When we need to admit overwhelm and seek help

Written by Shawn Naylor

When I was in high school, I played for the basketball team. My fellow players were far superior to me. I mean, I saw them dunk in Grade 7. Many of our players went on to play for the number-one ranked basketball team in Canada. They proceeded to win five back-to-back national championships. Yeah, they were pretty good.

One weekend our coach decided to sign us up for a tournament. He rented two Econoline vans to transport our team there. All six small guys would go in one van and all the six big guys would go in the other van. When it was time to leave, we discovered that one of the players from the big guys group had locked the keys in the van. So the small guys, already en route to the tournament, had to play. Otherwise, we would have to forfeit the whole tournament. 

That night was the only game in my high school basketball career. I would love to tell you that it was an amazing experience. But that would not be true. We simply did not have enough players to deal with the fatigue. We were overwhelmed, and the score reflected that. 

The score was 61 to 15 as the third quarter started. Then, almost as if in a Hollywood movie, the big guys showed up. I heard a player from the other team share his dismay when he saw the calibre of players that just showed up to take over. I have never been so happy to stop playing and let someone else take over. It was something to watch people who were incredibly gifted and focussed come to our rescue. When all seemed impossible and defeat in utter annihilation was on the horizon, victory came, and it was something to witness.

I’ve had similar experiences in leadership. I have witnessed many leaders, myself included, thinking we are ready to take complete control. But soon we realize that we are in over our heads and unprepared, or lacking the capacity or skill set to deal with what we’re facing.

This is very similar to a young child who becomes independent and thinks that he can take on the world. But then he steps out and realizes he cannot do as he wishes. In fact, life beats him up.  

We never fully lose those kid tendencies. So many of us think that what we do or how good we are will abdicate us from the cost of sin. We think we can take on the world. We can handle this.  But nothing can be further from the truth. We are overwhelmed by the cost of sin. You and I need someone to come in and save the day. We’re very familiar with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus came into our situations to be the hero we cannot be. In the following verse it says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

God sent His Son for us to win victory over sin and to remind us that God is for us. And if He is for us what can stand against us? Not even the grip of sin has dominion over us. As leaders, when we compile all of these promises together we can realize that whatever God has called us to, we can give way to His intervention and His timing as it will always culminate in victory. 

The hardest part about victory as a leader is knowing that it is God’s power not ours that can fully right a wrong or resolve a problem. We must truly relinquish our grip on control and allow God to come in. We can then watch Him move in our situations in spectacular fashion, even when it looks like defeat is on the horizon. 

That night in high school, we ended up winning the game 87 to 71. Our overwhelming defeat turned into a stunning victory because we now had the talent and power we needed. 

Maybe you feel like you’re playing a game on empty in your vocation. It’s the beginning of the third quarter, and the odds are looking dismal. So my two questions to you are:  

1. What are you trying to control and are utterly overwhelmed over? Pause to pray and invite Jesus in.

2. Who is the person in your sphere that has a gifting that you don’t that could help support you in this area of overwhelm? Invite them into your need and ask for help. 

Once you have this honest revelation about your weakness and need of help, speak it to God. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” We can allow God to interrupt our circumstances and stamp out all that is holding us back from experiencing victory. Then victory will be on the horizon.