by Rick Warren
Last month we began looking at what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed. We began by looking at the life of young Mary who has just been told she will give birth to a child from God. The first thing she needed to do was give up trying to control the situation. This month we will look at the next two things you need to do when you are feeling overwhelmed.
2. Look at what God has promised.
In Psalm 138:8 He does not say, “The Lord will work out my plans for my life,” or “The Lord will work out the plans I want for my life.” It says, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life.” There are three facts about God’s plan for your life that you need to know.
a. God’s plan for your life is often bigger than your plan, because God has a bigger perspective. All Mary and Joseph wanted to do was get married, settle down, put some meat in the crockpot and buy a condo! Just have a happy, little comfortable life. God said, “No! I want to bless the whole world through you.” It was a slightly bigger plan.
You have no idea how much God wants to bless your life! You have no idea what God could do through your life if it was totally, completely, absolutely sold out to Him. Not just a part of your life. But if every fiber of your being belonged to God and you said, “God, like Mary, whatever You want in my life I’m willing to have it. Whatever You want, God.” You have no idea how God could use you in great ways. God’s plan is often bigger.
b. God’s plan is often more painful. Sometimes it’s harder. Sometimes it’s difficult. It’s often confusing. Often it doesn’t make sense. It certainly didn’t make sense to Mary. The plan God had for Mary’s life was much more difficult and harder than the one she had. Can you imagine the difficulty of facing the gossip that she did as an unmarried mother who claimed that God was the father of her baby? Ruthless criticism, I can imagine.
Then when she was pregnant she had to travel a long journey on a donkey to Bethlehem the day before her delivery. She then gave birth in a stable with animals surrounding her. That would be hard. I’m sure Mary must have thought a thousand times, “Why, God? Why does this have to be so hard? I’ve surrendered to Your plan. Why does it have to be so hard?”
God was fulfilling a promise He had made thousands of years before when He had said the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
From Mary’s point of view this thing kind of came up suddenly. It looked like she was being ambushed by God. God said, “Out of all the little peasant girls in the world I’m going to pick you, Mary, in Nazareth and you’re going to be the vehicle that I use to come into the world to bless the world.” To Mary it looked like a complete surprise, spontaneous. But, no. God had planned this before the earth was formed. As you read the Bible you learn all the genealogies had been traced back all the way to Adam saying that the Messiah would be born in the lineage of David. This was no accident. God had planned what was going to happen to Mary thousands, if not millions of years, before.
Nothing in your life is an accident. Nothing. There is a purpose behind every problem. It doesn’t ever surprise God. He knew everything that was going to happen in your life before it happened. Even the bad. He doesn’t cause the bad. There’s enough in the world to cause itself. But He takes bad and even brings good out of it. Did God bring good out of the cross? I guess so!! Did bad happen to His Son? Yes! Did He stop it? No.
So God’s plan for your life is going to be often harder.
c. God’s plan for your life is always better. When you cooperate with God’s plan for your life you can relax and you can stop being overwhelmed.
God looks at your life from an eternal perspective, not just the here and now. God will always sacrifice short term comfort in your life in order to gain long term glory in your life. God will sacrifice short term comfort in order to build character in your life that’s going to bless you for eternity. God is not interested in making you comfortable. God is interested in preparing you for eternity. He knows what’s best and He knows what’s good and He loves you. That’s why being overwhelmed can actually be good for you. It throws you to your knees saying, “God, I’m going to have to depend on You.” And God says, “That’s exactly where I want you!
3. Let others help me out.
When I feel overwhelmed I need to let others help me out. Again, this is the opposite of what we tend to do. When get overwhelmed they start withdrawing from relationships. They start pulling back. They isolate themselves. They say leave me alone. I don’t want to be around anybody. I don’t want to be near anybody. Let me cry in my beer. Let me hunker in a bunker. I see it all the time. People start to get a big problem in their life and they start pulling out of church. They start pulling out of their small group. They start pulling out of their friendships, backing away from the very thing they need the most in a crisis – other people. They need other people.
Mary did the opposite. Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country straight to Zachariah’s house and she greeted Elizabeth (Luke 1:38-40, Message). Elizabeth was the cousin of Mary. But that’s not important. What is important is what Elizabeth was.
First, she was a very godly woman. She was married to a priest, Zachariah. She was a very godly woman so she could pray for Mary. That was a good thing.
Second, she was an older woman. An older woman who had a lot more life experience and could give wise advise to Mary.
Third, she was also pregnant. In fact, Elizabeth was pregnant with her own miracle pregnancy. She and her husband had been childless all throughout life and right at the end, God made her pregnant through her husband (this wasn’t a virgin birth) and she was carrying Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. It was a miracle pregnancy. She was six months pregnant.
So not only was she wise and older and godly but she was just a little bit further ahead than Mary. Mary was brand new pregnant. Elizabeth is six months pregnant and she can help her younger cousin to go through this situation.
Here’s the point, when you’re overwhelmed you need to find an Elizabeth. You need an Elizabeth in your life. What is an Elizabeth? Here’s what you look for:
First, a strong believer. Find somebody who is a strong believer, who can be your spiritual partner and mentor through life.
Two, probably somebody a little bit older than you. They have had a little bit more of life experience than you’ve had.
Third, find somebody who’s just a little bit further along than you are. They don’t have to be perfect. In fact, you’ll never find a perfect spiritual partner or mentor. You just need to find somebody who is a little bit further along than you are and they can help you out.
Everybody needs a partner like that. Guys need a male partner and women need a female partner. The Bible says this in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “You are better off to have a friend than to be all alone. If you fall your friend can help you up. But if you fall down without a friend nearby, you’re in real trouble.”
This is why you need to join a church family and this is why you need to be in a small group. As a ministry leader, you may be telling the people of your church that they need to be in a small group, but are you faithfully attending your small group? Are you making that a priority in your life? Are you meeting on a regular basis and are you truly sharing your life with other Christians?
And let me tell you when to do it: Do it before the crisis happens. Get connected before the inevitable problems that are going to come into your life. Build a strong network around you. You’re going to have friends and loved ones die. You’re going to face illnesses. You’re going to face financial and other kind of crises in your life. Why not get connected before all that happens so that the support system is in place?
When I’m out on the patio after each of our church services talking to people and somebody starts telling me their problems one of the first questions – if not the first question – I ask usually is, “Are you in a small group?” This is even more important for a leader of ministry. You need the support of other loving Christians. Don’t make the mistake of trying to go it alone. In order to be effective in ministry, you are going to need a support system. You’re not going to have the help you need if you’re not connected with a few other people.
If you claim to be Christian fellowship is not an option. It’s commanded. The Bible tells us this in Galations 6:2, Share each other’s troubles and problems and so obey our Lord’s command. What is that command? Jesus called it the Great Commandment: “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” When you share your problems with other people and they share their problems with you, you are loving your neighbor as yourself. God commanded that. You weren’t meant to go through life on your own. This is especially true if you are in a role of leadership. I would encourage you, realize the importance of people around you and develop those relationships now.
Join me next month as I continue the discussion on what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of such internationally best-selling books such as The Purpose Driven Life andThe Purpose Driven Church.