The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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On Being Overwhelmed

It was Harold Wilson who allegedly said that ‘a week is a long time in politics’. In these recent momentous days, it looks as if that should be reduced to five minutes.

In the space of a very short time, life has been turned upside-down. Work, school, family life, daily routines, leisure activities, as well as that number one pastime – shopping – have changed for all of us, almost overnight.

It’s easy to see why our nation – nay, our world – is uneasy. You may feel it yourself, identify it in friends and colleagues, or see it reflected in your social media feeds. We’re experiencing what theologian David Ford has called ‘multiple overwhelmings’. Whether personally, professionally, or politically, it’s one thing to have a single event that knocks us off our feet. But what if the knocks continue to come thick and fast? Is it any wonder we’re confused, anxious, distrustful, and fearful?

In all this, though, shafts of light manage to break through – the neighbours forming WhatsApp groups to support people in their street, the already-exhausted NHS workers coming in for the next shift, the rainbows in windows of houses saying more than the occupants of those homes perhaps know about the commitment of God to his creation.

They’re all traces of grace, showing something of a refusal to be shaped by the prevailing culture, which Christians of all people should understand. Because while some ‘overwhelmings’ wound and crush us, others are life-giving and transformative. As David Ford says, the wisest way to cope is ‘not to expect to be in control of everything’, but ‘to live amidst the overwhelmings’ in a way that lets one of them shape the others.

During this period of Lent, Christians remember that Christ himself embodied ‘multiple overwhelmings’ – baptised in the Jordan, driven into the wilderness, tempted by the devil. Then, at the climax of his life, betrayed, deserted, tortured, crucified. But, as Ford writes, ‘then came the resurrection, the most disorienting and transformative overwhelming of all’.

Given that death-and-resurrection pattern, what would it look like at this time to be overwhelmed with an assurance of God’s love? Overwhelmed with gratitude? Overwhelmed by generosity? Overwhelmed by a commitment to pray? Overwhelmed by a desire to see others thrive, even if it comes at our expense?

Given the resources available to us in the gospel, what might we be overwhelmed by today?


Antony Billington
Theology Advisor, LICC


Antony Billington


  1. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Anthony Billington for his writing, which is always full of God’s truth and encouragement, and helps ‘unfold God’s word’ so insightfully. Psalm 119:130
    Thank you, and praying for the work and welfare of all at LICC

    By Cara Grant  -  3 Apr 2020
  2. What a helpful reflection on “multiple overwhelmings”! Especially in this time when people are confused and searching.

    By George Wrigley  -  3 Apr 2020
  3. Anthony. you title captured my imagination and drew me in. What you wrote was so pertinent after two night’s of broken sleep. I am learning how to be a new type of priest for the first time, how to home school my son who is not able to do his A levels and how to support my daughter at a distance who is not able to get married. Life is overwhelming.

    But every time I turn to face the Lord, really, properly, I am lifted out of the worry to a place of thankfulness and expectation, nay, hope. God is doing a new thing!

    By Amanda  -  3 Apr 2020
  4. A(nother) timely, penetrating reminder of the perspective we have through all that Christ has wrought for us. Bless you, Antony.

    By John  -  3 Apr 2020
  5. So very helpful; feeling myself in a tsunami wave of an overwhelming number of things sitting on my shoulders, this reflection was timely and needed. People’s situations seem to have been polarised even more into the extremes – busy and overwhelmed, isolated and alone, trapped and unable to escape, without work and frightened….in these days more than ever, we need to be overwhelmed by God’s love and His presence with us in the storm.

    By Yolanda Ibbett  -  3 Apr 2020
  6. Always informative and
    Helpful. Thank you

    By Mrs Mary T Hudson  -  3 Apr 2020
  7. Wonderful thought & suitably appreciative comments!

    By Bruce Gulland  -  3 Apr 2020
  8. This is certainly what we need to hear above the relentless tumult of all those ‘multiple overwhelmings’ that Antony has reminded us of.
    Psalm 31 has been particularly relevant to us and our friends.
    Thanks Mr B.

    By Harold Heath  -  3 Apr 2020
  9. Thank you, Anthony. Your thoughts called to mind this song by Lou Fellingham >

    By Chris R  -  3 Apr 2020

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