2 Keys to Overcome Anxiety in Leadership
If you’re a leader, you understand the weight of responsibility you carry each day. Tough decisions, organizational direction, hiring and firing, developing leaders, and innovating the future are just a few examples of the pressures you wake up with each morning. While our culture glamorizes leaders, the truth is, leadership is hard work, and with it comes real anxiety.
So, how do you deal with the anxiety of leadership? What do you do when the pressures increase and the stakes grow higher? In Philippians 4:6-7, the apostle Paul gives us some helpful perspective. He writes:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
In these two verses, Paul outlines two keys to resist anxiety when it flares up in your life (or your leadership), and then he describes what happens when we follow his advice.
1. Don’t Worry
I know what you’re thinking…“easier said than done.” Paul’s words, “Don’t worry about anything,” seem overly simplistic, especially for leaders dealing with the complexity of organizational leadership. So, what exactly does Paul mean by “worry”?
The word translated “worry” was often used to describe the anxiety people experienced with the everyday needs of life. In fact, it’s the same word Jesus used in Matthew 13 when he compared God’s Word to the seeds being sown by farmers. Jesus said, “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced” (Matthew 13:22, NLT).
Jesus was saying, “Worry has the ability to choke, or suffocate, or smother the influence of God’s Word in your life.” Haven’t you found that to be true? How often do you worry about the bottom line of your organization? We give fear and worry “forecasting” authority…and they forecast the worst outcomes.
When we give our fears forecasting authority, we adopt a low view of God. A.W. Tozer said, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.” When we adopt a high view of our problems instead of a high view of our God, then our problems displace God. Simply put, worry is a form of worship.
When our leadership is distracted by the size of our worry, our heart diminishes the size of our God. We start to believe God can’t handle our problems, so we focus on our problems more. The only way to break the cycle is to ask God to enlarge our view of Him.
2. Do Pray
Paul continues his exhortation: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6, NLT). Notice two words: Anything and everything. Don’t worry about anything. Do pray about everything.
Then Paul shares three ways to practice anxiety-defeating prayer: Pray, Tell God and Thank Him.
- Pray – The word “pray” actually carries with it the idea of “worship,” which makes complete sense. If worry causes us to have a low view of God and a high view of our problems, then wouldn’t it make sense that our first response to worry would be to worship God. Worry is a form of worship (worship of our problems); therefore, worry is displaced when we shift our worship to the Lord. It’s like Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, worship God in everything…every circumstance, every need, every problem.” In other words, when your mind is filled with worry, let your heart be filled with worship.
- Tell God – “Tell God” means to present your specific needs to God. Whatever is causing you to worry, present that to God in prayer. He’s not too small to meet your need.
- Thank Him – “Thank Him” is the attitude in which we pray. How are we able to thank God when worry and anxiety try to fill our minds? We thank as a posture of faith, believing He is able to meet our needs.
When you draw near to God, He draws near to you, and suddenly your problems don’t seem so big. “Pray,” “Tell God” and “Thank Him” are measures that will enlarge your view of God.
The Outcome of “Don’t Worry” and “Do Pray”
Look again at Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
When Paul said that God’s peace “exceeds anything we can understand,” he wasn’t just implying His peace is incomprehensible. Paul was saying that God’s peace is so great that the mind of man—no matter how intellectual or skillful—could never produce such peace on its own. You might be smart, but you’re not smart enough to manufacture peace, because God’s peace is superior to human understanding.
Finally, Paul concludes by saying that God’s peace will “guard your hearts and minds.” The word “guard” is a military term. It’s a picture of a soldier standing guard. In the same way, God’s peace will stand guard in your heart and mind.
Jesus on Worry
Paul wasn’t the first one to teach these principles. In Matthew 6:25, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” Then Jesus goes on to say that God feeds the birds of the air and He clothes the lilies of the field, and if God is that intentional about taking care of birds and flowers, He’ll most certainly take care of you. Then Jesus said:
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT, emphasis added).
As a leader, you carry great responsibility. When you find anxiety increasing—and you will—embrace the words that Jesus and Paul prescribed as a beautiful, peace-filled remedy.
- Don’t Worry
- Do Pray
- Enlarge your view of God
- Worship God
- Present your specific needs to the Lord
- Thank God by faith
- Seek the Kingdom of God above all else
- Live righteously
In God you will find the strength and peace to continue moving forward. You can overcome anxiety when you shift your perspective to the One who is truly in control.
This article originally appeared here.