Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Overcomer or Overwhelmed?

Overcomer or Overwhelmed?


This has not been an easy week. An anniversary of loss I’d rather not remember, yet it’s impossible to forget. A reminder of my husband’s greatest season of victory in the face of what the world would call a season of deepest defeat.

After receiving a terminal prognosis four years ago, Russ determined to use his final months to remind Christians to look up in the midst of their difficulties. That’s easier said than done. Yet, for the final months of his life, Russ shared his testimony about a different kind of healing. He reminded Christians to look beyond their trials and suffering.

How do we do that? How do we find the strength to see beyond our circumstances? To not be defeated by a diagnosis. Or beaten by a broken relationship. How do we become conquerors instead of conquered? To be an overcomer instead of overwhelmed? Victorious instead of vanquished?

The answer is found in how Russ lived out these four principles in the face of death:


Remember who we belong to:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. ~ Eph. 1:13-14 (ESV)

Living in a sin-sick world can make it easy to forget who we belong to. Our situation may cause us to think God has forgotten us or doesn’t care, leading us to lose faith. Still, we can let our circumstances define our relationship with God or we can let our relationship with God define how we view our circumstances.


Maintain an eternal focus:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

We’re often consumed with making this life easier. More comfortable. While those goals are not bad in themselves, they often become obstacles to what God is accomplishing in and through us. We become focused on making this life our best life ever, rather than remembering the best is yet to come.


Stop trying so hard:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ~ Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Our job is to surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results.


Do the next right thing:

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Painful circumstances often cause us to feel overwhelmed. Russ battled a sense of his own body betraying him as the cancer grew. And even as I watched helplessly, I also wondered what his prognosis meant for my own future. What would life look like without my spouse?

But the Lord promised to care for His children’s needs. Our job is not to worry about the future, but to obey, one day at a time. And when that seems too difficult, then one hour at a time or even the next five minutes at a time. Don’t ask what will happen a year from now. Rather, ask what has the Lord placed in front of me today? Then do the next right thing.

Fast forward to today . . . this week of remembering also brought reminders that God is still providing. In the past few days, several people came into my life to bless me by meeting needs I didn’t have a clue about how to handle.


We live in a broken world. It can overwhelm us or we can be overcomers. The answer is not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re victorious when we remember our circumstances are temporary, but our life in Christ is eternal.

As you face your difficult situation, how can you maintain an eternal focus? What is the next right thing your heavenly Father has placed in front of you to do?


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  1. Joyce Hoskins

    I appreciate you sharing this, Ava. This was my favorite part.
    Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Our job is to surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results.
    Good food for thought to begin my day.

  2. Sharon Johnson

    Oh, I so needed this. Thank you, Ava.

  3. Nancy E. Head

    What a needed message. God brings us through difficult times and blesses us along the way. When we look back, we see how He worked. He shapes us in seasons. Thanks for this encouragement, Ava. God bless!

  4. Melissa Henderson

    Thinking of you and sending many prayers. This is a much needed message. Thank you,

  5. Yvonne Morgan

    What an amazing testimony of your husband’s faith. Thanks for sharing it because it gives me so much hope. I will be praying for you during this difficult anniversary time. Thanks Ava.

  6. Jessica Brodie

    I needed this message today, Ava! God bless you… I cannot imagine how hard this is for you. But what a powerful testimony Russ truly lived, and it’s a legacy you are most certainly carrying on.

  7. Melinda Viergever Inman

    Ava, thank you so much for sharing this! My autoimmune disease is flaring, and I’m working from bed. It’s not easy when the diagnosis is terminal, pain is on the menu, and the reality that you cannot control the outcome has become a testing ground. Will I react as Russ did? Or will I whine and moan?

    Your prescription to rely upon the Holy Spirit, to turn to Him, to follow His leading is the medicine we all need, no matter our circumstances. When I’m in bed (again), bone weary, with foggy brain, and internal pain, I must Remember Who I belong to. I must maintain an eternal focus. I need to stop trying to hard. I need to just the next right thing. Timely, for me, Ava! Thank you!

  8. Karen Friday

    Ava, I did not know any of the details surrounding your husband. The is a beautiful article about how Russ chose to use his final days for God’s glory and to point others to Christ. And I particularly liked the point you make about stop trying because it’s not about willpower but letting the Holy Spirit live in us and through us.

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