Sometimes life can be absolutely overwhelming. The enemy is an expert at coming in like a flood with crushing circumstances. And he brings disturbing thoughts that try to drown you in feelings of helplessness and even hopelessness. “Overwhelm” is an enemy I’ve fought many times over the years, and defeating it starts with understanding what it really is.
Merriam Webster defines “overwhelm” as: to affect (someone) very strongly; to cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with; to defeat (someone or something) completely. Overwhelm also means: upset, overthrow; to cover over completely, submerge; or to overcome by superior force or numbers; to overpower in thought or feeling.
Of course, you can be overwhelmed simply from a natural perspective with too much work or too many facts or too much opposition. But the enemy likes to work in our naturally overwhelming circumstances to apply spiritual pressure. When that spiritual pressure mounts, too often we look for a way of escape rather than trusting in the Lord for His sufficient grace to meet the situation at hand.
David Understood Overwhelm
Don’t feel ashamed in your battle against overwhelm. David understood these feelings all too well. He once wrote, “My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.'” (Psalm 55:4-8)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could fly away and escape. Yes, this is the same David who ran to the battle line to defeat Goliath without a second (or fearful) thought. And this wasn’t the only time David felt overwhelmed. Another time he wrote, “From the end of the earth I will cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2) And again, “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path.” (Psalm 142:3)
Steps To Overcome Overwhelm
The first step in battling overwhelm is to recognize it and acknowledge the situation you find yourself in. Denying feelings of overwhelm won’t help you conquer your flesh or the devil. Once you’ve acknowledged the reality of an overwhelmed heart, you can work with the Holy Spirit to get to the root of these feelings.
What is causing this overwhelm, really? Is the enemy blowing it out of proportion? Is it really as bad as it looks, or is this pressure demonic? Put your circumstances—and your emotions—into perspective. Is there anything you can do right now in the natural to relieve some of the burdens you feel? Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom in the midst of this trial.
God Is Not Overwhelmed
While you wait for this pure wisdom that comes from above, meditate on Jesus. Get your mind off the overwhelming circumstances and onto the Word of God. Pray for grace, strength, and whatever else you feel you need from Father at the moment. Remind yourself of His promises.
And remember David. When he was overwhelmed with Saul hunting him down and with Absalom trying to overtake his kingdom and with his baby son dying and with even his own sin, he always turned to God. Here is one of his prayers for help in troubling times that you may want to pray for yourself:
“I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord. I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. And I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. In the way where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul.
I cried out to You, O Lord; I said, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Give heed to my cry, for I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring my soul out of prison, so that I may give thanks to Your name; The righteous will surround me, for You will deal bountifully with me.’” (Psalm 142). Amen!