Is It Okay to Feel Overwhelmed as a Christian?
Devastated, overpowered, swamped: some of these words succinctly describe what it means to feel overwhelmed. And right now, we all feel very much overwhelmed by the events we see all around us.
From violence to sickness, shortages to severe weather, it doesn’t feel like life now unless there are multiple disasters happening one right after another. What’s more, as Christians, people look to us to see if we will crumble like they have (or are about to) at the unbelievable number of challenges that seem to hit us like waves on the ocean.
Some might say that we shouldn’t show we are overwhelmed as Christians, because that means we truly don’t have faith in God that things will turn out for our good (Rom. 8:28).
However, even though we know that Jesus will triumph in the end, it is okay to feel overwhelmed at what is transpiring around us. We can be in shock when we see senseless acts of violence or natural disasters taking lives and homes, but God has equipped us with the means to stay calm and clear-minded of what is happening around us, and the hope that it will get better.
Scriptures to Read When You Feel Overwhelmed
The best place to look for calm in the midst of life’s storms is the Bible, if not just for the guidance of Jesus through the apostles’ writings, but also to see how countless Bible figures navigated their own turmoil.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
When you feel as though the cares of this world are too much and that God doesn’t care what happens to you, this verse demonstrates He wants everything you are worried about given to Him to be made better. No matter how minor or major your care is, God wants to do great things with it.
“From the ends of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 62:1).
King David was definitely one who let God know when he felt overwhelmed, but he did so knowing that whatever was difficult for him wouldn’t be for God. Many people look to the book of Psalms to see the example of an overwhelmed Christian taking his concerns where they will be changed for the better – to God.
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
When Jesus was preparing the disciples for His departure, He reminded them that they wouldn’t be left to face life alone. Peace in the form of the Holy Spirit would remain with them to give them the peace Jesus provided when He was among them. It’s the same peace residing in us as Christians, calming our troubled hearts in the struggles of life.
Biblical Figures Who Were Overwhelmed, but for Whom God Provided
Scripture verses are not the only ways God provides help as we deal with overwhelming situations. Voices in the Bible also give insight into what God did through them when they were faced with an unbelievable circumstance.
Here are some noted biblical figures we can look to for guidance in staying strong and connected to God during tough times:
King David knows a thing or two about being overwhelmed, from being relentlessly pursued by King Saul (father of his best friend) to witnessing the loss of his son with Bathsheba to being informed by God that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to build God’s temple (due to sending Bathsheba’s husband to his death). King David showed a variety of emotions in the Bible – shared extensively in the book of Psalms – but despite the plethora of emotions, he still turned to God and gave Him glory. He demonstrated that by sharing your feelings with God, God will present ways to navigate through them. God did just that, later calling David “a man after God’s own heart.”
For Ruth, life took a disastrous turn when not only her father-in-law and brother-in-law passed away, but so did her husband. Now left childless and with a bitter mother-in-law, Naomi, she made the choice to honor her commitment to Naomi’s family and follow Naomi to her former homeland. Talk about being overwhelmed. However, Ruth taught us that when life doesn’t make sense, the best approach is to focus on helping others, which Ruth did in caring for Naomi. God blessed her efforts with a devoted husband, a son, and a sense of belonging.
When it comes to someone who has definitely experienced every definition of the word overwhelmed, Job is the one who comes to mind. A man of great wealth and prestige, he experienced the ultimate reversal of fortune when animals, riches, and even some children died one right after the other. His friends believed Job caused his own demise; his wife told him to curse God and die. But Job instead clung to God, believing God was still to be praised when all was taken away. God honored Job by restoring everything he had lost, even doubling it.
3 Steps to Lessen Overwhelming Feelings
So, what can we do to handle feeling overwhelmed today? What has God called us to do when everything seems to be going wrong and we don’t have any solutions or answers as to why?
1. Acknowledge your overwhelmed feelings to God in prayer
When you feel overwhelmed, instead of letting the struggles force you into seclusion from others (especially God), fall to your knees in prayer. Bring all your emotions to Him, whatever you are feeling, because God can handle the emotions and guide you to the next steps after you have thoroughly exhausted all the options you can think of.
2. Read stories of the Bible or Christian-focused help books
Feeling overwhelmed is nothing new to believers of God, even during Jesus’ time. But as we read stories in the Bible like those mentioned above, we can see ways that God appeared in believers’ lives and made changes to their situations that can only be attributed to God. The same is also for help or encouragement books that are Christian-focused, because the advice is shaped from biblical principles that speak truth and guidance to our situations.
3. Take one step at a time
It may sound simple to do, but it is rather challenging. Take one step, one breath, at a time in your difficult situation. You can always try to find solutions for the situation or plan the future ahead, but the best way to handle feeling overwhelmed is to take one baby step at a time through the feeling until you have reached stable ground out of it. It could be finding ways to get your mind off of being overwhelmed (like taking a walk) where once you go back to the situation, you have a more clear-headed perspective. It could be journaling or talking with trusted fellow believers whom God helped in similar situations. The goal is to keep in mind that being overwhelmed is just a feeling and can be exchanged for peaceful trust in what God has in store.
There probably aren’t many people in the world today who can say they aren’t feeling overwhelmed in some area of their lives. There seems to be more upside-down in our world than right side up, and the Bible warns us of this as a reminder that our real home is not here, but elsewhere.
However, being overwhelmed just presents us with the opportunity to turn our attention back to God, back to His Word, and back to realizing that feeling overwhelmed is only temporary if we keep moving forward. We can be shocked by what is happening in this world, but we can also know that if we keep our eyes on God and believe He will use these times for good, we will see the blessings in disguise.
So, yes, it is okay to be overwhelmed as a Christian, for it gives us the chance to make the choice to keep following Jesus to see the fruits of that choice in helping ourselves and others be manifested in God’s will.
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Blair Parke is a freelance writer for BibleStudyTools.com and freelance book editor who wrote her first book, "Empty Hands Made Full," in 2021 about her journey through infertility with her husband. She previously worked for eight years with Xulon Press as an editor. A graduate of Stetson University with a bachelor's in communications, Blair previously worked as a writer/editor for several local magazines in the Central Florida area, including Celebration Independent and Lake Magazine and currently writes for the Southwest Orlando Bulletin. She's usually found with a book in her hand or enjoying quality time with her husband Jeremy and dog Molly. You can order her book at Christian Author Bookstore - Xulon Press Publishing and visit her website at Parkeplaceediting.