by Rick Warren
For the last two months we have been looking at what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed. The first three things you need to do is give up control, look at what God has promised, and let others help me out. This month we will look at the final thing you must do when feeling overwhelmed.
4. Let God give you strength.
Some of you know God will give you strength but you won’t let Him. You act as if it all depends on you. You keep saying, “If it’s to be it’s up to me.” Or “God helps those who helps themselves.” God didn’t say that! Ben Franklin said that. Neither of those statements are in the Bible. In fact, God says the exact opposite. It’s not up to you. It’s up to God. God wants to help us. And, yet, ironically, those of us in ministry very often try to go it alone when things get tough. Instead, we need to be believing and claiming the promise of God. He gives us over 7000 of them in the Bible.
The reason why this young little thirteen, fourteen-year-old peasant girl named Mary was not blown away by her overwhelming circumstances is she was a woman of the word. She claimed the promises of God. She knew them and she claimed them.
The Bible says this in Luke 1:34 in describing Mary, You are blessed for believing that the Lord will keep His promise to you (GW). She was calm and composed because she had the promises of God in her heart. That gave her strength.
One of the great promises you want to hold on to when you’re overwhelmed is Isaiah 43:2, When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you. Your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through the fire you will not be burned. The hard trials that come will not hurt you (GW). On your own strength you may drown when that flood comes. But not in God’s strength.
How do you get that kind of strength, the kind of strength Mary had? You get it by doing the same two things Mary did in this text. Where do you find strength when you’re overwhelmed?
1. You find it by praising God for His goodness. There is enormous power in praise. It creates incredible energy. When I was writing The Purpose Driven Live I locked myself in a room and wrote about twelve hours a day, from five in the morning till five in the evening. I was not made to be in a room like that. I was made to be with people. If you’ve ever written on a deadline, you can get what I call brain block. About half way through the day, sitting there in front of a computer, all of a sudden I would go blank and start looking for an ant on the wall to talk to, or anything to distract me. I was overwhelmed many, many times during this writing project. Yet I knew it was what God wanted, so I kept doing it. I learned to take little praise breaks of fifteen or thirty seconds. I would just stop and say, “God, I can’t think here so I’m going to just stop and praise You.” And for a short time I stopped what I was doing and refocused on God. I needed to get my eyes off the problem and on to the solution. Off of the circumstance and on to the Savior.
Try this. It works. When you are overwhelmed. stop and praise God for His goodness to you.
Mary did that. The Bible tells us in Luke 1:46-47 (NLT) that she said, “Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior.”
2. The other way you find strength when you’re overwhelmed is by thinking about God’s word. Mary thought about God’s word. In Luke 2:19 it says “Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and she thought about them often.” Mary thought about God’s word.
If you read the rest of that chapter Mary writes a song to God to praise God. When you read the words to that song you know that this woman knew the Old Testament. She quotes it extensively in her song even referring to the song of Hanna, an Old Testament song. This woman knew theology. She knew the Bible. She was intimately acquainted with the Old Testament and shared what God had done to her.
Why is that important? Why is it important to read, study, memorize, and meditate on the Bible when you’re overwhelmed? Because this book helps you sort out what’s really important in life.
The reason we get overwhelmed in life is because we treat everything we have to do with equal importance and it is not. When you have a list of ten things you have to do, some of them are very important, and some are not important at all. Like: Live for God; Love my family and friends; Buy some new shaving cream; Go to the staff meeting; Clean the house. Those are not all of equal importance. What happens is when you look at all that you have to do you start thinking, “I’m overwhelmed.” In reality, there are only a few things in life that really have to be done. Most of what we do isn’t going to matter even a week from now much less for eternity. So knowing the Bible helps you clarify your values, solidify your priorities, discover what’s important and it makes life simpler.
These two practices that I’ve just mention – praising God for His goodness and thinking about God’s word – are guaranteed. I guarantee this is the way to get out of an overwhelming circumstance. It always works, you’ve just got to work it.
You may be overwhelmed by fatigue. You may be overwhelmed by loneliness and there’s an ache inside your heart. You may be overwhelmed by your many ministry duties. You may be overwhelmed by something that is going on in your family. Any other number of things can be overwhelming. No matter the source of those feelings, however, if you just take these steps that young Mary too, God will bring you through it. Let go of control. Remember God’s Promises. Let other people help you. Let God give you strength.
If you will do these four things, you will find yourself developing the attitude of Micah. Micah was an Old Testament prophet and he went through a period of despair and he said this: I’m overwhelmed with sorrow, sunk in a swamp of despair. But me, I’m not giving up. I’m sticking around to see what God will do. I’m waiting for God to make things right. I’m counting on God to listen to me (Micah &:1 & 7, Message).
As a ministry leader, sometimes it is very difficult to “stick around” and see what God will do. But if you will just put your trust in Him, he will never let you down.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church and author of such internationally best-selling books such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.