Being overwhelmed = sanity?

There is so much going on in our world.  It’s unbelievable.

Does it ever overwhelm you?

a : to cover over completely : submerge
b : to overcome by superior force or number
c : to overpower in thought or feeling

When you’re flipping through the channels, and some dramatic news commentator’s voice catches your ear as they describe a global catastrophe or event, does the sheer enormous scope of our reality ever overwhelm you?

Today at church we prayed for the conflict and instability in the Middle East.  We prayed for peace, mercy, justice, and reconciliation.   We need God’s mercy now more than ever.

On the way home I heard on the radio people talking about President Obamas historic visit to Myanmar.  As you may know, we’ve been connected to Myanmar for the better part of 10 years, and I’ve found myself cautiously amazed by all that’s going on in that country.  There is is still a lot of work to be done and needs to be met, but progress is taking place.

Living in an age of connectedness, we face an unprecedented amount of daily content.  The most intriguing aspect of this to me is not the fact that we have access to so much information, but that there really is so much going on.  Everywhere we look lives are being changed, nations are being shaped, and humanity is bursting forth in all it’s beauty and depravity. History is unfolding all around us.  Some of it is tragic, and some of it it is hopeful.

How are we supposed to respond to the overwhelming amount of events unfolding in our world, if at all?  

What if we were supposed to be overwhelmed by our reality?

What if being overwhelmed was the only reasonable response to all that’s going on?  What if the feeling of being overwhelmed was actually our hearts trying to tell us something about the nature of existence?  As I was wrestling with this stuff today I had a few thoughts for myself and my friends:

Don’t run from it.  One of the temptations Americans face is to settle into our comfort and security, claiming “ignorance is bliss”, and pretending that what’s going on in the world isn’t real.  The way I see it, this is insanity, in that it is a type of self-deception.  When we convince ourselves that there isn’t actually a world of desperate need all around us, we’re like a cancer patient who continues to deny their disease.  Don’t lie to yourself, embrace the truth of our reality, even if it is overwhelming.  Watch the news, read the blogs, and hear the stories of what our world is like.

Pray.  One of the most profound aspects of prayer is the acknowledgement of our smallness.  As a Christian I take so much comfort in the belief that there is a God, and that He will ultimately bring the peace and justice all of us long for.  How awesome is it that we can release our worries to God?  Furthermore, I also believe in a spiritual reality, that our prayers are not fleeting or simply self serving, but that they do have the potential to impact our world.  What would happen if we let the news guide our prayers? What if we followed the overwhelming stuff in our lives into a posture of constant prayer?  This has often brought a sense of peace that I can’t explain…

Do something.  Pretty self explanatory.  Give money, volunteer hours, change your habits.  Do what you can, what is within your capacity – This is usually more than we think.  Then see if you can do more. In our society it seems like we work so that we can play.  Come Friday night most of us find ourselves at the movies or out at dinner with friends.  What if we worked so that we could make difference?  What if our free time was spend doing something that wasn’t about us?

I’m realizing today that being overwhelmed is sanity, because if we aren’t overwhelmed by the sheer scope of our reality, both its depravity and beauty, we aren’t seeing it as it is.  The moments that we are overwhelmed by the world are the moments we are most sane, because being overwhelmed is the only sane response to our world.  Being overwhelmed has the potential to shape us into humble and compassionate people.  It’s also the fertile soil where action and response grows.

But somewhere along our way, we decided to put ear-muffs on and sing our deceitfully convincing lullaby, telling ourselves that everything is ok.  If we are convinced that everything is ok, than I submit to you that we are insane.  

If you’ve read this far, would you consider praying for our world?  Would you pray for Palestine and Israel?  Would you ask the Creator of humanity and the cosmos to pour out his loving mercy on us?

“Lord, we’re overwhelmed.  We need you.”

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