When You’re Overwhelmed With The Bad In The World: Five Things That Actually Help

overwhelmed 2

Now, look. I just had a baby. I know I’m tired and hormonal.

But is it just me, or are things seeming a bit bleak these days?

If you’re like me, you don’t need me to recite the world’s tragedies… you know them already. You read them in the paper. You see them in your Facebook news feed. Ebola outbreaks, the genocide of Christians, suicide, mental illness, riots and racial fighting, incurable diseases, little kids battling cancer…

It can feel extremely overwhelming.

It can make you want to cry, and shut your eyes to it all. You feel so guilty, tense, powerless, and confused.

Where is God, exactly? What in the world can we do?

When I was in college, my professor said something really profound. Don’t zone out here. This is really good. In fact even years later, it’s stuck in my head.

Things are different now that we have mass media, he said. A long time ago, in Biblical times, even our grandparents’ time, if you heard of something bad, you could help, because it was local.

If you knew someone was sick, or who’d lost their house in a fire or a child to sickness, you could help them, because they were nearby.

These days? These days we are literally flooded with tales of evil and tragedy. Even if we can help some of those suffering, we can’t help them all. There are too many.

So we are left feeling depressed, cynical, and powerless.

Is there a cure? I think there is (sort of). Here are some things I’ve thought of to do – when you start feeling that tense, overwhelmed feeling with all that’s going wrong in our world.

  1. Help the people in front of you. Really basic, I know, but do it. Who is suffering around you, that you know? Who that God placed in your life – family, church, neighborhood – needs a meal, a card, a hand? It sounds cliche, but when you feel overwhelmed by the bad in the world, do something good. Think of one person you can actually help, and do something – today. I think one thing my professor was criticizing about our modern culture is that it gets you in a mindset of not helping. Today, do something small.
  2. Think about good things. Okay, so again, I’m sounding cliche. But isn’t it what God says to do? Whatever is good, whatever is true, right, noble, honorable…think about these things. In plain English, here’s how you do that today: The Lord IS doing good things in our world; tell yourself these stories. Remember that miracle he performed in your family? Tell yourself that story again. Stop scrolling through the litany of tragedies and read stories like this one, about the baby they thought might not survive, but did, and this one you’ve heard, about how God saved the doctor’s life, or even read my story from three weeks ago, when God answered my desperate prayers by a hospital bed. Think about good things.
  3. Stop in-taking and start up-lifting. Again, in plain English: When you have reached your “max” of hearing depressing stories, get off Facebook for the day, and refuse to watch the news. Instead, make a list of all the prayer requests you can think of. Write them on index cards if you need to. And then, pray through these things. Once a week I take the day off from the internet (read more about that here), and it is so refreshing. It’s literally one of the best decisions I’ve made. And especially when you’re on overload – step out from the noise, and spend some time praying for what you already know.
  4. Evaluate where you’re spending your money. Sometimes our vague, negative feelings are just guilt speaking to us. Stop, and ask the Lord if there is a cause he wants you to get behind. Compassion International is a great one. Already have a child? Get another.
  5. Thank God for heaven. No seriously, guys. Don’t glaze this over.

One day, there will be no burying our loved ones. One day, there will be no deep-sinking-feeling in your stomach from hearing about suffering brothers and imprisoned believers. One day, little ones won’t die young, leaving heart-broken families behind.

One day, All Will Be Right.

We will be safe. We will be truly, and wonderfully, at peace. One day He will wipe away every tear, for good. Spread the Word, friends. It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s coming. It’s dark out now, but morning’s coming.

 Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the negative noise? What helps you regain your focus?




I Lost My Voice…the Week of the Rachael Ray Show

Rachael Ray Show

At the ripe age of 5, my sweet savior Jesus saved my soul and stirred it.  As my mom and dad and Sunday School teachers taught me Bible stories – I fell head over heels in love with my Jesus and by junior high – I was sharing the gospel with anyone who would listen.

In high school my mom gave me a book by Elisabeth Elliot.  She was a missionary whose husband died at the hands of those they served.  Her lack of fear, love for the murderers and strong faith, inspired me to go to Bible college.

So off to the Moody Bible Institute I went and there a dream came true. I met my hero Elisabeth Elliot.  She came to my dorm room floor and spoke. I’ll never forget the verse she shared because it was the first time I  had ever heard it:

Jeremiah 45:5:  “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!”

This would be an important lesson to tuck into my heart as I never foresaw the ministry plans God had for me.

So after graduating college and marrying, I began leading women’s Bible studies, accountability groups, Titus 2 Workshops and mentoring ministries.  And then in January 2008, God did something new in my life.

I now had children and felt like I was overloaded with real life ministry…I had discovered these things called blogs but I was fearful. I remembered Jeremiah 45:5, and fought the idea.  A blog seemed SO self-promoting.  A few days later we would have communion at church where during prayer, I sensed God moving me towards greater faith.

From that moment forward I have never looked back.  The following August my blog – Women Living Well – popped out into the blogosphere  and for a year and half straight I blogged 5 days a week encouraging women to find joy in God, your man, your kids and your home.

And then it came, an email from the producers of the Rachael Ray Show.  I had not pursued this and my blog was quite small at the time but I believe God was in it.  The producers asked me if I would come on the show and share about my marriage. I was fearful. What if I go on this show and they mock me or ask me to debate a woman who disagrees with me –  on national television!?! Ugh!

So I wrestled with my decision.  And it was that day – I LOST my voice!  This was not the first time I had lost my voice – actually losing my voice has been a regular occurrence in my life since I was about 10.  When I get a cold – it goes straight to my throat and voice.  And so about once a year, I lose my voice.  When I say lose it – I mean gone – not a squeak comes out. I am silent for about 5 days.

Isn’t it interesting that the very thing I love to do – speak – is the very area physically I am weak.  I have over 1.1 million views of my videos on youtube.  I want to be a mouthpiece for God –but he has humbled me and kept me on my knees dependent on him to give me –a voice.

And on this day back in 2009, I begged God to give me back my voice so I could go on the Rachael Ray Show. After a lot of hot tea and cough drops, a camera crew showed up at my home to record us for 8 hours and then we boarded a plane and off to New York City my husband and I flew.

The morning of the taping, Keith and I prayed in the hotel room together, surrendering ourselves to God allowing him to do as he pleased.  Then we were whisked away to the studio for hair, make-up, green room prepping and in walked Rachael Ray – then lights, camera, action.  It happened fast. In a blink of an eye the taping was done.  We were ushered out of the studio within 10 minutes of the taping and there we stood on the New York City streets a little overwhelmed.  It was a big experience but like a vapor – it was over –and I was reminded of Jeremiah 45:5.

A few days later the show aired (you can see the video here) and the internet swirled with people’s opinions of our marriage.  The words stung – “airhead, doormat, stepford wife.”

“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!” Jeremiah 45:5

Elisabeth Elliot once said, “God needs those who are ready to lay down their lives to lead others into a true soldiership and true following of the crucified.”

I didn’t go to the Auca Indians where my husband was murdered –I went to New York City on the Rachael Ray Show –I get it.  I really do.  I’m a wimp! Lol!!!

But I learned an important lesson early on in my blogging years –if I plan to write on faith, I must be prepared for insults and looking like a fool at times.  But what a joy it is to HAVE a voice!

You have a voice too!  We each have our own sphere of influence where God is asking us to be brave and speak truth. It certainly won’t bring us greatness in the world’s eyes – but consider – God doesn’t love us because we are something great – He loves us because we are His.

Be fearless.  Use your voice.

Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.

Walk with the King,

Courtney, WomenLivingWell.org

This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Why I’m Glad I Was Homeschooled

stories made it possible

The smell of ancient paper still makes me want to sob, the way spines line up like soldiers on the wooden shelves of small-town libraries. I know they would defend me if they could, those armies of words.

I grew up in second-hand clothes and mushroom-cuts and plastic glasses. I grew up homeschooled until the age of 9, with my nose in books, stories of Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. Books whose characters were as real to me as every-day, as the few friends I made the houses between, for we moved fast and far, my father a pastor and so, I clung to these characters and they, to me. I could count on them to be there, when nothing else was. We became a family of sorts.

And Mum, she taught me the Queen’s language. A language lost to this texting generation. She taught me when to use “which” and when to use “that”; she saluted the apostrophe and shuddered when it was put in the wrong place. She set every word reverently in its place, in a sentence, and taught me the feel of a pen between my fingers.

I learned the art of penmanship, but not only that—I learned what it means to know a language inside and out, backwards and front, and to hold it in awe.

Throughout high school Mum pulled me out of the English classes and taught me herself because she knew what I did not: that with the age of computers we’d lose the craft of a noble speech. We’d add slang and acronyms would become actual words and kids would trade the romance of a hand-written letter for the convenience of a text message.

my goal since those days

Not only did Anne and Pippi and Laura befriend me; they paved the way smooth for an awkward girl. They made it possible for me to believe on days when my heart seemed to stop working. On days when I yelled at my parents and slammed doors and slipped dark into anorexia, on those kinds of days, only the story could reach me. Only the story could save me.

It pulls you deep, this literature, deeper than any technology could. It introduces culture, countries, religion and history and it whets the soul for learning. The story creates sympathy for a world full of characters, and provides boundaries for good and evil. It sheds light on people’s unspoken suffering and creates a longing for justice, for truth.

I will never understand the intrigue of a book-less library, of the e-book, of the Kindle, for the very charm of the silence and the old stuffed chairs lies in a library’s walls of literature. In the dog-eared page, the margin-scribbled-notes, the smell of dusty intrigue, the quiet hush of pages turning.

And my goal since those days has been to write a story that draws people in so they forget where they are, so they too befriend the people they are reading about, so they too, don’t have to be lonely, anymore.




Friends? I’ve written a story (a memoir) and it’s releasing next month.

It’s called Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (www.atlasgirlbook.com)—and all proceeds are going towards a non-profit which TBM contributor Joy Forney and I have founded in the slums of Uganda: The Lulu Tree ~ “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.”

Atlas Girl_700x175_2

Pre-order your copy of Atlas Girl HERE and receive a FREE e-book on How to Write Inspirational Memoir!




This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

Kids Don’t Need Pinterest Perfect

Kids Don't Need Pinterest PerfectWe can learn a lot from the Internet, can’t we? Chances are very high that you’re reading this article right now via the Internet—email, social media, a blog.

As women, we are surrounded by voices in this new age of “information.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched Google for “how long does it take to boil an egg” and “what to do for a bee sting.” (I know I should know how long to boil an egg. But for some reason, I almost always have look it up.) Don’t judge. I grew up on cereal.

Truly, having access to life online has changed our culture. For the most part, I love it. It’s opened up a world to us that was much harder to reach in 1976. I remember a time when encyclopedia salesmen traveled door to door selling books. I believe I bought a set for my own kids in the early 90’s! The Internet has made that sort of thing obsolete, because we’re getting our “information” from a much broader set of voices now—a new platform of voices, previously unheard.

Today, we can hear from virtually anyone who wants to be heard: from the mini-van mama to the movie star mom and every mom in-between. Most moms want to do the best thing for their kids—and that’s great—but in recent years, I’ve been seeing a new generation of moms who are comparing themselves to a mom who doesn’t exist— the mom who seems to have it all together. It’s easy to open up Facebook or Pinterest and see images of perfect days and fabulous dinners that are airbrushed (literally!) to perfection.

We like to put our best picture forward—but what message are we sending to our kids with all this perfectionism? When we begin to think that everyday life is supposed to be like that, guess what? Our kids miss out on the messy but good stuff of life. I’ve struggled in recent years as a busy mom of two grown daughters and five children still at home to find balance between that “ideal” mom and being a mom who isn’t afraid to let good things go for better things.

To my kids, at least, “better” is not Pinterest perfect. It’s just access to their mom.

This summer, as you get ready to enjoy time off from school with your children, keep in mind that your kids need to see you. They need to interact with you. They don’t want to see your face buried in a computer screen or a smart phone every spare minute.  It’s freeing, really, to do the most important thing first. And do you know what that is? It’s your family. You see, kids don’t need a Pinterest Perfect Mom. They need a mom who will be present with them.

They don’t care if you can braid their hair into the Eiffel tower, or if you have “fans” on Facebook. They want you to pay attention to them. In the end, it will be the simple things that will make the biggest impression on your children. I didn’t have a perfect childhood, but when I think back, the things I love to remember were the days mom took us to the lake for the day. I remember she made terrible fudge but she let me do it with her. I remember the totally NOT perfect pillow case she embroidered with me and the summer days we ate Cheerio’s for dinner after sliding down a sheet of plastic in our back yard for hours on end. I remember climbing the walnut tree with my grandma (yes, my grandma) and the no-bake oatmeal “fudges” mom brought out while we sat in that tree.

It wasn’t remotely worthy of “Pinning” and it’s likely that it would not have caught anyone’s eye, but it caught my heart. I don’t think kids today are much different.

I’m still a fan of Pinterest, but I’m learning to use it responsibly.  Kids don’t need perfection, they need permission to be kids—and moms set the tone for childhood memories.

Enjoy your kids this summer! The memories you make may never be worthy of a pin but they will make the biggest impression where it counts the most: on the hearts of your kids.

Heidi St. John, The Busy Mom

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