I listened as two young women talked in line ahead of me at the local Shell station. I think the topic was homework and part-time jobs; I’m sure they weren’t talking about their last girls day out at the spa when they agreed they were ‘dead-tired, overcome, exhausted’. If ever there is conversation that crisscrosses generational lines, it’s that one. Too much … too tired … overcome. WOW! Listening to them, the mom in me (well at their age, probably the grandma in me) wanted to hug them close and tell them it wouldn’t always feel like that – being overcome. The truth is though, we spend a good deal of our lives being overcome and a greater share of our lives trying to figure out how to overcome the feelings of being overcome. The difference is in one tiny letter at the end of the word. OvercomeR. There’s a big difference between being overcome and being an overcomer. I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m closer.
Overcome … Overcomer – for some reason that makes me think about David in the Bible. If anyone had a reason to be overcome it was David. If you thought his only giant was Goliath, you might want to read 1st and 2nd Samuel. It’s in Psalms where David pours out his heart to God, but he had insurmountable burdens back there in Samuel. We hear a lot about transparency today, don’t we? David is practically the poster child for open transparency. Listen to the depth of David’s discouragement in Psalm 116:3 “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.” This feeling of being overcome is a thread through the entire book. In the books of Samuel, King David was stressed out and torn apart by some form of battle, either personal or physical on every page. Have you read the Psalms and noticed peaks and valleys of emotion? Sometimes even from verse to verse the tone changes. Verse 4 then says “I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” I wonder how many times we feel distressed or discouraged, unable to see beyond our circumstances of the day. We are exhausted and overcome like something sucked our energy away and left nothing in reserve. David felt that way … a lot! But he recognized it; then notice how he handles it over in Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Today I put my hope – he was not giving in to feeling overcome, he had hope.
A few years ago I read a book titled How Will You Measure Your Life. I don’t remember the whole book but I remember the point the author was making. Our measuring stick for success in life is a fake standard. The gauge marks success in increments of making money, a bigger house, position of power, and achievement of some level of greatness. The author asked readers to examine their purpose in life. I know. “What are you here for” is a topic run rampant, but this book was different. The author, Clayton Christensen, wrote about how ambitions of a few of his friends meant they sacrificed everything, even life, to attain gold, to achieve platinum level recognition. They were overcome. Addicted to life on overdrive, without contentment their ‘will’ was trapped in the cycle of more. They were overcome, never satisfied. Contrast that book with the most heartwarming book I read last summer. Soul Keeping by John Ortberg – This is a quote about being dissatisfied. “When the will has become enslaved by need, when the mind has become obsessed with the object of its desire, when the appetite of the body has become master rather than servant, the soul is disordered.” When something is disordered – it’s not working.
When something we value is out of order, don’t we try to fix it? When we are overcome by grief or stress or loneliness or maybe feeling the effects of too much, discouragement moves in and displaces the joy that belongs there. Our souls become disordered, we become discouraged, we are overcome. The way out is the same way out that David took, Psalm 119:28 “I am overcome with sorrow. Encourage me, as you have promised to do.” He went to God who, in other Psalms is referred to as David’s rock, sword, shield, refuge, and strength.
We have to remember where discouragement comes from. The enemy of our souls wants us to live disordered and defeated. If we are overcome we are too exhausted to be overcomers. We sink into discouragement. That’s OK. God will meet us there and pick us up to rise above discouragement. Psalm 139:8 says “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” It’s not easy to turn off the negative voices that say it’s not fair, it’s too much, I’m exhausted, but it’s a moment by moment choice. John 1: 5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
What if today you could be an overcomer instead of being overcome? Think about good things today, pray, turn off the news, write yourself a letter, write someone else a letter, call someone, take a walk outside. Today can be awful or it can be awesome. You can be overcome or you can be an overcomer. 1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
And let’s end with these words in Mandisa’s song Overcomer “You might be down for a moment, feeling like it’s hopeless, that’s when we need to be reminded that we are overcomers.”
Overcome or Overcomer – Mandisa sings about it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VoUYtx0kw