I fondly remember living in China. I love her people. Yet I clearly remember the overwhelming feeling of arriving in Shanghai on August 14, 2011—not for a vacation or a visit, but to live. Life turned upside down.
With only six weeks to pack, find a school in China for our youngest, help three other children prepare for college, say goodbye to family and friends, and undergo a knee surgery I had been avoiding, I arrived exhausted. Overwhelmingly exhausted and overwhelmed by foreignness: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the hubbub. It felt wild and utterly foreign. Without speaking or reading Mandarin, I heard only babble and saw only babble. Everything, and I mean everything, was strange: the language, the money, the food, the grocery stores, the government, the gods, the culture. Even the eating utensils were different!
This was foreign territory. And I was overwhelmed.
No one needs to move to China to enter foreign territory or to be overwhelmed (or super overwhelmed). I know many of you feel overwhelmed in some way. Being overwhelmed is part of the life experience. Jesus promised:
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
Whether cancer, job loss, financial difficulties, death of a loved one, relationship problems, divorce, depression, addiction, hurting children, COVID, or any of the daily trials we bump against, the sights, the sounds, the smells of life can feel wild. Strange. Foreign. Uncomfortable. Painful. Lonely. And overwhelming.
The first week in China, I shared my ongoing conversation with God with friends and family back home. The conversations went something like this:
God: Yes, dear one.
Me: This is overwhelming. I don’t like change, and I don’t like roller coasters. You know that I prefer merry-go-rounds… something peaceful and relaxing. Why this move? Why now?
God: I want to take you on an adventure. I have much for you to learn and I want you to trust Me.
Me: Lord, I can’t do this. This is too hard. My children need me.
God: Do they?
Me: Yes! Of course! I’m their mother. What if they get sick or there is an emergency?
God: Carmen, who is it they need? Who do you think you are and who do you think I am?
Me: Oh yes, God! I’m sorry. What am I thinking? It is You that they need. Help me! Please help me in my unbelief! Help me to trust You… help me to entrust my children into Your care.
God: Yes, I want each one of your dear children to depend upon me. I want you to depend upon and lean upon Me and Me only. I am God of the Heavens and Earth, the Mighty One who upholds you with my mighty righteous right hand. My everlasting arms are beneath you. Your children are safe in my arms. REST! Rest in me.
Me: Please help me, God. Resting is not my forte. I’m such a doer. You know how I like baking cookies for You.
God: I know that full well. All things are possible through me. I can supply beyond your wildest imagination.
Me: I love You, God.
God: I love you… I love your children and your husband and all those you hold dear.
So guess what happened? Everywhere I turned those first few weeks in China, I bumped into what I call God hugs or God winks. What feels like personal Holy Spirit messages from God to me. Over and over again, the message was the same:
“Be still and know that I am God.” - Psalm 46:10
What did that mean? I’m pretty good at doing. Lord, what do you mean, “Be still?” It wasn’t until learning Psalm 46:10 in Mandarin that the light bulbs switched on! 你们要休息，要知道我是神。If I translate this verse back from Mandarin to English, here’s how it reads: You must rest. You must know that I am God.
Do the imperative commands jump out to you like they did for me? You must rest. You must know that I am God.
Now God had my attention. No joke! It’s as if He whacked me over the head, and I was awake! Similar to Jesus calling Lazarus out of that tomb: Lazarus, come out!” Jesus called and out-of-the-grave-of-self-absorption I came. I was alive!
I began feverishly digging into His Word. Daily. I was hungry and thirsty. I wanted to know everything that God had to say to me about rest and about knowing Him. I began in Genesis and I went all the way through the Bible to Revelation. Do you think the Bible has anything to say about us feeling overwhelmed? You bet. A lot. Feeling overwhelmed has been around since Eve ate the overwhelmingly irresistible fruit.
We must learn to be still and know God.
BE STILL. In Hebrew, be still is one word meaning STOP! Cease! Release. Rest. Let go. It’s as if God says, “Yes, you’re going through some overwhelming circumstances, but you must put an end to this frenzied state or activity. Stop your runaway mind! Stop your run away fears! Release them! Give them to me. Cast your cares to me.”
You are overwhelmed. You must rest. You must be still. You must know. TO KNOW is to possess knowledge or information about something or someone. And what does God say to know? THAT HE IS GOD. He is Elohim, the Israelite God; who both created and rules over the universe.
Yet, this Hebrew word “to know,” points to an intimate knowing, an experiential knowing that involves all our heart, soul and mind. This word know is also used in Hebrew for a husband and wife enjoying sexual relations. Now that’s an intimate and experiential knowing! Be still and know, experience and enjoy me as your God.
Do you know God? Are you enjoying God?
I’ve been on a mission to know Him and learn His rest, and to inspire other women to know Him through His Word, ever since. When we know God and we know who we are, we know what to do.
Friend, if you are feeling overwhelmed, if you find yourself in some foreign territory, come rest in God with us. Know Him through His Word. I’ve worked with women long enough to know that we tend to be filled with excessive amounts of things like guilt, worry, shame, temptation, anxiety, fear, and disappointment.
Our goal is to help others thrive in the midst of overwhelming circumstances by knowing and enjoying God through His Word. Here are some ways to get started: