Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” The translation is literally don’t be “anxious.” It carries the idea of being pulled in different directions. Warren Wiersbe says, “Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart!”
Even during this deadly pandemic and the resulting fears, we Christians, particularly leaders, are reminded not to allow anxiety to control us! In every area of our lives, there will be anxious moments, and how we react in those moments can make us or break us.
Wiersbe chimes in on this challenge: “From the spiritual point of view, worry is wrong thinking (the mind) and wrong feeling (the heart) about circumstances, people, and things. Worry is the greatest thief of joy. It is not enough for us, however, to tell ourselves to quit worrying because that will never capture the thief. Worry is an ‘inside job’ and it takes more than good intentions to get the victory.” Well said!
Edwin Friedman says this about anxiety, “To the extent that leaders . . . can maintain a non-anxious presence in a highly energized anxiety field, they can have the same effects on that field that transformers have in an electrical circuit.” Transformers either increase or decrease the wattage and If you are a leader, you must realize your responsibility in this area. Remaining cool, collected, and in control can sometimes be easier said than done. The reality is that we can damage our ability to lead by how we react and handle life in the pressure cooker.
Fear is often louder than reality! All too often our minds and emotions leap to the worst possible scenarios. Actually, your worst fears are not realized most of the time. In The Unstuck Church, Tony Morgan says, “This is another example of how pride is the enemy of courage. When fear or worry creeps into my thoughts, I’m admitting that I believe I am in control.”
Christian leaders must have courage to obey Christ and follow the path God is leading us on even when people do not understand, decide to criticize, and/or even attack us!
Author and pastor Charles Stone reveals the eight F’s of chronic anxiety in his book People Pleasing Pastors. Each one describes the ways we are tempted to respond when our emotions cause us to react with a very defensive and wounded posture. We are far more susceptible to reacting in an unbiblical manner when we are tired, angry, hurt, or under verbal attack. We must learn how to stay cool under pressure and avoid melting down. The damage may hinder the advance of God’s kingdom work.
Here are those incorrect responses under the stress of conflicts, attacks, disappointments, and negativity:
#1 Fight back – We allow our emotions to cause us to no longer think clearly and therefore we choose to lash back and defend ourselves at all costs.
#2 Flee – and decide to pull away from others whenever tension begins to build. The preference is to get out and get away from it, but unfortunately the tension does not go away until it is faced.
#3 Freeze – When we’re caught off guard the temptation is to take no position at all. We to stay neutral and make everyone happy!
#4 Fuse with the naysayers – Their motto is that it is better to join them than stand against them. Normally you end up compromising your convictions and seeking unity at all costs, which never brings unity.
#5 Fixate upon it – We begin talking to everyone about the problem, looking for his or her support without ever confronting the one who is creating the problem. This is how we handled conflict in junior high school.
#6 Fixers who kick into overdrive – They strive to over perform in order to fix everyone else’s problems. Unfortunately, they drive everyone crazy in the process.
#7 flounder – This position causes us to become passive and we begin to consider giving up. We underperform and do not address the problem. All to often we think if we ignore it that hopefully it will go away. But the truth is it usually gets worse.
Lastly, Stone uses three words to describe potentially the most dangerous temptation to our spiritual walk:
#8 Feed, fornicate, and finances – This is when we yield to inappropriate impulses to satisfy or pacify the emotional hurt. We turn to our comfort foods, impulse buying, pornography, or some other sexual sin.
If we are not in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25) we can easily look in the wrong places for contentment and joy.
Where and to whom will you turn when anxiety tries to control your emotions? Especially when you are overwhelmed and your emotions are causing you to not think biblically. Philippians 4:6-8 gives us the formula to persevere in these challenging moments
The first thing is prayer! Get alone with the Lord and cry out to him. Stillness is the precondition to his presence! Resist the temptation to be distracted and focus on who God is!
The second thing is to guard your thoughts! Someone has said, “My thoughts cause feelings. My feelings provoke intentions. My intentions become actions. My actions form habits. My habits create a lifestyle.”
Make sure that your thoughts are biblical! Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.”
Don’t allow yourself to be distracted from who God is and keep your eyes focused on him, even in the battles!