What to Do With an Overwhelmed Heart
By ANNIE WESCHE
I walked into the small apartment in Haiti that was our temporary home and looked around for a place that I could hide. My whole body felt the build up of anger and grief inside of me. The well of emotions had been rising all day, and I knew that I needed to get alone with the Lord to unburden myself before the One who knew and understood.
The only place of true privacy was the bathroom, but it was too small of a space in which to kneel. And I felt desperate to get on my knees before Jesus.
My friend Gerda and I had been heavy-hearted over what we’d seen in the previous weeks. We had been taken to visit a local Haitian orphanage run by a corrupt man, who we quickly learned was exploiting the needs of the children for his own greedy gain. We’d encountered precious little ones who were severely malnourished, thirsty, and frightened into outside of wood shacks where the children slept. We’d seen the signs of neglect and marks of abuse on their bodies. We’d smelled the stench of their own urine on their skin and looked into their fearful or vacant eyes. Doing the best we could in our brief visits to extend love and care, each time we’d leave feeling angry, helpless, and overwhelmed.
Someone we knew had gone to the local police, pressing and pleading that they rescue the children and place them into better care. And we even reached out to people we knew working at local orphanages to find safe places for all the children. We had taken the steps we knew to pursue, but our efforts felt so small, so inadequate. The children not only needed physical care and safety, but their souls were desperately in need of the matchless love and healing balm of Jesus.
But that day, when we came back to our apartment, we had just learned that the police raid organized to rescue the children had failed. Someone had tipped off the man, and he had fled. The children were gone, and the place was abandoned.
What has become of those children? What can we do now? How can this happen? Oh, Lord, why did you allow us to see the suffering if we could do nothing to stop it, nothing to rescue those little ones?!
As my anger and grief intensified, I walked over to Gerda where she sat on her bed, clearly heavy- hearted as well. “I’m needing to spend some time on my knees with Jesus, Gerda. I’m going to get down beside my bed on the floor, and you may hear me crying, but I want you to know that I’m okay. I just need to give this heaviness to the Lord.”
She responded with an understanding head nod and put in her headphones.
Going back to the far side of my bed, I knelt down onto the cold concrete floor. I took a pillow and wept into it, muffling the heavy sobs that poured out of my agonizing heart. I cried and screamed, fearful for the children who were now lost to us and angered by the evil that was harming them. I gave God my anger towards the man who was using the children to satisfy his greed. I cried out for God to bring justice. I pleaded with the Lord to show us something we could do. I asked for Him to comfort each child’s heart wherever they were now, giving Him each individual child that I could remember — their faces still so clear when I closed my eyes.
As my tears slowed and my heart experienced the grace that comes with laying burdens in the care of the One able to carry them, I remained there in silence for a long time. And then, the Holy Spirit began to tenderly supply truth — directly reminding me that I was not the rescuer of these children. I was simply a vessel for the Lord, sharing in His heart, and called to serve His purposes and glory in the earth. He could use me in this work, but ultimately, He is the Rescuer. We had given our best efforts, but just because our plans had failed, that didn’t mean God’s rescue plans for the children had ceased. Could He not send more people to fight for those children? Could He not bring that evil man to justice? Yes! Was not His heart for these children the very reason my own heart ached to see them thrive in safety and love?
And then, I was reminded of something I could do for those children. I could still battle for their safety and their souls through the mighty work of prayer! God had orchestrated us meeting them, holding them, seeing their suffering, and encountering the corruption. And that face-to-face reality was now a greater impetus for fervent prayer.
The overwhelm I felt going into prayer had been comforted and relieved — not by changed circumstances, but by looking to Almighty God. God had allowed me to pour out my heart before Him, my tears and groaning and desperation … and then He led me high above the circumstances to stand on “the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:2). And standing on the truth of my God — my righteous, just, rescuing, mighty, loving God — brought true hope. He was not at all finished. Even if I didn’t get to see the end of the story with those children, I had no doubt that He could bring others to intervene, others He would use in the story to accomplish His work. Because Psalm 140:12 tells us that, “…the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.” “He administers justice for the fatherless…” (Deut. 10:18). And He Himself is a “father to the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5).
. . .
Have you faced a circumstance or season that has left you feeling overwhelmed? Perhaps through difficult decision-making, long seasons of waiting, care of a sick loved one, a challenging relationship, financial strain, or daily responsibilities that seem too much to manage?
Whatever circumstances may usher in feelings of overwhelm, God has lovingly supplied a way for us to find fresh grace, hope, and perspective — in Himself. The heavy, earthly realities of this fallen world are meant to press us into the hope and peace of our heavenly reality — in order that we may bring that heavenly reality down as a testimony of Christ in this world.
Allow His words to quiet any overwhelm and lead your soul to rest in Him, where He reigns high above it all in faithfulness and power.
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path.
Psalm 142:3 NASB
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Psalm 55:22 NASB
From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.