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Entries in Overwhelmed (4)

Thursday
Jun062019

Overcomer or Overwhelmed?

Bible teacher and speaker Ava Pennington is gifted in being able to distill practical truth from scripture, and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she gives sound advice for those times when circumstances threaten to overwhelm us.

"My husband was determined to use his final months to remind Christians to look up in the midst of their difficulties," Ava says, "But that’s easier said than done."

I (Dawn) so identify with Ava's words, and this article is timely for me as Ava shares her very personal story. The enemy wants us to live overwhelmed, but that is not what the Lord has for us.

Ava continues . . .

Three months after the oncologist pronounced Russ in remission, we learned the pancreatic cancer had returned with a vengeance, metastasizing to other organs.

Twelve weeks of rejoicing evaporated in an instant.

But his response shocked me almost as much as the prognosis:

“Don’t pray for healing. Of course, I want that and I know God can do it. But this time I believe He has a different purpose for me. I need to share, as much as possible, what it means to know Jesus Christ even in the darkest times. And that has to be my focus during my remaining time.”

For the final eight months of his life, Russ shared his testimony about a different kind of healing. He reminded Christians to look beyond their trials and suffering.

How do we do that?

  • How do we find the strength to see beyond our circumstances? To not be defeated by a diagnosis. Or beaten by a broken relationship.
  • How do we become conquerors instead of conquered? Overcomers instead of overwhelmed? Victorious instead of vanquished?

This is what I saw in my husband in those final eight months.

1. Remember who we belong to

"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

Living in a sin-sick world can make it easy to forget who we belong to. Our situation may cause us to think God has forgotten us or doesn’t care, leading us to lose faith.

We can let our circumstances define our relationship with God or we can let our relationship with God define how we view our circumstances.

As Elisabeth Elliot once said, “Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain.”

2. Maintain an eternal focus

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).

We’re often consumed with making this life easier. More comfortable.

While those goals are not bad in themselves, they often become obstacles to what God is accomplishing in and through us.

We become focused on making this life our best life ever, rather than remembering the best is yet to come.

3. Stop trying so hard

"Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16 ESV).

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Our job is surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results.

4. Pray about the advice we receive

Russ’s mission reminded me of the apostle Paul’s experience:

"A prophet named Agabus … took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:10-13 ESV).

When life gets hard—harder than we think we can bear—our loved ones don’t want to see us suffer. But their desire to spare us pain can give rise to misguided counsel, such as:

  •  “Work off the books. You can’t afford to pay taxes right now.”
  • “You’re still in school. Abortion is your only option.”
  • “You’ve fallen out of love? Divorce him because God wants you to be happy.”

Bottom line: advice that seems good isn’t always from God.

5. Do the next right thing

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).

Painful circumstances often cause us to feel overwhelmed.

  • What will the cancer diagnosis mean for me in six months?
  • Will I be able to manage my life without my spouse?
  • How will I pay the bills if I’ve lost my job?

But the Lord promised to care for His children’s needs.

Our job is not to worry about the future, but to obey, one day at a time.

And when that seems too difficult, then one hour at a time or even the next five minutes at a time. Don’t ask what will happen a year from now. Rather, ask what has the Lord placed in front of me today? Then do the next right thing.

We live in a broken world. It can overwhelm us or we can be overcomers.

The answer is not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re victorious when we remember our circumstances are temporary, but our life in Christ is eternal.

As you face your difficult situation, how can you maintain an eternal focus? What is the next right thing your heavenly Father has placed in front of you to do?

Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. She is the author of the adult devotional, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, and has co-authored two children’s picture books. Ava has written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, and contributed to more than 30 anthologies. Visit her at: www.AvaWrites.com.

Graphic, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Monday
Oct302017

Upgrade Your Fear Factor

Cindi McMenamin's specialty is strengthening women in their various roles. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she addresses something that holds many women back—the wrong kind of fear.

"Can fear ever be a good thing? It can," Cindi says, "but only when you are fearing the Right Thing."

I (Dawn) am a naturally fearful person, but I add my testimony to Cindi's here. Perspective is everything!

Cindi continues . . .

It occurred to me, as I was writing my book, Drama Free, that most of the drama we experience in life is a result of fear.

We tend to fear people—or circumstances—more than we fear God.

For instance, I was recently stressed out because I feared not being able to complete a deadline. But my fear was really rooted in failing to meet the expectations of others and then fearing what they would believe about me as a result.  

It bothered me to realize I was fearing what people thought of me more than I feared the God who had my back and could clear my name.

And couldn’t God equip me with what I needed to meet my deadline as I surrendered it to Him?

Throughout Scripture we are instructed to fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

A friend once told me:

To fear God is to have a wholesome dread of ever displeasing the Lord.

That implies a love relationship with God in which we fear disappointing Him. That results in obedience, respect of His authority, and a careful intention to not break His heart.

The Bible also tells us, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….” (Psalm 111:10, NASB).

I’ve come to realize the opposite of wisdom is drama.

When we exercise wisdom, we use discretion and we don’t make a scene.

When we demonstrate wisdom, we don’t bring distress to others.

When we display wisdom, we are not putting ourselves on display. 

If fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which negates drama, then fearing anything other than God is likely to trigger drama.

Instead of fearing God, you and I can tend to fear:    

  • being misunderstood
  • being treated unfairly
  • being embarrassed (by appearing weak or incapable)
  • being rejected
  • being in a situation where I am not in control (My daughter has a fear of flying because she fears not being in control. And let me tell you, she can be drama on the airplane because of it!)

Sometimes we simply fear the worst. That is still a fear of something other than God. It is giving more power to what we fear than to God, who can handle those fears.

In Exodus 14:14 we are told: The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV).

That is ONE CAPABLE GOD—able to do far more than our fears, worries or drama can accomplish.

The more you and I get to know who God is and what He is capable of, the more our worries, fears, and freak-outs can be stilled.

We can be full of drama, or full of trust in an all-capable God.

I know which one I want to be.

What do you tend to fear more than God? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of sixteen books, including her newest, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this post is based.  For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.                        

Graphic adapted, courtesy of John Hain at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec172015

Christmas Joy—After the Wrapping Paper is Discarded

We sing “Joy to the World” this time of year, but in this Christmas UPGRADE, Kathy Carlton Willis reminds us it’s more than a holiday sentiment.

“You won't find joy gift-wrapped and under the Christmas tree, but it is a gift indeed,” says Kathy.“Without the birth of Christ which we celebrate at Christmas, there would be no authentic joy.”

I (Dawn) can remember Christmases when there was more joy than there were Christmas gifts, so I can see where Kathy is going in calling joy a Christmas gift. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Kathy continues . . .

There might be temporary bursts of happiness at Christmastime, controlled by surrounding circumstances, but there would be no true joy without Christ’s birth.

Joy can only come from the One who guarantees salvation, because with that, there is eternal peace of mind.

When Christ becomes real in our lives, we begin to pick up His mannerisms, and if Christ was anything, He was joyful.

It is one of those character traits I’m most thankful for receiving. The Holy Spirit living in me whispers joy to my heart and my mind when the outside world seems to be yelling negativity to me.

In times of crisis and conflict, joy produces a calm that cannot be explained. It allows a person to be more than just content, but actually excited about living life out loud. Joy gives its recipient an assurance that any unpleasant circumstance is only a temporary inconvenience that can be overcome victoriously.

A Christmas carol we sing says, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” That song speaks truth.

Joy came to the world in the form of the baby Jesus. Anything before that time was just an anticipation of the Christ Child’s appearance.

We who live after His birth get the full picture—the gift of grace and mercy—rather than having to offer our own sin sacrifices like God’s people did in the Old Testament. Christ’s life and death give us the completion of God’s gift to us, His beloved.

How can we not be joyful, when we consider this?

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11 KJV).

You’ll still have joy after the wrapping paper is discarded when you focus on the best gift of all.

Are you overwhelmed with parties, guest lists, gift wrapping, and tinsel this season? Or are you overcome with joy?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences andwomen's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She has several books releasing over the next three years, includingGrin with Grace with AMG Publishers at the end of this year. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net. 

Thursday
Jan082015

Survival Kit for 'Overwhelm City'

Dianne Barker lived in a "city" none of us likes to visit, but she found ways to survive, as she shares in this helpful UPGRADE post.

“Lord, please!” Dianne prayed. “Not Overwhelm City again!”

Overwhelm City. I (Dawn) hate that place. I keep finding myself there. But like Dianne, the Lord is teaching me how to choose wise responses in the midst of struggles and stresses I can't avoid.

Dianne continues . . .  

I didn’t see this coming. Over-commitment teamed with complicated circumstances and carried me kicking and screaming back to this place.

One, I could control. The other—not so much.

Saying “no” is a hard choice—but it is a choice . . . and the only fix for over-commitment.

Circumstances are life in action, piling stress upon stress:

crumbling marriages, prodigal children, career adjustments, financial difficulties, relationship issues, care-giving responsibilities, health concerns, assorted calamities, grief, terrorism, and fear.

Most of us relate to the Psalmist’s cry: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck . . . the flood sweeps over me” (Psalm 69:1-2).

My husband and I have been taking care of people we love for our entire forty-nine year marriage—our parents, other relatives, and even friends who were close as family.

After leaving a successful journalism career to be a stay-at-home mom, I continued writing. My 1986 book Twice Pardoned was a number-one national Christian best-seller. The ink had barely dried when God led me from my public life as author and speaker to a secluded life—caring for our parents as their health declined.

I spent the next fifteen years in Overwhelm City, struggling to keep my head above water.

Routine housework wasn’t at the bottom of the list . . . it didn’t make the list. I did the gottas: cook, wash dishes, make beds, clean bathrooms, do laundry.

My priorities: driving our parents to medical appointments, grocery shopping, cooking and doing laundry for our three families. One week I made three trips to the coin laundry due to plumbing problems at home and washed a total thirty-two loads. Attending school functions involving our children and attending church completed my schedule.

During that complicated period, the Lord gave me an amazing gift:

  • peace that I was exactly where He wanted me,
  • purpose, doing what He designed;
  • and a promise that someday He would expand my life again.

If this fresh New Year finds you at the outskirts of Overwhelm City, a few tools from my Survival Kit will help you make the most of the experience and sweeten the stay.

1. Simplify life. Eliminate non-essentials.

“He has told you. O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

2. Draw near to Jesus.

He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

3. Accept that you are here by God’s design.

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).

4. Believe God has a purpose. We don’t have to see it to believe it. If nothing else, He’s developing endurance.

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

5. Keep a teachable heart. Ask: Lord, what do you want me to learn?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

6. Encourage yourself with truth.

“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).

7. Rejoice. If I rejoice today, I rejoice in these circumstances.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

How will you spend your time in Overwhelm City? (It’s a sweet community of broken people. Visit me anytime. I’m right next door!)

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author. This post is adapted from I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, which won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls 2014 third-place award for non-fiction book of the year. Her forthcoming book, Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, will be available at www.diannebarker.com.