When my husband and I attended the 2018 Senior Pastor and Wives retreat hosted by the Great Commission Collective Doug Long, one of the speakers, opened with those words. “Be overwhelmed.”
He instantly got my attention. Sometimes parenting through a problematic moment overwhelms 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. Why should I embrace this feeling of being overwhelmed?
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: life. All of life overwhelms. 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, 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, and makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside quiet waters has 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.
How can we cultivate a heart that is overwhelmed by God more than circumstance? How do we train our mind to go to God first in a crisis moment and common mundane moments? Long addresses this in his message. My paraphrase will never be as powerful as his exact words, but I’ll share what I learned:
We don’t want to be overwhelmed. We long for things to be comfortable and we pursue anything that makes life less complicated. We need to “get over” wanting to feel less overwhelmed and instead embrace it: be overwhelmed, BUT be overwhelmed by the right thing.
When was the last time the magnitude of your responsibilities overwhelmed you? Last week? Last month? Yesterday? We all likely have an answer, but can you answer this:
When was the last time you were overwhelmed by the love of your God?
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 we are overwhelmed by God’s love our theology dictates how we feel and perceive a situation, not our feelings.” ~ Doug Long
I asked those same people I polled on social media how they could train their hearts to go to God first. Although they didn’t use the words “train themselves” in their responses, there was a consistent theme: run to God. Practice going to God first to create the habit. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Ensure my heart is right before the Lord. Surrender to his plans.
They all seem to capture the idea of teaching our stubborn hearts through the discipline of seeking God through our trials to be overwhelmed by His love for us.