Finding God in the Messes of Life
Part 2 of an interview with Hayley DiMarco,
Author of A Woman Overwhelmed
The phrase “a woman overwhelmed” is one many women can relate to. Research reveals women are more likely to admit to being stressed and suffer from depression than men — yet there is hope. In A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life (Abingdon Press), best-selling author Hayley DiMarco shows readers what would happen if they traded in being overwhelmed by life for being overwhelmed by God.
“Women have a list of things to be overwhelmed with, but most of the time it comes down to their to-do list, which includes working, nurturing, loving, exercising, cleaning, cooking and more,” DiMarco explains. “We also tend to use comparison as a way of determining our value and our success. With all that has to be done, it would be much easier if everyone would do what we want them to do, but alas, our lack of being able to control others ends up overwhelming us as well.”
Q: Is it true you have never met a woman who wasn’t overwhelmed by life? Why are women easily overwhelmed?
Yes, it is true! I think it is simply because we were made to be overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God. Because of that, our hearts search for something bigger than us, and when we see our to-do lists and plans as the biggest things in our lives, we naturally become overwhelmed with them. In fact, when our heart, soul, mind and strength are all focused on anything, it tends to overwhelm us. That is why Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. We were meant to be overwhelmed by God.
Q: Do single women struggle with being overwhelmed as much as married women?
I don’t think marital status has anything to do with being overwhelmed. Where a married woman might be overwhelmed with being a wife and mother, a single woman can be just as overwhelmed with her singleness. For example, she may struggle with loneliness or the financial restraints of a single income. No one is exempt because no one is righteous, not one.
Q: You write, “If I’m honest with myself about it, I’m not so much overwhelmed with my life as I am with everyone else’s.” Explain how the lives of others contribute to your (and our own) sense of being overwhelmed.
Here’s the thing: I’m doing what I want to do, but they aren’t doing what I want them to do. If everyone would just do what I want them to do, I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed. From my husband and daughter to my friends and enemies, getting people to see my ways as the best ways is like trying to convince my dog he doesn’t want my dirty socks. It’s a losing battle. I’m overwhelmed simply because I’m not in charge of everyone. From my family and friends to the person driving in front of me, I want people to do things the way I want them done, and since they’re not doing it my way, I’m overwhelmed.
The way I look at it, there are there are two possible results of comparing ourselves with another human being: pride and depression. Comparison promises to help us to stay on top, out-do others and be accepted, but the result is ultimately pride when we measure up or depression when we don’t. When we see ourselves as better or worse than everyone else, we have taken our eyes off the Father and placed them squarely on ourselves.
Competition is a symptom of comparison; it’s the yardstick by which we measure our success. At the root of comparison is our stubborn need to feel superior and bolster our pride. On the flip side, the foundation of righteousness is humility, a self-proclaimed neutrality in the competition of life. When we humble ourselves, we are no longer overwhelmed by life but by the love of a God who loves us in spite of our sinful nature and repeated failure. We see comparison and competition stand in direct contrast to the humble life God calls His children to in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10, ESV).
Q: You also say an important part of escaping overwhelmedness is adopting “the Mission of God over the Mission of Me.” Can you explain what that means?
When our mission in life is to accomplish our own plans, dreams, hopes and desires, we are fertile ground for too much to do and not enough time or resources to do it. The Mission of Me is not a road to emotional or spiritual success because there will be difficult times and devastating failures, but the Mission of God, though fraught with difficulty, sees success because God will not be frustrated. When we align our will and mission in life with His, we see life through different lenses, and suddenly everything that would have overwhelmed us is now a tool for our good.
Q: Can you share the story of the first time you felt overwhelmed by God?
I tend to find myself overwhelmed by God when I am in nature. Just walking around in the midst of His glorious creation overwhelms me — it is a sight and a sense of His love that is more than I can imagine. When I feel overwhelmed by life, I have to remind myself to go or look outside and remember the lengths to which God has gone to show us His love. When life seems overwhelmingly impossible and I see how He cares for everything — the birds of the air, the flowers of the field — and supplies us with all we need for life, I am overwhelmed by His goodness and His power.
The key for me is to remind myself of who He is. Whether it’s in nature or in His Word, when I see the true character of God, when I study His attributes and see who He is, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the notion He is truly all I need.
Q: What lessons has God taught you about patience, especially when it seems like there is so much to do in so little time?
The biggest lesson He has taught me is I’m not in control of circumstances, and when circumstances don’t go the way I want (when I am interrupted or plans are changed), I can trust Him to work it all for good. In fact, the good starts the moment I am patient in these instances because then I am listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, producing His fruit in my life and able to feed those around me. Patience is impossible in the flesh. However, when I put everything that happens to me into His hands, I can be patient and can trust His hands are big enough and good enough to change what needs to be changed and to make happen what needs to happen. I have learned His ways are better than my ways and time is in His hands.
Learn more about A Woman Overwhelmed and Hayley DiMarco at www.HayleyDiMarco.com. Readers can also follow her Facebook (hayley.dimarco) and Twitter (@hayleydimarco).