When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

How to re-frame big, scary situations—one small step at a time.

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Footprints in the sand. Photo by Anya Berkut, Thinkstock.

A while back my friend Liz and I were talking about the crossing of the Red Sea.

She commented, “We tend to think, ‘Oh wow! That must have been amazing!’ when probably the only thing most people saw as they hurried through the waters was the back of the head of the guy in front of them.”

I strongly suspect this is true. I know that when I have a Red Sea-size problem I tend to get overwhelmed. I make the mistake of thinking I need a Red Sea-size solution, when really all I have to do is keep moving.

I need to break the problem down into small steps. I focus on moving my left foot forward. When that’s done, I move my right.

This way of re-framing big, scary problems into a series of one-step mini-problems helps me make progress. Which, as the Israelites knew, is half the battle. For though God handled the Egyptians, each Israelite had to fight an equally tough enemy: fear.

Each had to avoid the temptation to panic (“Red Sea! Egyptians! Walls of water! Ack!”), focus on the back of the head of the guy in front of them, and put one foot in front of the other.

God didn’t tell them, “Fight Pharaoh” or “Part the waters.” He only asked them to do what they could do… walk.

God only asks me to do what I’m capable of doing, too. I can make a phone call, take a walk to clear my head, look up resources on the web, or write down questions to ask a doctor.

I can do the laundry and keep the family fed. I’m slowly learning that when my heart screams, “Big problem!” what God is usually asking me to do is take little steps.

This much is certain: God doesn’t call me to freeze in the middle of the mud in a panic. If I’m going to walk with Him, I’ve got to keep moving, one small step at a time.

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