I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my nose out of the newspaper, or at least away from the news articles on my phone but yesterday I had to have a really tough discussion with a friend of mine about race, and so I purposely dove into recent news articles so I would be armed with the most accurate information I could find to prove my point. And then it happened. Anxiety and frustration. I started to notice a few friends on my Facebook feed making comments about recent events that I didn’t agree with, and I’m sitting there almost in disbelief that they can’t see the situation from the same perspective as I do. And now I’m overwhelmed because not only do I have to have this uncomfortable conversation with a close friend, but now I’m also feeling like I need to step into various arguments happening on my computer screen because if I don’t speak up, who will?
Truth is in today’s new world I think a lot of us can say we’re feeling overwhelmed, and I want to lean on some scripture to put my mind and heart at ease. I believe there is relief in God’s Word. I’m starting in Luke 17:11 where it says “Jesus continued on to Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he reached the village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance crying out to Jesus. Master! Have mercy on us!”
And so these ten men are really going through a tough season of life. They’re being overwhelmed every single day by this disease physically, literally watching their limbs deteriorating in front of their own eyes until death. They’re being overwhelmed every single day relationally. Because there was no cure, all they could do in Jesus’ day was remove them and put them outside of town so they can no longer touch the face of their wife anymore. They could no longer hug their children. They were separated from everybody they cared about. Relationally, they were being overwhelmed. They were being overwhelmed financially, they couldn’t work so they had to beg. They were being overwhelmed spiritually because they couldn’t go to church to worship God alongside their friends and their family anymore because they were unclean. If anybody understood what it was like to feel overwhelmed, it was these ten men. But on this particular day these guys get a break, not for any other reason than they are in the right place at the right time, and find themselves in the presence of Jesus.
What do we do when we’re feeling overwhelmed? It’s all about choices, and the first choice that we need to make is this: we must choose to be in the best place. Why? Because it is impossible to live right when we’re in the wrong place. Those men with everything going wrong in their life had one thing going right, they were in the best place that they could possibly be. So how did Jesus respond? In verse 14 it says this, “He looked at them and said go show yourself to the priests”. He is literally saying go to church. Go to church! Next it says as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. As they went they were healed, what did they do? They walked. They started putting one foot in front of the other, and as they did the most ordinary thing that they could possibly do, God brought healing into their lives.
And so it goes on to say that one of the men returned to Jesus, falling at His feet and shouting “Praise God” and thanking Him for what He had done. And here’s where my feelings of being overwhelmed come back in because I feel like if I were healed, I probably would have run home as fast as I could. I probably would have gotten out of town or been as far away as possible from where I was once hiding, because I know if I have been healed, I never want to think about being the old me ever again! Why did this one man decide to go back? If there were ten of us, why did this one guy go back to Jesus. Because all ten may have been healed, but only one realized that Jesus had given him so much more than physical healing. You see it was the perspective of the one that made the difference. The other nine had also received physical healing, but it was the one who was restored spiritually. Because where you sit determines what you see and when you sit at the foot of the cross, you can’t help but see Jesus at work in your world.
Where you sit determines what you see. What must we do when we feel overwhelmed? We must choose the best perspective, and the best perspective is the one that has Jesus Christ at the center of our world. Here’s what that perspective looks like in Isaiah 55:8-9. It says “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. My ways are far beyond anything you can imagine for just as the heavens are higher than the earth so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”
What’ll we do when we’re feeling overwhelmed? We choose the best place, and we choose the best perspective. Third, we’re going to choose the best priorities. Because where you sit may determine what you see, but what you see will determine who you will be. Your perspective will determine the priorities that you’ll live out in your life. As a follower of Christ, I understand pretty clearly what my priorities are called to be. That I’m going to love and serve God first and foremost in my life. After that, I’m going to love and serve my wife like Christ served the church. After that, I’m going to love and serve the gift that God has given me in my daughter. After that, I’m going to love and serve the people he’s put around me, And Last, I’m going to love myself because he loves me. It’s pretty clear what our priorities are to be.
“Choose this day who you’re going to serve, but as for me and my house, we’re going to serve the Lord our God”. (Joshua 24) What does it look like when God is our first and foremost priority in our life? Here’s what it may look like for me and for you. That I’m going to start my week in church. I come to church not because I want to win God’s love, but because He’s already won my love. I’m going to start my day in God’s Word because I know the more time I spend with Christ, the more I become like Christ. I’m going to start my prayers with thanking God because expressed gratitude may be the purest measure of my own spiritual condition and I’m going to start my pay period with a tithe because I learned that 90% with God is so much better than 100% without God.
Why do all this? Because there have been times in my life and I’m sure yours as well, where our perspective has not been Christ-centered, and where our priorities have not been Jesus Christ first in our lives. And that exposes a harsh reality that every single one of us are like those lepers. At some point, we are separated from God not by the disease we carry, but by the sin that we’ve committed. And we are separated from God, and we cry out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” And at some point Jesus looked to you. He heard your cries, and He’s brought healing and mercy and forgiveness far more than we could ever deserve. And so maybe after doing all this, when I read the news I still have this feeling of being overwhelmed, but it’s different now. No, now instead of anxiety I find myself overwhelmed with His goodness. Instead of cursing in anger I crumble under the overwhelming weight of His grace. Maybe instead of being overcome with frustration I’m overcome by His unconditional love.
And I have to be honest, as a follower of Christ, that’s the only way I want to live.