It’s ironic to be asked to share some reflections on the word “overwhelmed” at this season, the busiest time of the year for many musicians, including myself. I feel as if I could be the poster child for the concept of being overwhelmed! In addition to the typical stresses that accompany the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, musicians have added music to learn, extra rehearsals, and often a full calendar of performances. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
But when the request came to share my thoughts, I began thinking about being overwhelmed. Instinctively, the word “overwhelmed” has for me a negative connotation: I’m overwhelmed with stress, with anxiety, with the feeling there’s too much to do in too little time. But I remind myself that this feeling comes from my assumption that I’m on my own in managing all these “irons in the fire.”
It does become overwhelming…until I remember I’m not on my own. The weight of the world is not mine alone to carry. Our ever-present God is always beside me with an overwhelming peace and assurance that I’m not alone. His strength is made manifest in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I just need to keep my eyes on that promise and assurance that God is in control (if I allow Him to be).
One of my favorite passages from the Psalms that speaks to my overwhelmed heart is:
Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. —Psalm 46:10 ASV
This is a constant reminder for me to turn loose the feelings of overwhelming stress or anxiety, and be blessed with an overwhelming peace . . . a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace that really doesn’t make sense in the frenetic pace of today’s world. Another version of this verse says: “Cease striving and know that I am God…” I believe we’re expected to be good stewards of the gifts that are bestowed on us (I’m still required do my practicing, preparation, hard work, etc.) and then “cease striving,” or “be still” and know that God is in control and will bless our efforts as only He sees fit.
In the hymn, “Be Still, My Soul,” the text that is so beautifully set to Sibelius’ tune FINLANDIA, spoke this very truth centuries ago, yet it remains relevant today:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
It’s that very same God who beckons us to be still as we wait during this Advent season and be reminded that He is God over all—all our stresses, all our crises, all our day-to-day anxieties and concerns (big and small). Then, and only then can we experience another version of the word “overwhelmed.” To be overwhelmed with a sense of peace that is not of our own making, but one that comes as we entrust our lives to the loving care of God.
Kimberly Amin is one of the organists at La Sierra University Church, as well as First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Redlands. During the week, she teaches piano at UC Riverside and RCC. She and her husband, Najah have two children, Kamaran and Lana. They live in Moreno Valley.