Break Free from Stress: How the Overwhelmed, Stretched Too Thin Mom Can Walk in the Lord's Freedom and Peace
Last week we started sleep training our youngest and it’s been bringing up a lot of old memories from when we began sleep training our firstborn a little over a year ago. When I tell you I really thought I might lose my mind during that whole process, I really do mean it. And I’m sure a lot of you can relate. Sleep training is ROUGH.
I’m talking way too many long nights of crying, shushing, singing, and rocking. I must have sang Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” at least a hundred times, along with “It is Well” with tears streaming down my face a hundred times more. This girl was determined to not sleep, and it didn’t help that by the time my husband and I had started sleep training, she was already learning how to stand. It didn’t matter if we went into her room fifty times in a row to calm her or lay her back down — she always managed to stand those chubby legs back up while holding onto the crib railing, wailing at the top of her lungs. When I was pregnant with our second child and beyond exhausted, those long nights were the worst. And did I mention my husband was working night shifts at the time, leaving me to deal with all of the chaos alone?
What I remember most about that time in our lives was the stress I always carried with me and how out of control and helpless I felt. I spent all day obsessing over her sleep, dreading the end of the day rather than looking forward to it. I knew the battle that was coming, and there were times when I had so much anxiety that I would just sob in my bed even after the baby went down. In those days all my prayers were prayers of desperation. Nobody had prepared me for this. Why didn’t anyone warn me that sleep training would make me loathe my child and even loathe life itself?
On top of this, I was struggling in so many other areas, feeling completely overwhelmed and stretched too thin. There was my to do list that just kept getting longer and longer. The house that never seemed to get clean. Issues in our marriage and other relationships. And many, many failures as a mom.
But I praise God that a lot of things are different these days. What used to make me feel like I was drowning, even the dreaded sleep training itself, just doesn’t have the same power over me anymore. Instead of carrying around stress, I’m carrying myself with confidence. I’m calm and collected, trusting that we’ll make it through. No more overwhelmed, stretched too thin mom.
I feel free — free from perfectionism, free from anxiety, free from stress, and free from feeling overrun. And it’s not that my circumstances have changed or become less stressful (because having two little ones just nineteen months apart is definitely not the recipe for simple!). What’s changed is the method in which I handle things, the way I view myself, and even my faith and willingness to surrender to God.
At some point I came to realize that I wasn’t stressed out because of my circumstances. I was stressed out because I didn’t realize I had options and access to solutions and that there was a way out. I wasn’t anxious because things were out of my control. I was anxious because I was trying to bend those things to my will. And I didn’t feel stretched too thin because of the demands placed on me. I felt stretched too thin because I was convinced I needed to carry everything on my own and I refused to ask for help.
For far too long I was the paralyzed man at the healing pool of Bethesda, playing the victim, pleading helplessness, and blaming others for the reasons I couldn’t get into the water. But I was finally able to walk in freedom when I began realizing and believing that Jesus had given me everything I needed to pick up my mat and walk (John 5:7-8).
No matter how helpless I felt in the moment, the reality was that the Lord had already graciously given me so many options for dealing with my problems, as well as resources, tools, and people to help lighten my load.
Mentors he brought into my life to encourage and guide me when the stresses of life were getting me down. Helpful resources that were able to teach me better ways to live my life, including how I take care of myself. The power of Scripture and prayer that he used to equip me for battle when the enemy’s lies and schemes threatened to rob me of my peace and joy. Systems and tools designed by other people to assist me in planning and organizing and getting things done. The creativity and problem solving skills that have already been instilled in me for tackling issues head on. A healthy church to come alongside me and my husband as we were trying to figure some things out. Friends and family members willing to serve and help me so that I’m not doing it all on my own. The tug of the Holy Spirit I’ve come to recognize and allow to lead me when I’ve gone off track or have pushed myself too hard. Professional help that’s been able to support and counsel me as I journey through postpartum and more.
When I began accepting the help of the people and resources around me, I finally felt like I was beginning to understand what Jesus meant when he said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
I was done with being robbed of my confidence, peace, and joy. I was done with being the paralyzed man waiting at the edge of the pool. I didn’t just want the Lord to fight for me. I wanted to learn how to to fight alongside him. So I armed myself with the weapons, tools, and help I needed to break free from my stress and so much more. And once I did, that abundant life Jesus spoke of — the life full of freedom, confidence, joy, and peace — didn’t seem so unattainable anymore. I was experiencing a fullness I had never felt before. I finally knew the truth.
And when it comes to stress, anxiety, or worry, the truth is and always has been this: We are not powerless victims. We are called and equipped by the Lord to become powerful warriors.
If you’re feeling weighed down or stuck these days, maybe even paralyzed, my question to you is this: Do you believe this could be true for you? That you’re more than that powerless victim? That it’s possible for you break free, too?
This is not a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” message. This is not a “just pray about it and hope for a miracle” message. This is a call for you to simultaneously surrender your life and take back your life — from the stress and worry, from the busyness and apathy, from the depression and anxiety, from the lies and schemes of the enemy, and whatever else is standing in the way of you walking in freedom and victory.
The Lord doesn’t just want to fight for you. He wants to fight alongside you. So it’s time to put on your armor (Ephesians 6:11) and take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5). Get wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 4:5) and let your petitions be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). Allow others to carry your burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). And believe his divine power has given you everything you need (2 Peter 1:3) — because it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1).
There are too many options out there to say that you’re stuck. Too many resources out there to say that nothing will help. And the Lord has been too faithful and good to say that there is no way you’ll ever be more than that overwhelmed, stretched too thin mom.
A lot can change when you’re willing to take that first step of humbly admitting there’s a lot of things you don’t know how to handle or deal with, but that there is something or somebody out there who does.
It’s true that there are no magic formulas. No secrets or tricks or life hacks that can make our lives perfect or eliminate every problem. But what we do have is our Heavenly Father, who is the giver of good gifts (Matthew 7:11), generous with wisdom (James 1:5), and wants us to break free so we can do even greater works for his kingdom.