For the Overwhelmed Soul

Life can get messy sometimes. It can make our souls sticky in places we don't want to be stuck.

Life happens - both the good and beautiful, and the ugly and hard. We live in a broken world, full of broken people, and at times that can cause our hearts and souls to crack a little too. Sometimes it brings with it rounds of sadness, stress, fear... an overwhelming unknown. And it's too much for our earthly souls to bear.

We get stuck. Stuck, in one of life's messy, sticky places. Overwhelmed. Burdened. Sad. Frustrated.

I've been in one of those places lately.

I've found myself doing so much to care for so many, but then woke up and realized I've taken on a bit too much of others' pain. There's no end in sight and the well I've been drawing from is getting drained faster than it can be replenished.

As I sat at the kitchen table the other night with my husband, I dared to voice this feeling out-loud. This fear, this feeling of overwhelming burden I've been carrying for weeks. "I feel like I'm drowning. I can't stop thinking about all the struggles surrounding me. I am thankful that right now, my life, our life, is good... But I am not good. People close to me are hurting and I'm hurting with them. And I can't shut off my mind and block out the pain. I'm drowning in sorrow that belongs to others."

But I'm called to comfort others in their pain just as God comforted me in my time of need. I'm called to walk alongside those that need a hand to hold when they face the unknown. I'm called... But I'm drowning.

I've spend the last couple days in some serious soul searching and prayer about this seeming conflict. I've spent the last couple days talking with some trusted friends about how to replenish myself without letting go of those I'm called to walk with. Through this prayerful searching, a couple things I needed reminding of have become very clear.

Some pieces I find go in a different puzzle than the one I have in my hands.

I am called to care for those in need - but that doesn't mean taking on every one that will cross my path. When I prayerfully look at the responsibilities I've taken on and the passions that ignite my soul, there are a couple pieces that belong in someone else's puzzle. Those are the responsibilities, though good, that I need to trim away. They are the ones draining me quicker than I can be refilled. We are called to do good, to care for others before ourselves, to expend ourselves relentlessly in service to others in His name, for His glory. When we follow His lead into and out of the commitments in which to do that, we will be constantly filled just enough to keep that steady stream pouring out. But when we take on other things or don't pass the torch on to someone when it is time to step aside, we run dry quickly.

When my serving lacks joy, something is out of balance. 

This life isn't supposed to be easy. The call to care for others is supposed to be a continual act of service. Living intentionally, every second of every day in every relationship, for His purpose, is supposed to leave us tired and ready for a good night's rest at the end of the night. (Just go read Proverbs 31. That is one tired wife, mama and friend there! But she's filled with joy.)  It should be joyful. It should inspire us. We should want to press on and endure. But... following Jesus's example, we are also encouraged to take some time away to go sit in the garden and pray, to be renewed. We are encouraged to get away once in a while with those wonderful mentoring relationships and just enjoy the company of those that build us up. Not to fulfill our own selfish desires, but so that we can go back to joyful service again. (Mark 6:31, Mark 2:27, 2 Cor. 13:11)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
— Psalm 51:10

One translation even says "Create a pure heart in me and renew a right attitude within me." Yes!!! Because right now, my attitude is lacking some rightness!

That verse has been playing on repeat in my mind for the last 48 hours. That is my prayer as I walk through this season of being drained. As circumstances overwhelm me, they are opportunities to trust that God is in control and is always good. As frustrations make me more susceptible to becoming bitter and angry, they are opportunities to ask for forgiveness and ask to be filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit so I will instead respond in love and with patience. When I am tired, it is an opportunity to look to God to renew me and give me the discernment to know what He is calling me to do and the confidence that He will sustain me while I do His work.

Instead of this overwhelmed, burdened, tired self I'm nursing now, my prayer is that I am once again restored to the joy of salvation, to the servant God wants me to be. Oh God, please replace this overwhelmed soul with a clean heart and renew the steadfast spirit within me. I want to be stretched to my limit and relying on the Holy Spirit as I work through this life to serve Him, but when I find myself a little past my limit, I need His help to reign me back in too.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
— Matthew 11:28