Overwhelmed or Overcoming? The Danger of Focusing on the Mess

 

It seems almost fashionable for women in the internet world to emphasize, even glorify weaknesses and frailty. We are, after all, weak and frail. And to hide that fact, especially as we try to paint a picture of our lives in this online community, would be lying as well as discouraging to others who often feel they are just keeping their heads above the water.

I want to be transparent. But I’ve discovered a danger in too much dwelling on our failures.

As Megan Hill put it:

“…all stories, including self-deprecating humor and amusing little blog anecdotes, have theological implications. As Christians, our current obsession with brokenness may have us getting a little too comfortable with a life defined by often-petty imperfections.” The Very Worst Trend Ever

I can easily talk myself into being overwhelmed instead of an overcomer in the strength and power of God. And if I glorify my weakness (we only glory in our weakness because His strength is made perfect there) I can become lazy, misusing God’s grace to prevent me from embracing the transforming power of the gospel. I can fall into a “defeatism that may bleed into spiritual laxness.”

We have been saved not only from something, but to something. We weren’t meant to be stagnant, flailing Christians, barely scraping by in a day. There is not only nothing wrong with improvement, it is biblical.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5

The more I dwell on my weakness, how I fall short, don’t measure up, the more I believe it, and live it. It’s the subtle but enormous power of suggestion.

Is this biblical thinking? What is our right response to a flesh that fails when we serve a God who doesn’t?

Gently, my Heavenly Father has really been speaking to me about this. One line from Proverbs 31 shouts at me: “Strength and dignity are her clothing.” I have to keep taking my eyes off my limitations and remember He isn’t limited. I have to remember that He has always delighted to use, not strong people, but empty people through which His strength can be demonstrated.

I never knew how much the tornado would change my life. Of course there was the physical devastation of it all, but truly I was not prepared for the emotional crisis it would sling me into, nor how long it would last. And in the middle of that, I began to feel like my weakness owned me, defined me and it was terrifying at times to think it would dominate me forever.

I wrote When Motherhood Feels Too Hard in the middle of that, but I’m so thankful He used that project to rally within me a fighting spirit. It’s true that often we find ourselves desperately alone, scared or just exhausted, but He doesn’t leave us there. In the midst of life we have the choice to persevere and the Source to do it.

I need to live like a child of the King, fully equipped for good works, not given to defeat or despair, because ultimately, I am indwelt by the spirit of the Almighty, and I. can. do. this.

I need to be talking to myself differently–that’s the “being clothed in strength and dignity.” Pondering the promises of “rising up as eagles” and “more than conquerors” equips me and grows me.

It doesn’t change the hard days or make me a superwoman. But it helps me keep the right perspective. We are walking in the same flesh as Abraham, Moses, Paul and Peter did. He gave them grace for their journey and He gives it to us too. God has given you a task, and He is faithful who called you.

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45 Responses to “Overwhelmed or Overcoming? The Danger of Focusing on the Mess”

  1. Bonnie says:

    Right on. Thanks for sharing this, Kelly. Makes me think about the online trail we are leaving for our kids to uncover one day.

    • Mrs. B says:

      Whoa! Yeah! It is amazing how that kind of thing backfires. What’s the saying, “No ‘good deed’ goes unpunished.” (Note intentional quotes around “good deed.”)

  2. Mrs. B says:

    Thank you, Kelly.
    You’ve articulated beautifully what I’ve been trying to communicate to dear friends!

    • Word Warrior says:

      Mrs. B,

      It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, when you think about it? We all so identify with the “weak and frail” stories but we also get sucked in too, and as I said, can easily become stuck in that place. Another reminder that EVERYTHING we do/think/feel/say needs to constantly be in check.

      • Mrs. B says:

        Hey Kelly!
        Your mention of the word “sober” reminds me of the following scripture:
        1 Thessalonians 5:6-10
        Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
        P.S. I just know y’all are enjoying that sweet little precious bundle of yours!!!

      • Mrs. B says:

        Okay, so what I meant to say was that you didn’t exactly say “sober, ” but its a character trait that I’ve been meditating on a lot lately. Your post serves as confirmation!!!

  3. Heather Newcomb says:

    Excellent!

  4. Ashley C says:

    You put your finger right on the thoughts I’ve been trying to pin down about this. It is tempting to dwell on the imperfections and find comfort in knowing that we aren’t alone in our failings. There is a fine line between keeping a good sense of humor about your current state in life, and being realistic or just flat out reveling in the brokeness… Thanks for putting such thoughtful words to this.

  5. Jessica says:

    Kelly,
    Thank you so much for this. It came at a great time! I am going through a period of emotional struggle right now with our decision to homeschool. Our families have expressed a lot of frustration and even anger at the direction our family is going in, yet we feel that it is what God is calling us to do. I need to remember to lean on God and press on and not be too content in the overwhelmed stage.

    • Becky S says:

      Jessica,
      Just a quick word of encouragement, when we made the decision to homeschool our children it was also met with a lot of resistance from both my family and my husband’s. My parents even offered to pay for the children’s Christian school because they thought the financial burden was the reason for our decision. In the beginning it was difficult, but we persevered because we were convinced that it was God’s calling. Now, five years later, both of our families are very supportive of our homeschooling. Obviously I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but it seems quite often people do not have any experience (or no positive experience) with homeschooling and just resist the unknown. In the beginning it is generally difficult all around, but so very worth it in the long run! Ok, that wasn’t quick, but be encouraged and lean on the Lord, He is faithful to strengthen you.

    • Erica says:

      Jessica – I just wanted to reach out to you. I have been directly in your shoes for years now. Hating to even go to family get togethers because it ALWAYS comes up….biggest family and *gasp* we “home school”! It wasn’t until just a few months ago that I got the kids tested to show our families that they are “at-grade-level” (they surpassed what would be their grade level in public school) that some of our family backed off. I still deal with the “you-aren’t-socializing-them-enough” comments. Yet my children prove time and again that they can handle themselves in ANY social situation with ANY age person. I still deal with it on a certain level. I think most of it is fear of the unknown. There really is no way around it. Sometimes I wish there was, but I have grown so much through the trials.

      Just keep praying and following God’s lead in your life. I know it stinks when you don’t having your family backing you through it. I have slowly built a community of other homeschool moms and found a way to still get support even without my family being the ones doing it. Just remember the finish line. You aren’t doing this for your family…you’re doing it for your children. Keep that in mind. Keep your eyes on God. Things WILL work out. I’ll be praying for you!

  6. Summer says:

    Thank you for this Kelly. I think it’s all about speaking truth to ourselves. We can so often defeat ourselves when the “TRUTH” is we are heirs with Christ–children of the King! I can so easily feel defeated right away if I don’t think on(and sometimes speak out loud) the truths that Christ has set me free and endowed me with His strength to overcome. I am accountability partners with my pastor’s wife. Anytime I have to share something that I’ve struggled with, etc… she always encourages me with “forward progress”. That’s her motto and it’s quickly becoming mine too.

    Glad you’re back and so happy about your adorable little man’s safe arrival! FORWARD PROGRESS!

  7. Cindy says:

    I needed to hear this today. Thanks, lady. 🙂

  8. Kristi says:

    I have been pouring over blogs of homeschooling families looking for someone who can relate with my stress and feelings of incompetence. I have made comments on blogs too looking for some answers. Then the other day I read a mom who said to journal the little things throughout the day that were learning experiences her kids had had or the good things that happened. So yesterday I did just that. After having had a very difficult past few weeks especially. So at the end of a very hard, discouraging day yesterday here is what I was able to read back to myself:
    ~Watched a documentary about butterflies and bees. (PBS show kids loved)
    ~Luke (son 9) made home-made jam and learned how to make his own scrambled egg sandwich.
    ~Read a book to my 3 yr. old.
    ~All of us ran around outside in the first summer rain. (warm and light):) ( I will never forget this!)
    ~Annabelle (3) picked an apple off the tree for a snack.
    ~Looked up ant species on a whim because kids were playing a made up game of each one being a different ant that was in a war…? 🙂
    ~Had a talk with Abigail (7) About Joni Erickson Tada’s unhealed body, and how she was thankful to God for healing her heart instead. How God has used her life.
    ~Helped Noel (5) with a # dot-to-dot.
    During the day as arguments came about between us all, as I felt like I hadn’t spent any quality time with them, as I dwelled on the fact that I’m struggling to read the Word with them each day, as these thoughts came out, I read my accomplishments and observations of the day and I went to bed feeling so thankful to God that we had a successful day!
    In between all of these notes there were plenty of issues that had to be dealt with, attitude adjustments being made, mine included, and lots of exhaustion and a feeling that I didn’t learn anything. But if I hadn’t written the good things down, I would have not remembered them AT ALL! Funny how we dwell on negative things about our lives and forget to see the positive. We are supposed to think on things that are right, noble, etc. 🙂 So glad for a new way of seeing my days.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Kristi,

      What an excellent idea, and you are right! I think some of us (raising my hand) are better at seeing the negative than the positive. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up without realizing all the good, positive things that went on. Good stuff.

    • Erica says:

      Kristi –
      We must have been on the same blog!!!! I found that one the other day and did the same thing.

      It really is amazing all the positives that we DO have in any given day….and sadly the negatives are the ones we remember.

      I’m glad to see someone else that is doing the journal and getting so much out of it as well!

      • Kristi says:

        Very cool! Likewise. 🙂 Now if I could remember to do it today when in the midst of difficulties. Back to journal writing again…

  9. That verse from 2Peter has been my theme verse for the last year and a half! This was such a wonderful post, Kelly! Thank you!

  10. Cathy says:

    Decades ago, I did something that forever changed my life. It wasn’t anything illegal (and it wasn’t abortion), but it was something that I did, despite knowing that it was sin. At times, I will get hung up thinking about it. When I do, I can plunge into the netherworld of despair and depression. Obviously, taking my thoughts captive is key, and the ideal, but, unfortunately, my sin nature is still battling the Spirit. Oh, how I wish that it wasn’t so, but it’s a fact of life.

    This one of act, though, probably did more to change my outlook on God than anything else. While I still struggle with the idea that God isn’t an ogre just waiting to hammer me, my disobedience changed my perspective. God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10), but I didn’t always understand that, nor do I still fully get it.

    It was on one Sunday morning that started out with me feeling fine. My stud of a husband and i spoke for a few minutes as we readied ourselves for church. I went to shower, and it was while showering that my thoughts began to wander. For some reason, my focus went to that incident that took place many years ago, and I began to mourn my sinfulness as I continued to think about it. My sweet husband came into our room, and noticed that my demeanor had changed (even though I hadn’t really noticed). He asked if there was something wrong, but I honestly couldn’t even assimilate what was bothering me. He asked about what I had been thinking, and as I talked about my thought progression, and where it had led me, my breathing began to get shallow. All of a sudden, I recognized that I was under Satan’s spell, and under the attack of the great accuser (what great timing–right before leaving for church!). The words tumbled out, and I just couldn’t shake the hopelessness that I felt. I put my face in my hands, and began to cry profusely. I looked up at my beautiful husband, who was now sitting on the rocking chair continuing to get ready for church. He looked at me w/his tender, beautiful, brown eyes, and simply said, “Forgetting what’s behind…” (Philippians 3:13) I began to choke up, and sobbed w/relief. I choked out “Thank you,” to him, and he continued, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ…” (Romans 8:35). I thought about the words that he was saying, and was filled with immense joy and gratitude. Because of the cross, I am not under condemnation (Romans 8:1). I thank the Lord for giving me a thoughtful (not to mention incredibly handsome) husband who gives balance to my life, and helps me keep my eyes of the Savior of my soul, and not on myself.

  11. Yes! Finally! Truth! Thanks for writing this Kelly. We need to be encouraging in the blogsphere, not promoting misery loves company 🙂

  12. brandy says:

    Thanks for putting this into words. I think along these lines lately. I am the queen of self-deprecation. So much so that I annoy myself! Am I doing it again here? haha! I’ll be quiet now.

  13. Jeninal says:

    Thank you so much for this. This spoke right to where I have been the past 7 months or so: “middle of that, I began to feel like my weakness owned me, defined me and it was terrifying at times to think it would dominate me forever.” And this is what I have been trying to focus on :”Gently, my Heavenly Father has really been speaking to me about this. One line from Proverbs 31 shouts at me: “Strength and dignity are her clothing.” I have to keep taking my eyes off my limitations and remember He isn’t limited. I have to remember that He has always delighted to use, not strong people, but empty people through which His strength can be demonstrated.” Such an encouragement! He HAS overcome the world! Love and hugs, jen

  14. just c says:

    I couldn’t agree with this more, and its something I have often thought of. Some people talk like I just work too hard trying to serve my family, almost like it makes them look bad. I work hard to be content & ‘forget what it behind and press forward to the goal…’ but i also want to not leave a false impression of semi perfection in a blog setting, which is such a limited picture. It seems we have a culture were the very worst thing you can do is make people feel bad about themselves. Seems to me feeling bad about ourselves is just what we need. Moves us to action, moves us to Christ.

    • Word Warrior says:

      just c,

      “It seems we have a culture were the very worst thing you can do is make people feel bad about themselves. Seems to me feeling bad about ourselves is just what we need. Moves us to action, moves us to Christ.”

      Bingo! Amen! Hallelujah!

      You’ve hit on something very profound. I was listening yesterday to Nancy Leigh Demoss talk about the “Millennial Generation”, young adults moving into the workforce now.

      She explained that they grew up in a world where everyone was rewarded for everything, even just showing up, because we didn’t want anyone to feel bad. And just like you said, it has produced a generation of adults who want to be rewarded without putting forth much effort. And it does hinder our growth.

      I was already thinking of a blog post in that direction, but it ties perfectly into this one, and what you have pointed out. We are a “don’t make me feel bad” generation and it has huge, negative implications.

      • just c says:

        It’s so funny- what got me thinking about this is an old pencil we have floating around our house somewhere that has an anti drug abuse slogan on it that says “Users are LOSERS!” and I saw it and thought, there is NO way that would fly now, because we wouldn’t want to call people who use drug ‘losers’…that might make them feel bad about themselves. And then I thought- goodness! They SHOULD feel bad about themselves! It’s funny the little things God can use to teach us! Congratulations on your new blessings btw!

        • Word Warrior says:

          just c,

          You can’t believe where this concept is headed. Pedophiles are called, by some health professionals as “minor-attracted”. The word is, of course, offensive and hurts their feelings. http://www.b4uact.org/

          • Erica says:

            Kelly-
            I was just thinking on the fact that I had this blog email sitting in my inbox for a while now and would look at it and then think of a hundred “other” things I needed to be doing. So I waited until now to read this. Typical reading I do is read the blog then everyone else’s comments before I comment. So, of course, I just read what you & just c were talking about.

            Interestingly enough just last night my DH & I had a bit of a spat. We have some rather new neighbors – a house full of young men. Right after they moved in I received a postcard in the mail informing me that we had a “sex offender” living in that house. I stuck the postcard on the front door and made sure my DH and all the kids were aware of it. I saw the particular young man getting out of his truck while we were standing on the front porch and just rolled my eyes. When to my surprise the guy started walking over to our house! He walked right up on our porch and started chatting away with my DH like they were long lost friend, while I stood there with my jaw on the floor. The guy looked at me and began to introduce himself to me. Knee jerk reaction – I stopped him by saying, “I know who you are. You are NOT welcome here at MY house. In fact if I see you near MY house I will be calling the police on you. Now LEAVE!” My DH about had a heart attack and started apologizing to the guy. I can’t remember what was said exactly but there was quite a bit of back and forth between all of us. My DH was flabbergasted that I was acting like that. I finally said, “Look you’re a sex offender and I have kids. I don’t want you here. Now leave!” I walked inside and closed the door on both of them.

            My DH came in steaming mad at me. Then began to yell at me for offending this guy. It lead to an all out yelling match…I am almost ashamed to admit this but it happened and I have to own it. The end result was my DH being insistent that I not make people feel bad about themselves. My reiteration was along the lines of HE SHOULD FEEL BAD ABOUT HIMSELF!

            I did end up apologizing to my DH for the way I talked to HIM, but told him flat out that I will not apologize for how I spoke to the other guy. I felt very strongly that I was protecting my children and stand by my words. Maybe I could have done it a little nicer? I don’t know. All I thought about while he was there was my children going through something that I myself had been through growing up and I refuse to compromise where my chidren are concerned. I have spent a LOT of time on my knees since this happened….

            But it is very disturbing that they are literally dumbing down something to make someone feel better about themselves at the risk of them harming others no less. A year ago this wouldn’t have even entered my mind to be upset about it…but it truly is how our world is now. Not making people feel bad about themselves/their actions is leading to even WORSE consequences. For us all.

  15. Amy B. says:

    Probably my favorite post you’ve ever written! Excellent thoughts, and this is truth! It is for this reason that I have more or less stopped reading blogs. The seemingly constant trend of angst is highly suggestive, and was weighing me down. By God’s grace, I remembered that Christians are to be known for their joy, and that they are overcomers! All throughout Psalms we see an honest acknowledgment of struggle and hardship, but not a dwelling on it. Always, the psalmist will point to hope in the LORD, and through instructing his soul to line up with truth, and not circumstances, he continually overcomes that darkness of the soul. He shifted his focus from himself to the glory of the LORD, his help! Such a great conversation to have…very needed. Blessings in Christ sister! ~Amy

  16. Catie says:

    This is so good! I completely agree. As much as I like to hear that I’m not alone in my short-comings, the truth is I need encouragement and *the* Truth MORE than I need to feel like someone’s commiserating with me. Great, great post. 🙂

  17. abel says:

    Wow! Did I need to hear this just now! God can change me and make me become who he designed me to be. He continues to prune me while my responsibility is to abide in the Vine. All things, even the ones that seem counterproductive at the time, every thing He works together for good for me, for His glory. I want God to use me! I want my life to count for His kingdom. I just need to remain in Him.

  18. Peggy says:

    I needed that!!! Thankyou!!Even tough I will not get over my 16 year old sons death-I need to be encouraged in the Lord. I felt justified in in speaking my anger about a few people who crushed me in my grief that I had not thought of what it was doing to ME!!! Thankyou again.

    • Word Warrior says:

      Peggy,

      I pray God would comfort you in the way only He can do, giving you special grace for where you are. I can’t imagine it. But what a beautiful testimony for you to see, even in the deepest grief, how destructive anger can be. Bless you.

  19. Carrie says:

    tears………………………

  20. Kim K says:

    Thank you soooooo much for sharing this! I, too, have lived/been living in a long–what feels like much too long at times–season of overwhelm and challenge. I have a child with special needs and have experienced multiple miscarriages–five in two years–and sometimes the pain just feels like too much. I’ve had many moments of crying out to God to lessen the load without remembering that he already has. As I just had a moment while snuggling with one of my two little sweeties this morning that echoed the sentiments in your blog post, reading this today helped to bolster me in the conviction that I must press onward–not just for my sake but for the sake of my family. This world will and does bring us trouble, but we are promised an abundant life in the midst if we just take hold of it. I CAN glory in the opportunity to raise my challenging little boy to know our Lord and his grace and goodness. I CAN glory in the fact that I will be reunited some day with the little sweeties that I’ve never held this side of Heaven. Please pray for me today that I can walk in these convictions. I will continue to pray for you as often as I think of you. Blessings, dear sister.

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