I’m only a chapter in, but am immediately resonating with the content and challenge presented in a new book I just started reading called The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul. Author Laura van Dernoot Lipsky is a leading researcher in the field of trauma exposure, helping folks understand and situate various traumas they’ve experienced. From such a vast array of resources, she has an acute understanding of people’s suffering and pain. But what she did not imagine was the depth and breadth of how this pain has caused a permeating and pervasive sense of overwhelm all across society. “Individuals are overwhelmed,” she says. “Families are overwhelmed. Workplaces, communities, and entire systems are overwhelmed. And while each time in history has its challenges, there is a particular look in folks’ eyes today that has prompted me to dedicate this book to those who are operating in a state of overwhelm — some of the time, or all of the time.”
She’s not alone in seeing that look in folks’ eyes. I see it too, and I bet you do as well. I’ve heard from so many of you whose every day, every hour lives are difficult and taxing. Getting aging bodies up and moving in the morning. Dealing with a variety of medical challenges and trying to find a diagnosis to move towards healing. Parenting stubborn children and running out of ideas. Working jobs that deplete rather than build up. Having to sacrifice here and there just to make it until payday. Feeling paralyzed with worry or indecisiveness about your ailing parent, your young adult son, your business’s upheaval, that potential job change. Wondering how you’re going to stay clean another day, stay connected through the depression, stay present for your family when you’d just rather not.
As if these individual and relational concerns weren’t enough, layer the general anxiety of our world atop it all, and overwhelm seems blankets us to the point of suffocation. Fearing what each day’s headlines might bring. Raging with each hot opinion coming at us online or with people of differing convictions. Despairing over what will happen as the world warms, as tyrants gain power, as civility fractures and relationships unravel. Wondering what in God’s name can be done about it all from our small corners of the world, or where we can exercise even a small measure of control.
What once was occasional stress becomes nagging anxiety. What once was a series of hard days becomes a real question of if we’ll ever be able to keep our heads above water. And without even realizing it, we might find ourselves at a depth of struggle wondering if ever we’ll see a way out.
The landscape of this ‘age of overwhelm’ demands a meaningful response by people of faith, those of us who believe in a God who sees us and suffers with us through it all. Reading about the state of overwhelm is making me all the more grateful for some of the resources we have at First Baptist, those like our Butner Fund for mental health counseling, or members and ministers who are trained experts in trauma, social work, and grief counseling, or simply the gift of friendship and companionship within beloved community that, as we sang on Sunday, ‘walks the mile and bears the load.’ For I do believe that with the right resources and spirit, the possibility of transformation becomes real enough to cut through the overwhelm in ways that bring wholeness and new life.
Together in the work of Love,
Ps- If you or someone you know feels the weight of overwhelm and would be interested in counseling, please contact any of the ministers or Amy McClure directly about the Butner Fund.