Wouldn’t you love it if you could wake up in the morning and find a message from God written on your mirror telling you what to do next? Wouldn’t that save you so much angst, fear, and stress? Only the most arrogant of us never feel as though we don’t know what to do. (And if that’s you, you’re probably not reading this!)
I face those times regularly in both small and large ways. They’ve been especially frequent since my husband died a few months ago. What do I do with my husband’s things? Where do I invest the finite amount of energy I have? When do I spend time in rest and renewal and when do I push through even when I’m tired or depressed? What area of ministry growth should I focus on most? Who are the people I most need to connect with?
Feeling overwhelmed is easy when you don’t know what to do. That feeling can take over your mind whatever the problem; marriage difficulties, financial challenges, significant life transitions, business or ministry opportunities, etc. If you tend to be impulsive you may find yourself running from one thing to the next expending time, money, and effort – and never making true progress. If you tend to be analytical you may find weeks or months or even years have gone by – and you’re in exactly the same place you were where you started.
As a result of going through other seasons when I felt overwhelmed in the past I’ve learned some truths that apply to any such situation. I hope these will help you as well.
1. God is not the author of confusion.
That’s a Biblical truth. (1 Corinthians 14:33) God is not the One overwhelming my mind with multiple conflicting messages, negative feelings, anxiety or stress. His perspective takes into account the world, the universe, and the cosmic war between good and evil. He sees my whole life – past, present, and future. His plan for me is simple, good, unique, and trustworthy.
Making any decision out of my feelings of confusion, fear, anxiety, or any other such stress will usually miss what God is trying to say to me. I can trust that He has and will supply me with whatever I truly need. The best way to hear His voice is to quiet my own heart and listen. Rushing forward out of confusion will only wear me out.
2. My feelings are real, but they are not the whole truth.
You and I are only human, and God knows that. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) Feelings of overwhelm – or fear, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, worry, etc. – are understandable. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings both to myself and to God. Doing so disarms some of their power, and gives God permission to deal with my heart about them.
There is other truth beyond my feelings, however. That includes the truth of who God is in all His goodness and greatness, how He has worked with me in the past, and the plan He has for me in the future. It includes the resources and the choices I DO have. I can choose to acknowledge my feelings, and then direct my focus to the things I can do something about and God’s presence in my life.
3. Taking small steps is OK, even if I’m wrong.
Doing something is better than doing nothing – as long as the steps are small. Making a phone call to get more information or nurture a friendship is healthy. Investing a small amount of money to test a new strategy in business or ministry may make sense, while mortgaging the whole thing on a “maybe” is foolish. Listening to someone who’s been here before can help, though I don’t need to immediately buy into everything they may suggest.
The old saying is true; it’s easier to change the direction of a moving car than a parked one. Taking a small action gets me moving. I can observe how my feelings respond, how my ministry or business responds, and make adjustments if necessary. Doing that helps to grow my own confidence, and is a good way to see how well I’m understanding God’s voice.
4. God is always there, even when I don’t see or feel Him.
When I don’t know what to do it’s easy to wonder where God is. Choosing to believe is a good thing, and it’s always appropriate. That doesn’t mean I don’t wrestle with doubt. It does mean I look at my doubt and make a conscious choice to believe even in the midst of it. It’s not blind faith; it’s a decision to choose faith based on what I’ve learned about God from His dealings with me in the past. It may not always be easy, but I know He is there.
Developing that kind of resilient faith is one of the biggest reasons for regularly investing in my Christian walk with God. Reading the Bible shows me where others have discovered the truth of Jesus’ words: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Staying connected with other believers helps keep me encouraged. Regular honest prayer puts me in a position to hear God’s voice when He speaks.
Are you in a place where you don’t know what to do? If so, remember:
- Don’t listen to confusion
- Be honest about, but don’t completely trust, your feelings
- Take a small action step forward in some direction
- Choose to believe that God is with you
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