When was the last time you were completely overwhelmed? If you have a job outside the home, stay at home, work with people, have any association with family members of any age, and/or are still breathing, my guess is it hasn’t been all that long. Perhaps the peaceful parts of your life are falling like dominoes, or one of the people who hate you ups the drama for good measure. The light turns red. Someone loses something. You lock yourself out. The treatment isn’t working. Your brother, sister, cousin, mother, husband, son, neighbor throws a wrench in the well-worked-out plan. The baby refuses to be born, sleep, go to anyone but you.
Impulsiveness hasn’t served me well as a reaction to being overwhelmed. I’ve lost several inches of hair; changed hair colors; bought things I wouldn’t have if thinking clearly; written and sent emotionally charged letters, emails, and texts; and meticulously planned tattoos only God spared me from getting. (Understand, I’m not making a statement about tattooing in general, but of me impulsively attaining one. I’ve thanked God multiple times that I didn’t tattoo the two fish kissing over my belly button that I considered shortly after I turned 18. What would’ve been adorable with my flat 18-year-old stomach would have made for four memorable pregnancies.)
Recently, I’ve decided during stressful times that I’m going to be impulsive and lean into being completely and utterly overwhelmed. I’m not planning to change my appearance or spout words steeped in emotion. Rather, in the darkest of moments, the plan is to impulsively be overwhelmed by the goodness of God.
My husband has been a key in this new direction. While in Seattle on vacation, we returned from a brief walk along the pier to find our rental car window smashed. Two of our teens had items stolen, including one item of considerable value. As we gathered for prayers later that evening, my husband thanked God we weren’t near the car when it happened. He thanked God we weren’t confronted with an armed assailant and didn’t have to make decisions that could have led to serious repercussions. He chose to see God’s goodness even after hours of dealing with distraught teens, a police officer, and a trip back to the airport to exchange our rental car.
Almost two weeks later, we returned home to a wet basement. Flooring had to be removed and the storage area emptied. My husband and I sat on the edge of our bed, fresh off a red-eye flight, looking at a mountain of work. We started thanking God it wasn’t worse; that we still had a home, beds, four wonderful children, and a whole bunch of good memories.
Perspective is everything. In the midst of unimaginable crisis (losing animals, servants, and all his sons and daughters), Job fell to the ground and impulsively worshiped the God he still believed in: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21)
And while we don’t know if Joseph responded with praise instantaneously, years later, after all the turmoil caused by his brothers’ selling him into slavery, Joseph reassured them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by God’s goodness once you get started. God provides a roof over your head, food in the cupboards, family, the gorgeous sunset, and beautiful summer flowers.
The key is to be overwhelmed by God’s goodness while things are falling apart. When the car runs—“Thank you, Jesus”—and when it doesn’t—“Thank you for repair places and friends who don’t mind giving rides!” When the sun shines on your outdoor activity, wonderful. And when it rains, thank God for dry clothes, a dry house, and the green grass.
I don’t want stress to determine my mood. And I don’t want to live in a constant state of being overwhelmed . . . unless it’s because I see God is good, no matter my circumstances.
Amber Albee Swenson is a writer, speaker, and blogger. Her husband and four children keep life exciting and give her lots to write and pray about. Mother, wife, and author are treasured positions, but child of God is her identity.
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