Help for When We're Feeling Overwhelmed

Psalm 102 begins with this introduction (and these psalm prescripts are inspired and part of Scripture), 

“A prayer of one who is afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD” (Psalm 102)

“Afflicted...faint.” The New Living Translation translates it to simpler speech: “A prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble.”

So here we have a prayer of someone overwhelmed. We can relate can’t we? I sure know I can. Life is going on. Situations are arising. He feels flooded and fearful. He's pouring out, praying, opening up to his God.

What, then, is his response to his feeling overwhelmed in the psalm? Or to say it in a more compelling way: since this is Scripture and God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), what is God’s answer for us as we feel overwhelmed?

There is not only one answer. But reading this psalm this morning, I encountered an encouraging one. 

A Vista for the Soul

In the psalm, the overwhelmed psalmist is honest—brutally honest, encouragingly honest. He talks about how his “heart is struct down like grass and has withered” (Psalm 102:4). He opens up about his “loud groaning” (Psalm 102:5). He compares himself to “a desert owl of the wilderness” (Psalm 102:6). He’s worn out, tired, weary, swamped by his insecurities, fears, and uncertainties.

But then a change comes in verse 12. It’s a response to his overwhelmed heart. We can start at verse 11 to give show the transition:

“My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations” (Psalm 102:11-12).

This is the sight that gives him encouragement. Here is a vista for his soul: “But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.”

The Lord is enthroned. The Lord will be remembered throughout all generations.

Overwhelmed. But now refreshment has arrived.

Two Helps for those Overwhelmed

So what’s the psalmist’s (and God’s) answer to when we feel overwhelmed? Breaking it down, we see a two-fold response: 1) God truly reigns, right now; 2) God has been God and will continue to be God forever.

1. God truly reigns. In the midst of all the psalmist is feeling and encountering, he knows his God is God. His God is in control, in reality, right now. Nothing has happened in this overwhelmed psalmist’s life or in his flooded heart that God has not been reigning as King over. There’s nothing that slipped by his God. There’s nothing that is too hard for God to mend. God is God. God is King. This doesn’t make it easy (his heart is struck down like grass), but he knows his God—the God who has committed himself to him, who loves him—reigns. Nothing is chaotic. This is a breath of fresh air to his overwhelmed soul.

2. God has been God and will continue to be God forever. When we’re overwhelmed, we often over-fixate on the situation and everything going on. But here we see the psalmist break free from focusing only on the moment at hand. He looks to his everlasting God. It’s encouraging to him that God not only reigns right now, but he always has and always will. In meditating on this, the psalmist recognizes that his life, his situation, and his tired heart are a part of something grand. This situation is a piece in the puzzle of God’s great story—a story where God has precious purposes, good goals. The psalmist is overwhelmed, but he knows the everlasting God, the God who has always been God, even thousands and thousands of years before the psalmist’s feelings arrived. He knows the God who always will be, even thousands and thousands of years after this situation passes—even after the psalmist passes from this earth. This eternal, God-centered perspective brings refreshment.

Following the Psalmists Pattern

So, fears, doubts, and uncertainties overwhelm the psalmist, but he’s encouraged that his God reigns, now and forevermore.

When we’re overwhelmed, it’s beneficial for us to follow the psalmist’s pattern. In those moments we feel like everything is chaotic. But it’s not; God reigns. Int those situations we think that the moment at hand is of utmost importance. But it will pass, and God was God before that moment, during it, and has an eternal plan that moments fits into.

A Refreshing Ending

God inspired the psalmist to begin Psalm 102 with honesty about groanings coming from the his struck down heart. Then in the middle of the psalm, God led the psalmist to realize that the Lord reigns, now and forever. And this bring us to how God breathed through the psalmist to end the psalm.

Remember, this psalm is “a prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble.” Here’s how Psalm 102, a prayer about being overwhelmed, concludes:

“Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you” (Psalm 102:25-28).

My God reigns. He always will. All this will pass. I will dwell secure in him. My situation and my life are all part of something grand.

With these praises, the overwhelmed psalmist was refreshed. May you and I be as well.