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Life can be overwhelming – there’s no doubt about that. And it seems that the more you grow or succeed in life the more responsibility you are rewarded with. Remember when the most stressful thing about your day was trying to win the dodgeball game in PE class? Responsibility only grows – before you know it you have a job, student loans, possibly a mortgage, a spouse and a couple of kids to drive around. Add anything extra like an emotional or physical health challenge and most of us feel cooked.

So how do you handle all this? Over and over again we hear how bad stress is for our health and well-being, but if you’re like me it often seems impossible to cut anything out. This is where I think we need to make an important distinction – the circumstances in your life aren’t necessarily what stress you out; what stresses you out is how you handle those circumstances.

 Even though good people may be bothered by trouble seven times, they are never defeated, but the wicked are overwhelmed by trouble.

Proverbs 24:16

Trouble hits everyone – but are you defeated and overwhelmed by it? If so, that says something about you. Personally I don’t like this truth very much – I would much prefer to blame my circumstances than look inside myself and ask why I’m responding the way I am.

But, what I do like about what the Bible is saying here is that if I can really take responsibility for my choices, trouble doesn’t have to defeat me. I can face any challenge head on. God doesn’t promise to take stress and trouble out of our lives, in fact he says we may be bothered many times by it. But he does say that despite that trouble we can be undefeated, and I think that’s pretty inspiring.

A few things that will contribute to how overwhelmed we feel – regardless of our circumstances – are isolation, communication, and motivation.

1. Isolation

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

When you are under a lot of stress, do you reach out to your friends more – or less? Sometimes we don’t realize how much trouble we feel because we are going through life alone. Being isolated makes every problem seem worse. I tend to hold in my thoughts and feelings so everything in my life feels much worse than it probably is. Have you ever felt panicked about something in your mind, found yourself thinking over all the worst-case scenarios, and then talked it over with someone and you suddenly felt better? The circumstances didn’t change, but you did.

Like the scripture in Ecclesiastes says, two people are better off than one. I’m always amazed how much better I feel after talking about something that’s burdening me, even if I didn’t figure out how to solve it all. Sharing your thoughts, feelings and stress with someone will always make you feel better off, even if you can’t solve every problem.

The other problem with being isolated is we end up holding in all our sins and guilt, and guilt is a very overwhelming emotion:

My guilt has overwhelmed me; like a load it weighs me down.

Psalm 38:4

Guilt is overwhelming, and when you’re alone you will only feel worse about it. Everyone sins and makes mistakes; the question is how do you handle your feelings of guilt? If you hold them in you will only feel more weighed down. You’ll convince yourself that no one can relate to you and think of all the horrible things that could happen if anyone found out. But actually, if you talk with God and close friends about your guilt you’ll feel lighter and relieved to know you’re not alone.

Are any feelings of guilt overwhelming you? Pray today and make time to talk to a spiritual friend about them so they don’t add to your stress.

2. Communication

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Hebrews 12:15

Communication is really important – especially when life is busy. Many of us struggle to communicate clearly with our spouses and roommates about what we are feeling, what we’re stressed about, and what we need. And when we don’t communicate, we are much more susceptible to getting bitter when our needs aren’t met. The Bible says in this scripture that one big cause of trouble is bitterness. It may not be your circumstances troubling you, but the bitterness you feel about them.

Bitterness comes out in many different forms, so it’s not always very obvious we’re struggling with it. Sometimes when I’m bitter I get apathetic, so I don’t even know I’m bitter. Or other times my bitterness comes out in the form of sadness and self-pity, constantly despairing about how hard life is and what I don’t like about it.

One of the best cures for bitterness is honest and vulnerable communication. If this is a challenging area for you, start with honest and vulnerable communication with God. Crying to God for help is one of the ways the Bible says to handle when your heart is overwhelmed:

2 From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
Psalm 61:2 (NLT)

3. Motivation

Sometimes the source of our stress is not all the things we are doing, but our motivation for doing them. Trying to please everyone is extremely stressful. So is being motivated by guilt – always doing the things you think you should do. Fear is another stressful motivator – always trying to prevent worst case scenarios. What motivates you?

The king truly trusts the Lord. Because God Most High always loves him, he will not be overwhelmed.

Psalm 21:7

But let everyone who trusts you be happy;
let them sing glad songs forever.
Protect those who love you
and who are happy because of you.
Psalm 5:11

I like these two scriptures because they address the fact that if you are always aware of how much God cares about you, you won’t be overwhelmed. You also can be happy because of God even if everything else in your life seems to be going wrong. I think that’s very empowering – you can go through all kinds of trouble and yet have something inside that can’t be destroyed by any circumstance.

To learn more about how to build this kind of relationship with God get connected to our spiritual family by checking out one of our six Sunday services around the Bay Area.

Written by

Amy Query

Amy Query is an editor of BACC Inspire and avid reader. She studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has over a decade of experience in mentoring, counseling and community organizing.