Guest Post by Pamela Henkelman
Help! I’m Overwhelmed! Four Steps to Calm the Chaos and Hear God’s Voice
As we wrap up this part of our series on hearing God’s voice I want to address a common problem that overrides our ability to hear God: the feeling of overwhelm. You’ve heard of it, right?
The alarm jars me from a deep sleep. I groan and roll-over, fully aware of my schedule ahead. How am I already tired when the day hasn’t started? I reach for my comfy robe, grab a cup of coffee, and head to my spot. You know, the place I meet with Jesus in the morning. I imagine peace and joy but I’m met with frustration and anger. I try to quiet my racing thoughts. “Focus,” I tell myself. “You can deal with it later. It’s time to concentrate on God.”
Even my quiet time with God feels forced. Where’s the comfort and connection I crave? I’m feeling empty and spent. I wonder if God is disappointed in me?
I get the kids up and breakfast ready. We leave half-eaten bowls of cereal lining the counter as I scoot them out the door with dad. He’ll tell lots of bad dad jokes and they’ll blare the Journey soundtrack on the way to school. It’s the most they’ll see of him, as he’s a pastor and has lots of things to do. There’s always meetings, planning, people in crisis, strife to handle. It never ends for a pastor and his wife. Balancing the logistical needs of a large family with the needs of the church, is a whole thing in and of itself.
As I wave them out the door, my mind lands on the challenges my kids, these five cherubs ranging from preschool to high school, are facing these days. How in the world do I have a child in every age range? We’re dealing with growing pains, emotional distress, friendship trouble, homework stress, and bullies at school. The issues are similar, but our kid’s ages require different approaches when parenting them through these issues.
I gather the abandoned bowls and rinse them off as I go over my to-do list for the day in my head. Each kid has their own schedule to keep and homework to get done. There are the drop-off and pick-up schedules to mind and dinner to make. Should I tackle laundry first or work on my Bible study for discussion tonight? Oh, wait, I have a dance meeting at four! The little girls have dance rehearsal, Keenan has a concert, Moriah is heading to Sam’s house and Caleb will want to go hang out with a friend after school.
I feel the tightness in my neck and notice my shallow breathing. A wave of low-grade anger simmers below the surface. I’m not mad at people, I’m just frustrated my schedule is so crazy.
I’m overwhelmed by the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those around me. Really, I’d just like to escape.
Calm the Chaos
The busy days of kids at home are long gone, but I’ll never forget the feelings of overwhelm I lived with most of the time.
Our endless “to-do” list, unrealistic expectations, need for perfection, and limited capacity, leads to overwhelm.
Overwhelm manifests as racing thoughts, tightness in our chest, and weary bodies. We feel this immense pressure.
These past weeks we’ve been talking about hearing God’s voice, but this is very difficult for a person who is overwhelmed. The only voice we hear is the one that screams, “You’re not enough.” “This is too hard.” “Everyone is counting on me.” “If I say ‘no’, they’ll be disappointed in me.”
There’s so much noise going on inside, no wonder we can’t hear God’s still, small voice. We long to escape, or suffocate our stress with a dozen cookies and a pint of ice cream. We drag our exhausted bodies to bed only to wake up with the same feelings of overwhelm. It’s not easy friends, but there is a way out of the overwhelm and it begins with a pause, recognizing the lie, turning to the truth, and a simple prayer.
I know you’re rolling your eyes when I say pause! But stay with me, because it’s the first step in hearing God. Ann Voskamp says this about our busy lives: “In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives.” Ouch! That hurts, doesn’t it?
Silence the Overwhelm and Hear God’s Voice
When we take the following four steps, we quiet the noise inside so we can hear God’s still, quiet voice.
The first step to stop the overwhelm is to pause and become self-aware.
- Take a deep breath
- Where is there tension in your body?
- What are you feeling?
- Pay attention to any voice of shame or condemnation because these thoughts fuel the lie,
Identify the Lie:
The next step is to ask yourself this question:. “What is the lie I’m believing about my current situation?” The lie will sound like:
- Everything depends on me.
- It’s too hard.
- I have to please everyone.
- There’s too much to do.
- I’m too busy.
Replace the lie with the truth:
Once you recognize the lie, you replace it with truth from God’s Word.
Here are some truths:
- I’m responsible for myself and God is responsible for everyone else.
- I can do hard things because God strengthens me.
- I only need to please God, not man.
- I can plan for rest because rest is God’s idea.
The final step is to pray a prayer of surrender. You can pray whatever prayer of surrender you’d like, but I found this prayer on John Eldridge’s One Minute Pause App, and it’s helping me immensely:.
“God, I give you everyone and everything. Amen.
Think through all the things and people you need to let go at this moment. Feel the tension leave your body and the peace of God come flooding in. We can pray this prayer anywhere or anytime.
It seems too simple, doesn’t it? In our overwhelm we make assumptions about ourselves and God. Honestly, in the moments of overwhelm, God longs for his kids to look to Him and ask for help. Once we learn to be self-aware, recognize a lie, replace it with truth, and surrender to God at the moment, we’ll hear His voice of love, and isn’t that what we long to hear most of all?
Dear Papa, I long to hear your soothing voice above the noise of my overwhelmed mind and heart. Teach me to pause, and pay attention to what’s really going on inside. Help me refute the lies with truth, then lead me to peace as I pray a prayer of surrender. Teach me to hear your voice in the midst of chaos and overwhelm. Amen.
Maybe this will help.
I have a free printable to help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed, ”60 Seconds to Freedom From Overwhelm.” Print it out and put it on your bathroom mirror or another area you look at first thing in the morning!
Click here to receive “60 Seconds from to Freedom from Overwhelm“; leave your name and email so I know where to send it.
Pamela is an enthusiastic encourager who loves to speak, coach, and write. She believes all of life flows from our loving union with God. She helps women grow in intimate connection with God and understand their identity in Christ as beloved.
She hails from the Midwest and is a brand new “empty-nester” with her husband of 33 years, the pastor. They have five grown kids and two grandsons. For fun she enjoys cooking, daily walks with her hubby, and coffee with friends. You can find all her good stuff at her website https://www.pamelahenkelman.com She also has a private Facebook Group called Be[Loved] Community with Pamela Henkelman. You’re welcome to hang out with her there. You can also find her on Instagram at https://www.instragram.com/phenkelman