I noticed her standing towards the back of the room, leaning against the wall. Once everyone cleared the auditorium, she walked up to talk with me.
“I feel completely numb,” she said. “I don’t want to be a mom or wife anymore. I could walk out on my family today and not feel anything. But it would devastate them, and I don’t want to do that.”
It felt like she was holding her breath, waiting to see what I would say now that she had spilled her guts. And then she exhaled these words: “I just don’t have anything left in me to give or to feel. I don’t know what to do.”
She had not told anyone — not family or friends. But she thought maybe I could tell her what to do since she had just heard me share my own rock-bottom-burnout story at a church’s women’s retreat. I had described how, ten years earlier, I’d come to a place where I wanted to quit just about everything — being a mom, being married, and being in ministry.
I tried to convince myself it was just a season, that things would eventually slow down, and I’d start enjoying life. But life wasn’t slowing down, and I wasn’t enjoying anything.
I’d heard sermons and read Scripture that promised “those who trust in the Lord will not grow weary” and that “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” And I was frustrated God wasn’t coming through the way I thought He would or should. I questioned why Jesus promised “life to the full” when the only thing that was full in my life was my calendar packed with obligations, commitments, stress, and hurry.
Then one day, I read Jesus’ words in John 10:10 and noticed the warning He gave right before His promise of life to the full. Jesus said there is a thief who comes to kill, steal, and destroy us and the abundant life He came to give us.
Depleted and overwhelmed, my hope had been stolen. And my life was being destroyed by the disappointment and guilt of feeling like I was never doing enough, yet knowing I had nothing left to give.
As this young mom stood in front of me looking exhausted and depleted, I saw a younger version of myself in her, desperately wanting someone to help me get out of the overwhelmingly hard place I was in. It was a place created by my mixed-up understanding of Scripture and God’s heart, a place where I saw God more as a taskmaster I needed to please than a loving Shepherd I wanted to follow.
If you’re in a similar place as I was, I want to tell you what I told the woman who shared her brave and vulnerable confession with me that day: Being overwhelmed is okay for a season, but living in a constant state of overwhelm is not.
I told her the first step to ending an unhealthy cycle of overwhelm is surrender. Surrender happens when we acknowledge that we cannot do it all and accept that we don’t have to. Surrender looks like letting go of everything we think we ought to do and what we assume God expects of us to do and asking Jesus to show us what He wants us to do.
Some days, surrender looks like taking a nap. Other days, it looks like canceling an overwhelming commitment. Some days, surrender looks like having the courage to disappoint someone with a gracious no to their invitation or request. Other days it looks like saying yes to something that isn’t productive or purposeful but simply enjoyable.
Surrender comes when we get honest with ourselves and Jesus about our motives behind each commitment we have or obligation we assume. Is it something we sense God calling us to or is it something we feel pressured to do or praised by others when we do it?
Jesus wants to help you figure out what to let go of and what to say no to. He knows you want to be there for everyone, but He doesn’t expect or want you to be. He sees the whole day before you, and He wants to help you live it to the full.
In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote,
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)
Notice how Paul was on his knees praying for Christ to dwell within the Christians in Ephesus not so they could do more, preach more, or achieve more. He prayed Christ’s spirit would fill them more fully so they could understand and grasp the fullness of God’s love.
It’s been over twenty years since I hit my own rock-bottom state of burnout. But there are still times I find myself living in a state of overwhelm. Paul’s prayer reminds me that instead of running away from it all, I need to run to Jesus and ask Him to help me grasp the fullness of His unconditional love, grace and acceptance.
If you are living in a place of overwhelm and overload, I encourage you to take time to make a list of all that is on your mind and on your calendar. Then lay it all before Jesus, letting Him define your expectations and set intentional margins, so you have time to be with Him and the ones you love, doing what matters most to you and Him.Leave a Comment