Do You Trust Me?
What if the sense of “being overwhelmed” (that is, the feeling itself) isn’t the problem or a sign of a sinful pattern? What if it is actually a crossroads where an important choice has to be made? What if it is Jesus’ way of asking, “Do you trust Me?”? What if it is my reaction to being overwhelmed and my response to the question that feeds either the Monster or my faith, that causes the ever-darkening spiral of shame or gives light on the path ahead?
In this light, perhaps being overwhelmed is a good thing. Maybe it points to living toward something bigger than me. Perhaps I feel it so often because God is always calling me to something I cannot do by myself. Maybe God is taking me to places where all I can do is trust Him more deeply, more desperately. THAT is a beautiful place to be.
Granted, boundary issues and perfectionism, people-pleasing and “Savior complexes” (as I like to call the if-I-don’t-fill-the-need-then-no-one-will belief) are not healthy ways of living. They are heavy burdens that I, as a child of God living under Jesus’ New Covenant of grace, was not meant to carry.
But, as I read back through my journals, I just assumed that the pattern revealed something wrong in me. I never considered it being God’s intentional work. I only thought it was me messing up. Or being too much. Or not being enough. I tend to be an optimistic person, but I never considered the reason for the pattern of overwhelmed feelings to be God calling me to something bigger, inviting me into His plan. I never considered that it could be Him who takes me to that place on purpose, the place where I really cannot walk forward on my own. What if, in these moments of being overwhelmed, God is inviting me to do His work and to trust Him in it?
A Renaissance Mind
Someone suggested to me recently that perhaps I have a “Renaissance Mind.” I never knew that was a thing. Who knew there were enough other people with this issue as to merit a special name?! A person with a “Renaissance Mind” is one who knows a little about a lot of things, has a wide variety of interests and many things about which (s)he is passionate. It is the positive version of the old adage, “jack of all trades, master of none.” This definitely describes me! I am a licensed Physical Therapist practicing Speech Pathology and Autism therapy (overseas, cross culturally and in a second language and, soon, I will add a third culture and language to that mix). When working in my professional role, I love large group training just as much as I enjoy one-on-one therapy sessions. I love making my own schedule, but long for structure. When organizing my thoughts, I often make charts, but have recently discovered the joy of mind maps and words and sketches strewn on a page in colored pencil. I love spending the day in the city (or on a hike in the mountains) with my Canon and favorite 50mm prime lens. I am an avid journaler, maintain a blog and am in the middle of three or four other writing projects, one of which is a book. I digitally design most of the birthday cards, invitations and notecards I send to friends. I am a homebody that loves travelling and exploring new places. I am trained as a life coach with only practice hours standing in the way of my certification. Oh, and cooking. I love that too—trying new foods and experimenting with new recipes. As you can imagine, I am rarely bored. Conversely, I wish for more days off of work, so my various “hobbies” can be more like a handful of part-time jobs. Many years back, someone asked me the question, “Ten years from now, what would you regret not having or doing if it wasn’t in your life?” Then, that question was easy. Now, I am not sure I could choose.
Hmmm. Perhaps my regular feeling of “being overwhelmed” is because I am trying to make all of these things fit into one life. The possibilities of how to spend my time on a daily basis are almost infinite. Choosing is often an overwhelming task. Add on top of that my superhuman expectation of perfection for myself and the possibilities begin to crush me.
Jesus’ Asks a Strange Question
Sitting on top of a mountain with His disciples, Jesus saw a large crowd of 5000+ people coming toward Him. He turns, looks directly at Philip and asks:
“Where are we to buy bread so these people may eat?” (John 6.5, ESV)?
“Where are we to buy bread so these people may eat?” (John 6.5, ESV)?
What a strange question! Jesus knows the disciples’ money pouches aren’t bulging. He knows there is no market close by that sells that amount of food at one time. Why would Jesus ask Philip this question? Was He giving the responsibility to feed the people to him? Did He really want Philip to do the math, go look for scraps, find a way or devise a plan to feed the people?
When I have a crowd of 5000+ ideas in front of me, it seems Jesus is asking me a question similar to the one He asked Philip. Is Jesus asking me to run through my list of resources and figure out the most efficient way to accomplish them? When I am feeling overwhelmed, is He asking me to find a way to solve it? To push through? To tweak the milliseconds in my schedule to make it all happen? These are the questions I often hear and strive to answer. I think Philip heard Jesus’ question this way, too.
Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii [wages for 200 days of labor] would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” (John 6.7)
Andrew, another disciple, didn’t really understand Jesus’ question either. And, his response implies that the disciples did, in fact, surveyed their resources and tried to figure out a solution.
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6.9)
These sound like reasonable interpretations and responses to Jesus’ question, but, I think Jesus had something else in mind. The verse immediately following Jesus’ strange question offers a bit of a commentary that I find remarkable.
Jesus said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. (John 6.6)
What was He testing? What was Jesus trying to find out about Philip? What was He trying to expose in his heart? I think Jesus’ question to Philip was really, “Do you trust Me?” In this situation that you have never faced before, that all your logical answers and problem solving are not going to fix, do you trust Me? Will you look to what you see with your eyes or will you trust in the bigger Unseen? Are you going to lean on your own wisdom, which is obviously not enough, or are you going to trust Me?
Perhaps, when I am feeling overwhelmed, Jesus is really asking, “Do you trust Me?”. What are you going to do with what is on your plate today? Will you choose your own wisdom and strength, or Mine? Where will you find insight and creativity? To whom will you look for resources? What will you do with these opportunities I have placed before you? Are you going to let them crush you or trust Me for a miracle?
Jesus doesn’t respond directly to Philip or Andrew, but rather, has the entire crowd sit down (John 6.10) while He proceeded to give thanks and multiply the fish and loaves to feed all of people. In effect, He says, “No guys. You didn’t get it. Rest and watch me do My thing.” His way. His resources. Above and beyond all they could have asked or imagined. Each person filled and satisfied.
I think that’s just how God is. He probes, digs, seeks, exposes. But, it is not to cause me to squirm or hurt or fear, though those things may come in the process. He seeks to extend an invitation, to transform, to reveal His greatness. He is indeed inviting me into something bigger than myself—the building of His Kingdom. And I cannot do it by myself, but I can cling to the same promise from God as the Apostle Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2Co 12:9, ESV).
How vital it becomes to remember that I am not alone. Every time I feel overwhelmed, in the face of each choice, Jesus is beside me, beckoning me with His outstretched hand and asking, “Do you trust Me?”. It is also crucial that I carve out time (sometimes it does feel like chipping away at marble with a dull chisel!) for solitude, silence, listening. I cannot, nor am I meant to navigate all of these interests and passions and possibilities alone. God is my Shepherd, Wise Counselor and Companion. I want to grab ahold of His hand and walk forward with Him.