By Alison Andreasen
I recently talked to a new mom who was overwhelmed with caring for her little one. I suggested, “Just try something, and you’ll feel better because you are at least trying.”
A can-do attitude can help boost the feeling of control. Even if a given tactic tried doesn’t work, we still feel a sense of control because we are trying. This may be enough to get us through a “slump” and we soon find that things aren’t quite as overwhelming anymore.
But what about when you don’t even have the wherewithal to try? Have you ever been there? The smallest tasks seem to take the most effort; getting out of bed, fixing food for little mouths, or even just lying on the floor while children run cars over your back seems like too much to ask. The word “overwhelmed” doesn’t quite cover it. You also feel trapped, closed in on both sides, and stuck. Thinking of something to do that might make the situation better just adds one more thing to the to-do list. Even suggestions of “change your outlook on the situation” or “be grateful for what you have” seem to add to the sense of guilt you feel about not being able to be as resilient as you think you should be.
What then? What do you do when you’ve lost that can-do attitude?
Realize that the world, Satan, and your sinfulness are trying to focus your attention in the wrong place.
“Be in control, don’t let life control you.” That is the message the world wants us to believe. While this may be sound advice to avoid falling into a victim mentality, it is not what everyone feeling overwhelmed and trapped needs to hear. There are times when the last thing a person needs to hear is that she is in control. When we look at ourselves, we see sinfulness, weakness and an inability to do anything correctly. We desperately fear our future and fall into despair. Or we blame others. Or we examine our recent history and try to see when things went wrong, often longing to return to a time that is behind us instead of living in the here and now.
The Israelites during the Exodus found themselves in a similar situation. They knew all too well what it was like to be trapped and closed in on both sides.
"When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, 'Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.'" Exodus 14:10-12.
The Israelites examined their situation and blamed Moses. If they had had their way, they would have gone back to the imprisonment that they had been rescued from.
Moses gave the Israelites this advice. See how it compares to “Find your can-do attitude.”
"And Moses said to the people, 'Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.'" Exodus 14:13-14
Moses commanded the Israelites to direct their attention outside of themselves and to the Lord who said that He would act. And His action wasn’t like a gentle pat on the back that said, “It will get better soon, pal.” This action was a fight! He fought for His people and completely destroyed those who tried to imprison and overpower them.
Those mistakes in the past that imprisoned us? Gone! Satan who tempts us to question, “Did God really say. . .?” Powerless. The world that continually throws obstacles in our way? They are being renewed into the Creation that God intended it to be and will be again. Thanks be to God for sending His one and only Son, whose death won that fight for us.
When the darkness creeps in and the world presses us to a point we can’t seem to bear, what do we do? In light of Christ’s victory for us, and in great faith, we take Moses’s advice: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.”
Let’s break this down a little bit.
God’s words to the weary are “Fear not.” He knows all too well our human tendency to worry about the future, often seeing the worse possible scenario as the one that will most likely happen.
Note that Moses didn’t tell the Israelites to go hide somewhere or to run further into the desert. He told them to stand firm and to see the salvation of the Lord. I encourage you, sisters, to stand, confident of the Lord’s work, and to continue in your vocations wherever you are. When you are feeling uncertain and overwhelmed, it is not the time to try something crazy or to make a drastic life-altering decision. Just concentrate on your feet and the Rock on which you stand.
See and Be Silent
Being quiet is not something the Israelites did very well. As discussed earlier, they blamed Moses and thought of many other situations they would rather be in than the one they were currently experiencing. We do the same. We blame others and ourselves for our predicaments. We grumble and complain and make plans contrary to what is God-pleasing. Here he advises that we stop doing that.
But this silence is not a silence in which we don’t pay attention to what is going on and tune out, choosing to be distracted by any number of devices. It is a silence that also sees and watches. It isn’t just waiting for a sign that our brain interprets as a sign from God whether that be a cool lyric in a song or a leaf falling in a unique way on a walk. It is a silence that waits for the Lord to act and trusts in His unfailing love above everything else. Watch and see the salvation that has come and that will be complete at the last day.
Things might not get better today, or tomorrow, or even next week, but we have a God who promises to act and who does what He promises. He has promised to fight for you. Fear not, stand firm, see the salvation coming, and be silent--for the Lord will fight for you!
Alison is a wife of one, mother of three, and teacher of many. She lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife. A trained Lutheran school teacher and homeschooling mom, she has a passion for children’s education, especially education in the Christian faith. She is a brainstormer by nature and those who are close to her never know what new idea she will think of next. Recent adventures with her family have included tapping trees to make syrup; creating, expanding, and selling her own granola business; and learning to preserve fresh garden goodness for year-round use.