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A number of years ago I was listening to a conversation in a movie between two 14-year-old girls as they were leaving school for the day. They were talking about how stressed they were, how busy their schedules were and how much they were responsible for when one of them said to the other, “I know you can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but can you just be whelmed?” The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘I need a t-shirt please.’ And the second thing was yes, you can ‘just be whelmed.’ While most people don’t use the word whelm, its definition can take us to a whole new level—it means to submerge, bury or engulf.
There have been more times than I can count that I have been buried so deep in responsibility I did not know how I was going to get everything done. Juggling my most prized roles of wife and mother, plus employee, volunteer, chauffer, sponsor and so on was enough in itself to take over my life. But what was even more insane was that I believed I could take on more responsibility, do it all, and do it well. It strikes me as interesting when people say that we do our best work when under pressure. Well, if that’s the case, then I’ve garnered a few gold medals, along with an Oscar or two for ‘Most Insane Amount of Busyness’ ever accomplished or attempted. And I’m not alone in this. It’s a wonder I didn’t buckle under all of the pressure.
The point I want to make is that we allow ourselves to be drawn into all of the hype of doing it all, doing the most, and doing it because we don’t want to disappoint others. We live in a fast-paced world where everyone rushes around to keep up. We get so caught up in the busyness that we become too busy for God. That kind of lifestyle has disaster written all over it. We must not get caught up in the secular culture that continually ensnares us with the trivial, leaving little or no time for what matters eternally. So how do we find the courage to say no and find some balance to what matters most?
God’s word tells us in Romans 12:2, “do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds.” The renewal process is through God’s peace and love. Just as in Joshua 3:9, Joshua gathered the people to hear the words of the Lord before they crossed into the promised land. He wanted them to stop rushing around and listen to what God had to say. Before making our daily schedules we need to take time to focus on what He wants for us as we embark on our activities. Knowing this may help us to guard against poor decisions and costly mistakes.
Just as we would cope with any situation in our life, there are steps we can take to handle the ‘overwhelmed or whelmed,’ feelings.
• BE STILL AND LISTEN. Take time out when you need a break from being overwhelmed. Immerse yourself in God’s word and make sure you listen for the voice of truth. Surround yourself with men or women of faith, daily devotionals, or some of your favorite Christian music. Pray about everything and pray often.
• AVOID THE BUSYNESS. Start each day with Christ as the center point. Pray over your schedule and possibly partner with a good friend to keep you accountable so the flurry of activities doesn’t take over your life. Be selective about what you commit to, both for you and your family members.
• STAY TRUE TO WHO YOU ARE. Don’t feel pressured into commitment. Realize that it takes courage to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things. Live with passion and intentional purpose. Believe in what you are doing. Refrain from joining in just because others are.
I have a good friend who is a model for a purpose-driven life. She will not allow herself to be burdened by the things of this world and that includes the extra stuff that could potentially clutter her schedule. I admire that about her and because of her, I’m getting much better at being selective with what I care about and want to devote my time to.
So far I have survived the ‘whelmed’ seasons in my life—the memories may linger but other than being worn out or used up I have come away virtually unscathed. I didn’t get through those journeys on my own. I walked through those experiences with God’s grace and protection. I entered in one door feeling stressed to the max, anxious, and weary, only to come out another door stronger, wiser, and more committed to His ways. God is our lifeline. He is our savior. His word tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” There is tremendous comfort in those words because finding peace is letting Him take control.
As we think about the week ahead, reflect on the ‘whelmed’ feelings taking up residence in your heart and your life. As you mull over opportunities and choices, think about the decisions and the impact or consequence they will have on your life. Do you have the courage to stay true to who you are? Can you answer with a bold yes to the right things and no, not now, to the things that could weigh you down? Are you there yet? Regardless of where you are in this journey it will take time, prayer, and wisdom to move forward. Remember to let His peace guard your heart, mind and soul, and the results will be eternal.
I’ll be praying for you.