Feeling overwhelmed? This has been a challenging season. We worry about our families and our finances. We are stressed from long days together outside of our normal routines. We're scared that loved ones could really die from this pandemic. We feel discouraged by all the challenging news that we hear. We are at a loss, wishing that we could change things that are outside of our control. Life can make us feel hopeless sometimes, but as Christians, this is not how we are called to live.
Our hope is not the product of our circumstances. This too will pass. Drawing near to God reminds us of a higher plan and purpose for our lives in the redemptive work of Jesus. We can have joy despite our circumstances when we recognize that God is still in control. We can have great hope for the future knowing that the one who holds the future loves us with an everlasting love. When can rest in the assurance that nothing in this world is ever going to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8). This assurance allows us to trust and persevere even when the circumstances around us feel uncertain.
We tend to compare our lives to people who seem to have things better than we do. We see the blessings of others while we are struggling, and it feels unfair. Of course, we see only the picture-perfect image others share with the world while missing their inner struggles they experience privately. We envision that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. In our focus on coveting the blessings God has given to our neighbors, we forget to give God thanks for all of his blessings.
We are instructed to give thanks in all circumstances, not just the fun ones. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Instead of saying “I am stuck at home,” choose to think “I am blessed with a home.” Instead of complaining about things being cancelled, pivot your thoughts to gratitude that you are blessed with community that you can gather with again at a future date. When your family is driving you crazy underfoot, choose to give thanks for their health and the blessing of each person’s life.
In prayer, we realign ourselves with God's heart and find our peace in his presence. When we are too overwhelmed to know how to pray, we can find assurance knowing that God's Spirit intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8). Prayer releases our burdens to God and lightens our load. As we quiet our hearts before God we are comforted and given peace.
It is easy to let our thoughts dwell on things that are beyond our capacity to change. Focusing on what has happened in the past or might happen in the future can paralyze us from being present and taking action in the moment. God is with us today in whatever we are going through and when we dwell in his presence we will see how we can make a difference in our situation. As you encounter concerns that make you feel powerless, lay those concerns at God’s feet. Once you have laid those things down choose to manage what you can control. Choose to make wise choices with the decisions within your control. Opt to keep a positive attitude and tune into how you can be a blessing in the midst of the challenges.
We all have been given gifts by God to serve his kingdom. We may not have the same resources and opportunities as someone else, but God calls us to be stewards of what we do have.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:8-11.
When life feels overwhelming, turn to God as your strength to guide your heart to find joy and hope in him. Set aside comparisons and focus on what is within your control. Choose to decide to make positive ripples into the world. Let others be blessed by your words and actions today.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema