Overwhelmed or overshadowed?

A Christian Science perspective.

There are many reasons people feel overwhelmed. For some, it might be too many things to do without the time or energy to accomplish them. For others, a notion that they lack purpose or opportunity can be overwhelming. So can financial shortage or a threat to one's savings or income. Declining years, illness, or the pressing problems of loved ones may make some people feel frustrated.

Feeling overwhelmed includes a sense of lack and helplessness. It can also involve a sense that God is absent. But even if these feelings seem very strong, we aren't without His help. In a letter from the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, she assured one of her Christian Science students of this fact: "Yes, my student, my Father is your Father; and He helps us most when help is most needed, for He is the ever-present help" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 157).

Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, I turn to God to rescue me from this immobilizing state of thought. I quickly find myself in another, better mode of thinking. And that is to allow myself to be overshadowed rather than overwhelmed. One definition of "overshadow" is "to shelter or protect with one's influence or power."

We can choose to be overshadowed instead of overwhelmed. Consider an example of this spiritual approach from the Bible. Following the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter gave a speech that stated in clear terms not only the passion he felt for Jesus' mission, but also his understanding of the healing implications of Jesus' message.

Peter had found himself in a crowd of people who were quite overwhelmed with afflictions. The book of Acts describes the scene: "They brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one" (5:15, 16).

It seems to me that these people willingly allowed themselves to come under the influence of the Christ – of God's message of love, which Peter was preaching. The Christ so effectually dispenses with fear and replaces it with the tender assurance of God's care. I think a great release came to those people, the release that happens when one surrenders personal concerns and trusts God's omnipotent goodness. They were restored to wholeness through the power of divine Love. To some extent, they must have yielded up a sense that they were in control of their lives – or had lost control – and welcomed an improved sense that God was actually in control.

It's encouraging to read that by all accounts this was accomplished by purely spiritual means. And the spiritual power illustrated in that account in Acts is just as powerful and present today as it was then. It is here for us to draw upon. Though centuries have gone by, the strength of God is undiminished and remains right with you and me.

In an instant, we can find complete rest from daily pressures and problems as we turn to God, the source of all ability, strength, freedom, and rest. We can put ourselves under this heavenly influence. Hymn No. 195 from the "Christian Science Hymnal" offers these comforting lines:

Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou art;
That, that alone can be my soul's true rest;
Thy love, not mine, bids fear and doubt depart,
And stills the tumult of my troubled breast.

When we discover that God is actually in full control of all creation, and that His intent for us is peace, the feeling that we're overwhelmed by any problem begins to melt into a sense of being tenderly protected, shielded, and loved – overshadowed.

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