How to Handle being Overwhelmed

My small group, consisting of four college aged girls, met this afternoon. While talking about our weeks and how things were going, one word came up several times. Our conversation revolved around how we have all been feeling recently, overwhelmed. Not just stressed or worried, but fully and completely overwhelmed. By school, relationships, housing arrangements, church and ministry positions, and the ten million other small things we are “expected” to do, like shaving our legs.

It is difficult to be a college student, a member of a successful society and a woman. So much pressure is put on us from every angle to do the best and be the very best at everything we do. We end up exhausted, tired and not so pleasant to be around, when we are supposed to be enjoying this life God has given to us. All of our schedules are full for the next month and we never seemed to be finished with homework, assignments or studying for tests. All we feel like doing is relaxing, but each time we sit down to watch tv, spend time with friends or do something fun, we feel guilty.

For example, an employee from career services came to my class this week to inform us about preparing for our future careers. I am very thankful she came to help, because I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to preparing for my future career. Hearing what she had to say was overwhelming. I have to keep my resume updated, get internships, build a portfolio, begin contacting prospective employers and attend career fairs right NOW (keep in mind I don’t graduate until 2010). That scares me. I don’t want to think about that until I’m at least a senior. Yet the way our society is driven, if I don’t begin thinking about those things now, I will not be marketable when I am a senior and begin interviewing for jobs.

The housing search for NEXT year has become another overwhelming situation in my life. Our neighbors have already signed a contract to live in another apartment complex next year. Again, this is for next year, not next semester, but next year! One girl in my small group has already signed her lease. Traditions, where I currently live, has sent us several pamphlets in the mail persuading us to renew our contracts already. The newspaper and billboards all over campus are asking students to sign leases and know where they are going to live next year right now.

I feel behind because I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. And I want to run away from it. This is not what I want my life to be forever. If this is what the career world is going to be like, this demanding all the time, I don’t want to have any part in it. If I have to constantly be competing and preparing, I want out now. I feel like my entire life revolves around my future. I am never finished and I feel like I sacrifice things that are most important in life because I’m doing what is considered important in society to be more successful in the future.

So my question is: How do I handle all of this? How do I live this demanding live without letting it get the best of me? Because I don’t want to be overwhelmed and stressed all the time, but I do want to be successful and excel at the things I do to bring God glory. There has to be a balance between not caring at all, which is exactly what I want to do when all this life stuff is thrown at me, and not letting it stress me out. While reading my bible this week, I came across some encouraging verses.

The story of Mary and Martha is a good example of this. Mary and Martha were sisters. Jesus went to their house for a visit. Because she was having a guest over and it was respectful to prepare for them, Martha started working. Mary on the other hand greeted Jesus and sat down with him to talk. (Sounds like Martha may be Acts of Service, while Mary is Quality Time.)

Luke 10:40 – But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

I feel that Martha, like the rest of us girls, was overwhelmed by the things the world expected her to do. Because she was distracted by those things, she missed spending time with Jesus. Of course, Martha was furious because Mary was not helping her prepare and she went to Jesus in her frustration to ask Him to tell Mary to help her work. Jesus’s reply is amazing:

Luke 10:41 – Martha, Martha (I love how He calls her by name) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.

All these things that overwhelm me, the things I worry about and that make me upset, those things are not the most important. Not that school, work and responsibilities don’t matter, that’s not what Jesus was saying. But, we shouldn’t be worried and upset about those things, because they are very small things in comparison to our relationship with Him.

I was recently listening to a pastor who made a silly comment about grades that has for some reason stuck with me. He said we can make an A on every test we take in life, but if we make an F in our relationship with God, we lose it all.

Just because our society is very demanding, that doesn’t mean we have the right to worry. We are able to determine what we think about and what we fill our mind with. Instead of questioning and stressing over what might happen, we can trust God is going to take care of us and let it go.

Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 5:20 “He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”

God knows our lives are demanding, but He doesn’t not want us to worry. In fact, He tells us worrying is sinful. We can focus on the blessings God has placed in our life. The encouraging relationships we have, the fun classes we go to, and the times we get to hang out with friends. By letting our lives be “occupied with gladness of heart” we are freed from the bonds of worry.

Sometimes we just have to make sacrifices and take time to enjoy life. If I look at my planner I have absolutely no time at all to do anything fun. I love to read, to spend time with friends and to dance, but very rarely do I do those things. If I keep waiting for time to do them, it is never going to happen. I have to make time and that may mean not being a part of every group on campus or having two different jobs because they look good on my resume. Even doing too many good things can have a negative effect, if we are not taking time to spend with God and are not enjoying the things we do.

When we focus on what matters most, stop worrying and trust God, and take time to enjoy life, it becomes a lot less overwhelming and a lot more enjoyable.

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