Devotion – July 18 – “I am overwhelmed”
When I say the word “overwhelmed” what do you think? Some common answers are: “overworked,” “stretched too far,” or “too much to do and too little time.” Most people equate the feeling of being overwhelmed with a schedule that has to much work and to little time.
But with the Covid pandemic, people are encountering a different kind of “overwhelming” feeling. With things shut down and people staying at home more, many are finding that they have more time than they used to. Yet, here is the rub, the hard rub, most of us are dealing with a sense of feeling overwhelmed. If we are not being overworked, overstretched nor finding that we have too little time, why are we feeling overwhelmed?
The answer is: the situation we are facing is overwhelming. It is too much for us. We look at the Covid numbers rising at an incredible rate. Communities and businesses are shutting down once again. Two churches in our synod have shut down in the last week because of Covid in their community and or church. Is there a chance we might have to shut our church doors again for a while? Sadly, yes, that is a very real possibility.
The physical toll of this pandemic is historic, the emotional toll is overwhelming. And, because we are getting no guidance from our leaders, it leaves us floundering aimlessly. Soon we find ourselves sinking, drowning in the situation.
I have found lately, that I’m on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I feel I have my head wrapped around the situation, and at least on some level I feel on top of things. Yet, by the next morning, I feel overwhelmed again by everything that is going on. It’s not a good feeling, and it gets worse when I have to confess that the things that are overwhelming me are beyond my abilities to “fix.” And with that conclusion I feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into the ocean of “overwhelmingness.”
If you too, have some of the same feelings, there is an event found in the Gospel of Matthew that might help us. It’s from Matthew 14:22-33:
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Maybe Peter is our patron saint right now. Here is a man who like us, follows Jesus, believes Jesus is the Messiah, and yet he finds himself overwhelmed by a situation.
Peter sees Jesus walking on the water – staying on top of the storm that was overwhelming him and the others – Peter asks if he can do it, too. Jesus invites him to try. To Peter’s credit, he does it! Peter begins walking on water, staying above the storm!
Then Scripture notes the turning point of the episode, Peter’s crucial error: “But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink.” Peter let the situation overwhelm him. He looked around and concluded the situation was too much for him, and immediately he began to sink.
Good news comes to Peter as he sinks: “Jesus IMMEDIATELY reached out his hand and caught him” Jesus came to the rescue of his overwhelmed disciple.
Jesus, who always seems to find teaching moments, asks Peter once he is back in the safety of the boat, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” We always assume that Jesus asking Peter why he lost faith and began to sink. But is it possible that what Jesus was really asking Peter was why he doubted that he would save him? Was it possible that Peter cried out for help in such a fashion that it showed he wasn’t sure if Jesus would help him?
Is it possible that what Jesus was teaching Peter, and all of us today, is that he knows there will be times and events that will overwhelm us, and are too big for us to fix on our own. But, instead of letting the crisis overwhelm us, what we need to do is remember that Jesus will keep us safe.
So, if you are like me and feeling overwhelmed at times by everything that is happening, don’t fight it – simply admit the emotion. Then, remember that Jesus is near enough to you that he will reach out and take your hand and get you to a safe place.
We will make it through this storm.
~ God bless, Dan