Have you ever felt overwhelmed? At various points in my experiences “overwhelmed” was the defining adjective of my life. In 2013 at the preschool, “overwhelmed” was most often the word I attached to myself. Preschool concerns ruled my life, worry plagued my dreams, and nausea wrenched my stomach. I had unreliable staff, an employer who like to scream at people rather than speak to them, another employer who would take credit for my work, and a classroom full of some of the most difficult children I had ever worked with. The director was fond of saying, “Amanda I put these children in your classroom because I knew you could handle it. You’re talented with children with challenging behavior”. Which is true to a certain extent, but after having a quarter my class have challenging behaviors and inadequate staffing, I began to feel overwhelmed and overburdened.
I felt alone in my troubles. I was even asking God all my angry questions saying, “Alright where are you? I need to have some words with you?” yet I struggled to hear God over the noise of my burdens. So for a while, I let the anxiety take over and I stopped asking for help. I began to wonder if I had somehow angered God to be living such a nightmare. I will say once more that I felt alone, utterly alone. I would go home and listen to oldies music to bring comfort. One time the song “Mr. Lonely” came on the radio and I thought to myself he really understands how I feel. Let’s have a quick listen (play song). We all can relate to this feeling on some level. I was working 10 hour shifts having been screamed at, taken advantage of, spit on, bruised from kicking children, scabs from being bitten, sticky from God knows what, and migraines from the stress. It continued like this for months with no let up. I began to think I was trapped in some horrible time warp. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t contemplate just walking off the job and washing my hands of the mess. But that wasn’t how I was raised. I don’t give up when something is hard.
But in those times, I yearned to know was I being punished, did I do something wrong, and again where was God? I needed God to intervene. I needed him to champion my cause. I needed to feel his love; I needed a word of comfort. I am not proud of this time in my faith. But it happened. I am human and sometimes my faith is imperfect and at times inadequate to the struggles set before me. We all have periods in life when our defining adjectives are words like “overwhelmed”, “burdened”, and “exhausted”. It is in those times that we have to be careful because we are at risk of falling away from God, falling into those pits of idolatry, and losing our way in our attempt to just keep our heads above water.
Israel in the time of Hosea, the 8th century BC, had been so affect by the other cultures around them that they no longer relied upon just God for guidance but they kind hedged their bets and offered up sacrifices to the Baals. In other words, they worshipped the local fertility God and participated in the local fertility cults. They didn’t speak just to God but they spoke to the local Gods in the hopes of continuing the excesses they openly enjoyed as a society. They took for granted God’s blessings and their ability to connect with God whenever they pleased.
In response to the excess with which the Israelites reveled, God sent a prophet to them to remind them of God. Prophets in the ancient world were God’s way of warning the people that they had wandered too far and to come back to him. If they didn’t then God would allow for destruction to occur. We hear all that God did behind the scenes unbeknownst to the people. Yet, instead of seeing God in retrospect or in those moments of healing, care, and guidance, in the moments of joy and success, the people turned and gave credit to idols. So in response God was no longer going to bless them and he was going to ignore their prayers for a time. But God’s wrath in the Old Testament is never permanent. When the people eventually turns back to God out of their times of need in their moments of spiritual loneliness, he will hear their prayers and begin to work in their lives once more.
I believe that this is more the choice of the people than of God. God continually reached out to the people of Israel warning them that they were traveling a dangerous path but they killed his messengers and ignored the message. When we ignore the call of God, when we allow for the cares of the world to get in the way of God’s voice, then we slowly stop appealing to God and we no longer hear God, we no longer see Him. We too go into those times when we feel like God has turned his back on us. But he hasn’t. He waits patiently for us to turn back to him allowing Him to affect healing, wholeness, and new creation in our lives and in our hearts.
We won’t remain lonely forever. We won’t feel overwhelmed forever. But rather when we stop being angry at what seems like silence, God will be waiting there to welcome us home and to create in us new life. We only need to turn to him and release our anger, our pain, and place our burden upon him. This is what we are called to do. Our scriptures say, “finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress”. If we turn to God, he will deliver us from all that causes distress. So turn to God and find strength, passion, and renewed life that will unburden our hearts freeing us to work, love, and live in the glory of God once more.
 Mauchline, John. “The Book of Hosea” in The Interpreters Bible vol.6, 554-555.
 Psalm 107: 4-6, NRSV.
(Based on Psalm 107: 1-9, 43 and Hosea 11: 1-11)