Overwhelm (verb): to overcome completely in mind or feeling. To overpower or overcome, especially with superior forces. To load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything. To overthrow.
Have you found yourself sitting with your eyes closed, releasing a deep breath, saying “Lord, I need a vacation!”? Is it just me? I usually utter this phrase as I am moving a mile-a-minute trying to get things done, multi-tasking where possible, working from one task to the next with little room for interruptions or unexpected delays. Having such little whitespace included in my schedule, the slightest hiccup might send me spiraling into a frantic state of recalculating! This simple phrase is an indication that I—at that very moment—am overwhelmed.
Last week, I looked at the predicament that is busyness, and what drives me to it. There are many reasons we find ourselves stretched beyond measure, but how can you know when you’ve become too busy?
Well, you just might be too busy if you:
- wake up feeling like you are already behind schedule
- are always late
- are always hurrying
- are eating most of your meals on the go (or while you work)
- are forgetting conversations, items, or tasks more frequently than usual
- are too tired to socialize with family and friends
- have trouble getting to sleep because your mind won’t shut down (or you are working late)
The list is not all-inclusive, but if you are too busy, chances are you can relate to a couple of these. We are made in the image and likeness of our God, yes; but we are human. He is not. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere at the same time). You and I, my friend, are not! So then, it is necessary to know our limits.
My iPhone has been warning me that I am low on storage. I have been too busy (sigh) to back up my data and pictures to my computer, and off-loading some of my data to the cloud is not an option. So I deal with the problems that come with trying to function with a full iPhone. The most inconvenient thing about being out of storage space is that it won’t let me take pictures or video at all! No more. No Mas. Nada. So, as I experience a special moment I want to capture, I am forced to make a decision. I can either let the moment pass me by, or delete a previous special moment that I’ve captured. Neither of these choices appeals to me, and instantly irritates me, but the entire situation is totally avoidable! I know what needs to be done, so why then won’t I just stop and take the time to free up some space?
Like my iPhone, I have a limited capacity. When I ignore my limitations, I find myself stressed out, missing out, messing up, and moving a lot slower than I’d like! I imagine that God has just been patiently waiting for me to realize I can not be all things to all people and still be all that He’s purposed for me to be. When I busy myself trying to make sure my kids don’t miss out, or trying to meet some self imposed expectation of a perfect got-it-all-together super wife, mom, and christian woman, I too often end up feeling exhausted, sad, empty, and feeling purposeless. Can you relate?
Managing time in a way that optimizes our capacity requires a daily dependence on God. It’s as simple as asking, “how can I honor you with my time today, Lord?” God has assured us that He will give us direction and order our steps if we trust in Him wholeheartedly, and acknowledge Him in our ways. We must separate the things that keep us busy for the sake of busy, from the things that keep us busy and fulfill a God-given purpose. I believe that a lot of what I do serves a purpose, but I’ve had to reconsider if all of these things are helping me walk in His purpose and will for me. By committing the day-to-day business of life to God, He helps us to make the right decisions and prioritize how we spend our time. Busy for purpose is still busy, but it’s the kind of busy that energizes instead of exhausts. It’s the kind of busy that comes encased in peace instead of inner turmoil.
So, slow down and take a moment to find out what God has in mind for you. In every area of your life, ask Him what things you are doing that you should leave alone; find out if there are things you are doing that you should be doing a little differently. Develop a plan. Create a calendar with schedules and commitments penciled in. Plan ahead by the month for the major events and activities that are already known. Then dive in a little deeper before the beginning of each week. Finally, review each day’s schedule the night before, and make changes for those last minute things that pop up. Physically looking at how you actually spend your time, compared to how you would like to spend your time can help you identify the non-essentials of life. I’m learning to leave some whitespace for quieting my soul. I’m remembering to leave some space for delays and interruptions. Above all I’m constantly challenged to be flexible; it all belongs to God, and He could change my course at any moment. Proverbs tells us that a man’s mind plans his ways but the Lord orders His steps (Proverbs 16:9). Be okay to deviate from your own plan. Be prepared to surrender your own will, relinquish control, and trust that His way will yield the result you ultimately desire. I’m committed to restructuring my life to simplify, slow down, and be purposeful.