I was doing a head count of my students who were taking an exam, only to find out that one was missing. I went outside the room and found her – sitting on the floor and crying. She was talking to her mother on the phone. She was crying out about how she couldn’t handle her situation anymore. Another guy, presumably her boyfriend, was beside her and consoling her with a gentle rub on the back. That same guy later talked to me – interceding on her behalf – regarding her predicament. Life had apparently overwhelmed her like a stampede on a marathon race (sorry, I can’t think of a better illustration right now). Work, academics, and other personal problems probably came crashing towards her at the same time.
As her teacher, I decided that it wasn’t the best time to talk to her. I had to let her be as she poured out on her mom, and allow her other loved ones to comfort her. She was in no state to take my exams, let alone be informed that a makeup exam may not be in the realm of possibility. Meanwhile, I did not realize that what she was experiencing would eventually be something that I would experience as well…
Just a few days after that incident, I felt overwhelmed by life as well. There’s thesis. There’s church ministry. There’s teaching. There’s the upcoming wedding. There’s the tons of other things that I want to do. Finally, there’s that proverbial elusive rest. Somehow, I wanted to be understood. Yet the only people whom I think could understand me are equally, if not more busy.
Overwhelmed. Even the Lord Jesus was overwhelmed, as recorded by both Matthew (26:36-38) and Mark (14:32-34):
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Jesus’ time had almost come. He was about to bear the weight of the sin of world on his body, he was about to experience apparent abandonment by God the Father. He was about to experience something he’d rather not.
What do we do when overwhelmed? Here’s a good read from gotquestions.org.
Meanwhile, one of the things I encountered while meditating on the Psalms (118:5-7) was this passage:
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.
When overwhelmed, it’s OK to cry(out) to God or to friends. We need to ask for His presence to be felt. We may also seek the presence of peers and loved ones. We need to ask for God’s presence and promises to be our strength. We need to realize that we are in a position of victory. Sin cannot overwhelm us, neither can any trouble this world has to offer. We need to realize that all these things will come to pass, and that Christ, who matters above all, will remain.
The things that cause us to feel overwhelmed may not disappear. The problems will still be there, and we still need to face them. We need to crawl to survive, if need be. The comfort is that we are not alone, and that the problems are not forever.
On the other hand, we also need to be aware about people in our lives who may be overwhelmed and need our help. Our presence and an empathic listening ear would help. Here’s a link on empathy. Appropriate comforting intimacies and selected affirming and comforting words might help. Thoughtful actions and volunteering to help will also be appreciated. Even Jesus wanted his disciples to at least keep watch. To make him feel that he wasn’t “alone”.
Are you overwhelmed right now? Come to Jesus. Call a friend or more. Pour out your soul and open yourself up to receive grace.
Do you have friends or loved ones who seem to be run-over by life at full throttle? What can you do for them? How can you journey with them?