In cricketing terms, we know it when Michael Hussey ducks to avoid that vicious bouncer; the ball got ‘big’ on him all of a sudden... well that happens in life too, does it not?
In today’s life, probably like no other time in history, we’re bombarded with everything from financial crises and rising utility prices, to food crises, and climate change crises, fires, floods and famines, to concerns much closer to home, like keeping our jobs, paying the mortgage, keeping up with our kids, managing tomorrow which scares us, a myriad of continual social concerns, and generally just finding enough time to ourselves... the list is never-ending.
Life gets very big on us all of a sudden. We wake up one day as a parent in a family, with a key secular or ministry role (or three!) having to balance a whole bunch of things just to survive. It was a process that got us here, sure, but that seems dim now, and we’re just here, surviving by the skin or our proverbial teeth.
Monica O’Neil of Vose Seminary recently discussed this issue (The Advocate, March 2009) in an entirely different context--of drowning in a community or church volunteer role--and gave some insightful, measured advice on what to do, using the swimming/drowning metaphor and how the leadership structures should support the person flailing ‘in the water’ of that role.
We lose hope and zest for life when we’re overwhelmed by it all. Suddenly, the activities we used to look forward to become crosses to bear; we approach them out of duty, not devotion. The passion is replaced with mental legalism, and joyous drive, for regulation. Psychologists would call it the tension between intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. A subtle swing has occurred.
You could try some of the following to get you back on track:
PRIORITISE the important ‘must do’s’ for today (or tomorrow) and do only these. Make a checklist and check them off.
MAKE a study of the typical urgent activities you’re required to undertake. Whittle these down as these are probably the source of your panicked dread.
IDENTIFY which activities cause you to spin your wheels and commit to eradicating these. These are dead end activities that offer no return to you or anyone else. Typically, these are time wasters. There are plenty of time wasters and distractions in life today; start with the grip technology might have over you... yes, you’re probably looking at it right now!
START engineering time for transformational activities. We become dead if we undertake too much transactional stuff. Most of us need a healthy balance of re-creational pursuits.
Why do we become overwhelmed in the first place? There are tangible reasons and intangible reasons. In other words, we feel overwhelmed because practically, the activities (the amount or nature of them) become too hard, or less practically, the activities we have are more or less not a good fit with our true heart’s desire; essentially our base call.
I find I lack courage mostly when I start losing my hope. We can at least be bold when we’re full of hope. It may not be the answer but it’s a start. It’s a two-edged sword of courage and hope. Have the courage to stop or adjust and align things that are providing no value to you or others.
The acquisition of hope and courage provide much needed balance. Balance is both empowering and re-vitalising. It’s a hope and courage restorer. Attaining and maintaining balance is possible in anyone’s life. But we must ask, ‘How badly do we want it?’
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 As an interesting aside, in 2 Samuel 4:1 and 7:27 the NIV records that the subject in each case ‘lost’ and ‘found’ courage. Courage is like that; we need to find ways of quickly restoring our courage--and this, I’m sure, is intrinsically linked with hope, i.e. ‘losing’ and ‘finding’ hope.