When you're living in the overwhelm instead of the overflow by Joy Lenton

Emotional doesn't begin to describe how I've felt over the last few months. 

It's been a roller-coaster ride, with frequent dipping low to ground. 

During my dark season of the soul, I struggled to write, feel creative or be encouraged. Ironically, it also coincided with self-publishing my book. 

Talk about bad timing. :( It was accompanied by guilt for feeling this way as a blood-bought, born-again daughter of God.

As an encourager, I felt adrift, and anxious about how to help others when I was so discouraged myself. 

When I listened too intently to my emotions, life felt pretty grim, devoid of joy and peace. I struggled to find myself in the maelstrom, never mind see where God was in all of this.

Am I suggesting we shouldn't be in tune with our mental state? Not at all. It's how we experience the rich variety of feelings at our disposal, and a means of discerning deep desires that aid us in shaping purpose and plans. 

But we're not meant to live in a constant state of emotional lability and overwhelm, nor to be numb to all that's going on around and inside us. 

Balance is the key thing. Knowing what is 'normal' for us is useful in discerning the way ahead. Excessive grief, despair and discouragement could be warning signs of incipient depression, requiring medical care and attention. 

Positive emotions are different. We feel energised. Hope flares brighter. Love flows more smoothly and joy is a natural way of being.

I think that joy and sorrow can coexist as partners in the way they interweave and interact together, pulling us toward God, whether in praise or seeking comfort.

"Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? ...look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy" ~ Kahlil Gibran

I've been learning that our wounds - pain, grief, sorrow - are also our deepest source of spiritual growth, if we let them teach us the lessons they bring.

The things we want to run away from could also be a means of grace, drawing us closer to Christ.

Listening to our lives is key to understanding what is happening. What are our fickle feelings and fluctuating emotions trying to tell us?

They could be indicating a state of the heart, body, mind, or a form of spiritual attack. Prayer, godly wisdom and discernment are required to help us get answers to what is eating us up on the inside.

God has the final say on our lives. His word promises and reminds us that life is full of blessings. 

Those blessings may come wrapped up in sorrow and sadness sometimes. They won't all have beautiful bright bows on them, but all offer an invitation: to open, appreciate and sense the gift hidden within - glimmers of grace shining midst life's detritus.

Our purest joy and deepest gratitude will stem from seeing God's hand in everything. We can relax in His omnipresent, omniscient care. 

Past, present and future are safe in God's hands. He alone can bring joy out of adversity and birth purpose out of pain.

Whatever painful trial we may be experiencing, we have hope of it passing. God's grace waits to be discovered in life's dark places.

Here's a little note I wrote during the hard days:

A poet pays attention to her days
Careful observation of its corners
makes for more words upon a page

Because writing will flow again. Each tiny poem or short sentence counts. Our mood will lift. Creativity will bloom and be deeply enriched by all we have gone through - and survived - with God's help.

Meanwhile, let's just let ourselves be held...

NOTE - **I hesitated so much in writing this post. It wasn't a topic I was keen to share, because I'm in a stronger place now - mentally, if not physically. But sometimes we just have to be honest about our struggles. My hope and prayer is that someone reading this will feel less alone with theirs**

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'

She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs wordsofjoy.me and poetryjoy.com as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.


  1. Such beautiful encouragement, Joy. This especially is so very true: "The things we want to run away from could also be a means of grace, drawing us closer to Christ." For me this has proved the case time and time again. I sometimes wonder if God purposely puts us into situations that trigger these feelings, so that He can bring healing to deeper wounds beneath. I'm discovering that the more I pay attention to my emotions, the more I learn about what lies beneath: so often lies that have attached themselves to emotions. So grief, fear, despair, insecurity...are all being uncoupled from lies spoken into me in the past...and recoupled to God's Truth. So grief becomes evidence of my need to rest in God's love and hope, fear becomes an invitation into God's shielding embrace, despair becomes an invitation to be still and receive God's Love, grace and peace, insecurity becomes an invitation to rest in my identity as a chosen, equipped and called daughter of the King.

    Thank you for choosing the harder path of speaking the truth to the glory of God, Joy...you are such a blessing.

    1. Anna, your pondering is finding a home in my heart. I especially resonate with this: "I sometimes wonder if God purposely puts us into situations that trigger these feelings, so that He can bring healing to deeper wounds beneath."
      I think you could be on to something here. So much necessary unearthing goes on that is unsettling to our souls, but without it we wouldn't have such a strong foundation to build on for the future. Thank you so much for your insightful thoughts, for following me over here, sharing your heart, and seeing encouragement in words I feared might be anything but. Bless you, friend! Xx

  2. Thank you for this Joy. As with Anna, the phrase "The things we want to run away from could also be a means of grace, drawing us closer to Christ." touched me. It has proved true before and I will trust that it is so now.

    God bless you for sharing. It is always so helpful to know that I am not the one who feels this way at times.

    1. Lynda, your kind words are truly appreciated. I wanted to hide away yesterday, convinced that no-one would want to read this post, or find any good in it if they did. Sometimes the drive to be real and vulnerable makes cowards of us after the deed!
      Thank you for sharing that you are reassured to know you are not alone with this specific struggle. That's why I write, to speak for others who may have similar experiences, and to reveal they are far from alone with them. There is hope; there is grace and there is encouragement to be found in the sharing. And if just one person can identify with it, then I am truly grateful. Bless you. Xx

  3. So so true Joy. The things we run from are often the things that will heal us. I especially love the part about listening to our lives. Something I am not always great at. Thanks for this perceptive and honest post x

    1. Deborah, I am grateful that you've read this, and more so in seeing how it has struck a chord of recognition with you. Listening to our lives can be a painful thing because it involves sitting with sorrow as well as dancing to joy. I'm not always great at it either, but it is helping me to have greater clarity of vision to note where God is at work in the daily. Thank you for your sweet encouragement. It means a lot, especially when I yearn to live and write lightly and brightly instead of inhabiting and observing life's dark places. Xx

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    1. I meant to comment on your blog which is why I removed what I wrote. I do appreciate your words here. They are very inspiring! Blessings to you!

    2. Hi Gayl. I'm delighted to see you here and over at Words of Joy! Thank you so much for taking the trouble to let me know how these words have impacted you. Blessings. :) x

  5. This is so timely for me. When I self-published my book back in 2013, it took so much out of me, and I never really got it back. And then the events of my life over the last 5 years, well, I'm completely and utterly emotionally drained. Not sure I have a voice left. I feel as though I'm hanging on by a thread.

    1. Barbie, I'm so sorry to hear how you're still feeling emotionally drained. Birthing a book takes an enormous amount out of us, never mind dealing with life's continual challenges. You've had a pretty tough 5 years and it's taken a toll. And although you may feel as though you're "hanging on by a thread", I see you truly making a difference on your blog, still writing beautiful and inspiring words and encouraging others along the way. God's not finished with you yet, my friend, and you have a tremendous amount to offer now - just as you are. Never forget Who is holding you up, supporting you in every way and infusing His strength into you day by day. Praying for an increase in courage and confidence as well as rest and resilience. You are stronger than you know and making more of a difference than you realise. I'm dipping into your book and enjoying the deep reflections it is stirring. Hang in there. Things will get better. Blessings and love. Xox <3

  6. I totally agree with this! I know there are times when my hormones are all whack up but during those times of emotions being crazy God really seems to work in my heart. What is interesting though is that when I am stressed a different type of crazy emotions, I can't think straight. Mmm you got me thinking...what can i learn from the other time for the stressed time? Interesting

  7. Thank you Joy for your honesty and courage in sharing. It is a common experience for us to enter this dark night of the soul and nothing we should feel guilty about. I believe God brings us to this place to do some important work in our hearts, and if nothing else he uses this time to minister to us and remind us of his love, "therefore I am now going to allure her, I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." My last book Hope Springs came out a dark time in my life and I remember writing the poem 'The River' at a particularly dark time. It is always a suprise to see what treasures the darkness brings.

    I float, adrift, anchorless,
    unable to fight the current,
    or choose direction.
    Powerless, and unresisting.
    A piece of driftwood,
    fallen from the branch.
    At the mercy of the river,
    and the direction of the current.

    Frail heart grieving.
    Defenceless in the water’s wake.
    No defeating feeling with reason,
    or options to choose from.
    Instead, surrender to the rivers pace,
    the only choice remaining.

    Yet, aren’t we all defenceless
    in the light of God’s might?
    Our attempts to stand our ground,
    so feeble in His sight.
    When circumstances dictate
    we rest in His arms,
    we only fight in vain, helplessly flailing.

    But afloat.
    Which simply reminds us
    that we’re held too tight to resist.
    We long for arms around us,
    and forget we’re already in His grip.
    Afloat on His river of mercy,
    His current of life.
    And we’re to journey with Him
    where-ever the river takes us.

  8. Ana Lisa, I so appreciate you stopping by to read this post and share your beautiful poem. It echoed my journey and the way we need to "surrender to the river's pace" rather than resisting where we are situated, especially when the river is the flow of God's love. My dark season has yielded grace glimmers and treasure previously unseen, as well as a painful unearthing in order to build a stronger foundation for the future.
    I love the insight in these lines:
    "We long for arms around us,
    and forget we’re already in His grip"
    So true! Thank you for this great reminder. Bless you, friend.


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