What is overwhelming you right now?
That was the question we pondered in a Nurses Christian Fellowship group recently at a local university. Everyone could relate to the question. Senior students were finalizing plans for their capstone experience and were worried about how things would work out; they wanted to finish nursing school well and also were preparing for the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse exam. One faculty member spoke of an "all encompassing overwhelmingness" from e-mails to meetings, from preparing tests to grading papers. Another was facing a difficult situation with students. We thought about how much of the time we feel medi ocre...about ourselves, about our work. Wonderful wisdom was shared about dealing with feeling overwhelmed. A faculty member said she reminds herself, "Nothing that happens in this building is a true emergency." We chuckled about the fact that some of us are calmer and laid back, whereas others are Type A personalities who have a tendency to structure life as an emergency. We enjoyed the pearls of wisdom and venting together in a healthy way.
Then we turned to God's Word. Being overwhelmed can steal our joy and leave us feeling weak and powerless, so we did an overview of what God says about joy and strength. We read about the Israelites headed for the Promised Land, "There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you ... shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you" (Deuteronomy 12:7, NIV) (italics added). Years later when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from exile, Nehemiah (8:10) told them, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." The opp ressed psalmist wrote, "Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me... Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight...Why are you downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God..." (Psalm 43:3–5, NIV).
We reveled at God's intention to make us "oaks of righteousness" (Isaiah 61:3), as one person reflected on passing a row of stately flaming oaks, gloriously red in their fall array, on the way to school that morning. We saw with Jeremiah (15:16) how we are to eat God's words as they are our joy and heart's delight. We pondered what it means that God is with me, he is mighty to save, he takes great delight in me (Zephaniah 3:17). We read Jesus' words the night before he went to the cross, "remain in my love... that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete...no one will take away your joy... my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name... ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 15:10–11; 16:20–24).
We realized we can rejoice because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus (Romans 5:9–11), that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), that the fruit of God's Holy Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, and more (Galatians 5:22). We don't manufacture these things, they come from him. We ended with 1 Peter 1:8 (NIV), "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and... you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation or your souls."
What a different perspective! We discovered God intends for the core of our lives to be the inner joy he creates within us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and through his Word, the Bible. We were reminded that he loves us—each of us individually, and his love is powerful. As we study his Word, as we think about him, as we ask for what we need, he can be our joy and strength. We can let our lives focus on Christ or we can focus on other things and be come overwhelmed. We can take the time to read and listen to God's Word, or we can listen to worry and fear.
When we left we still had a zillion e-mails, tests, papers, problems, and tasks to complete. But we no longer felt overwhelmed.—KSS