The Takeaway - Overwhelming Feelings

December 28, 2021

listen here

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Unsure of what lies ahead? It’s only natural. When my children were small, I read a book about tantrums (and how to prevent them). Tantrums fall into a pattern: usually starting with something that is unexpected: school is closed, no playdate today, no frozen pizza at the store. Troubling times generally begin with something unexpected, uncertain, unprecedented.

And toddlers aren’t the only ones who have tantrums. Adult tantrums usually happen when we’re trying to get ourselves together on the outside, but on the inside the pot of our feelings, a stew of fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, and shame, boils over. Usually it begins with something small and unexpected—and then the whole world becomes overwhelming.

An example from this weekend: I was trying to get in and out of the grocery quickly. And the people in front of us were frustrated with their reward points—they were not being properly deposited in their account. Reward points at the grocery store! It is not the time for this! I went from calm to angry in 5 seconds.

My low-level anxiety about being out in public during a time of social distancing quickly morphed into anger at others for trying to save money. Our feelings can come out sideways during times like these. I’m sure you have felt this recently as well.

In that moment I took a breath. I noticed the rise in my heart rate, the heat filling my chest and head. Another breath. I gave myself a mini-pep talk: “This is not the time for burning through my energy with frustration at discount shoppers—they are a hearty bunch and will win!”

In the words of Viktor Frankel, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The space is slim, friends, but in it is a fresh chance to regroup; respond, instead of react. In the grocery store line, I thought about where my ultimate safety comes from: from God, not from social distancing or hand washing… though all of those things help! God’s care for us is the focus of today’s Scripture, Psalm 91.

Scripture: Psalm 91

  • Psalm of protection, beloved for thousands of years for its reassurance of God’s care during troubling times
  • Athanasius (early church father): “If you desire to stablish yourself and others in devotion, to know what confidence is to be reposed in God, and what makes the mind fearless, you will praise God by reciting the 91st Psalm”
  • Psalm that I prayed when we sheltered under our house during the tornado back in October
  • Listen for God’s word for you, today

1You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,

2will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”

3For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence;

4he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

5You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day,

6or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

8You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

9Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place,

10no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.

11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

12On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

13You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

14Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.

15When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.

16With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.


  • Let us bring our overwhelming feelings before God in prayer
  • Today’s prayer was written by Augustine of Hippo, early church father (who lived from 354-430)
  • Let us pray

God of life,

There are days when the burdens we carry

Are heavy on our shoulders and weigh us down,

When the road seems dreary and endless,

The skies gray and threatening,

When our lives have no music in them,

And our hearts are lonely,

And our souls have lost their courage.

Flood the path with light,

Turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise;

Tune our hearts to brave music;

Give us the sense of comradeship

With heroes and saints of every age;

And so quicken our spirits

That we may be able to encourage

The souls of all who journey with us on the road of life,

To your honor and glory, Amen.

Until next time, receive this blessing from God. It’s the oldest blessing in the Scriptures, the “priestly blessing” from Numbers 6.24-26:

“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Today, this week, and always. Amen.

Recent Posts