements coming.
The above passage in Psalms 61 can give insight on how to overcome overwhelm:
1. Ask for help. David asked God for help. We can ask God for help, and we can ask others. Often as leaders, we believe we must appear strong and invincible, but that is pride. We were created to live life and create assignments with others. Someone is ready to offer strength you are missing, but you must ask.
2. Change your perspective. While God is a refuge and strong tower, the request to "lead me to a rock higher than I" also speaks of changing your perspective. When overwhelmed, we are usually right in the middle of every fight or problem, but to look at the situations from a higher perspective gives you a different vantage point. Seeing the problem from a distance gives you wider insight into the problem and a clearer view of possible solutions.
3. Evaluate your seat before you evaluate your situation. Ephesians 2:6 tells us we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Becoming overwhelmed doesn't happen suddenly, but over time as we forget our purpose and our position. Losing sight of purpose and position will cause us to impulsively or compulsively take on what is not useful and ignore that which is purposeful. Evaluate your seat spiritually and ask, "Am I judging this situation from a heavenly place of authority or a fleshly place of fear and inferiority?
Finally, evaluate physically what's happening inside of you: are you getting enough rest, meditation time, exercise and social activities? Are you off balanced in any area of your life (work, play, rest or worship)? Based on where you are make the adjustments that will put you in a better position to deal with what is overwhelming you.