“Be overwhelmed.” Those were Doug Long’s opening words at a conference for pastors and wives.
He instantly got my attention. Sometimes ministry demands overwhelm me. Sometimes it’s the unchecked items on my to-do list at the end of the day. Sometimes it’s looking ahead to the packed calendar and wondering where I will muster up the energy to not merely survive the upcoming month, but enjoy each moment as a God-given gift. Sometimes, quite honestly, I’m overwhelmed by the expectations I put on myself.
I asked on social media what overwhelms other people, and I received a variety of answers. They ranged from emotional struggles (loneliness) to physical hardships (finances, household chores, illness) to the general response of life. All of life overwhelms.
What about you? When was the last time the magnitude of your responsibilities overwhelmed you? Last week? Last month? Yesterday? And Long says we should embrace this? No, he doesn’t. Stick with me.
UNDERWHELMED BY GOD
The deeper issue is not that I’m overwhelmed by life or ministry demands, but I am underwhelmed by God. When was the last time the goodness of God, the fact that He intervened in my life and saved me, the way He sets my feet on solid ground, makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet waters overwhelmed me? Maybe, just maybe, when we kick the One meant to overwhelm us from His proper place every other circumstance rushes in to fill the void.
Long said that we don’t want to be overwhelmed; we long for things to be comfortable, and we pursue anything that makes life less complicated. He said that we needed to “get over” wanting to feel less overwhelmed and instead embrace it: be overwhelmed, BUT be overwhelmed by the right thing.
When God goes into the background, circumstances take the forefront, but the opposite is true as well. When God stays in the forefront, where He belongs, circumstances remain behind Him. When our hearts are captured by God’s great love right theology drives our actions and influences our emotions.
I asked those same people I polled on social media how they could train their hearts to go to God first in the emotionally charged and overwhelming moments of life. There was a consistent theme in their answers:
- Run to God.
- Practice going to God first to create the habit by not talking about it with others until you have prayed about it.
- Surround yourself with encouraging people.
- Ensure your heart is right before the Lord.
- Surrender to His plans.
They all seem to capture this idea of teaching our stubborn hearts through the discipline of seeking God through our trials to be overwhelmed by His love for us. So yes, Long was right. Be overwhelmed.
(A version of this post first appeared on glorioussurrender.com)