Faith & Leadership: Encountering Stress and Negative Thinking


Despite many positive things happening in my life, I often find myself in the downward spiral of negative thinking and stress related anxiety. I will sit there worrying and wondering “What if.”  What if I lose my job?  What if my doctor appointment does not go well? What is this situation blows up in my face, despite careful planning? When we have a lot going on in all aspects of our life with uncertain outcomes or situations that can press us emotionally, it is easy to find yourself in a pattern of negative thinking. I find that stress and negative thinking often goes hand in hand—do you? In the dictionary, the definition of stress is, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” When you are encountering these times, anxiety related to the situation and negative thinking often ensue. At times, I can easily work myself up to the point where it can even be irrational. Do you find yourself worrying like this? It is not unusual for leaders who carry a lot of responsibility to encounter this on a daily basis. Today, I’m addressing stress-related anxiety (which we all go through at various points in our life) and negative thinking from a Biblical perspective, which can lead to general healthy lifestyle practices. Although I should not be shocked, I am always surprised at how many practical principles are littered throughout the Bible. (I am sharing about how the general population who encounter stress and negative thinking on a daily basis and am not viewing this from anxiety disorders that should be treated by a mental health professional. These often require therapy and other treatment options; however, as a Christian, I journey through every struggle with Him by my side).

When I find myself in this negative pattern, I turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew about worrying—daily worries, stress, negative thinking.  In Matthew 6: 25-34, Jesus provides powerful words on how to address these challenges and have faith in the Lord. This is probably one of my favorite passages in the Bible, as it truly breaks down so many things we as humans face on a daily basis. On a side note, someone told me the other day that the Bible is ancient writings—how can you even believe or make it apply to modern day? The funny thing is that it is so applicable—life really has not changed. Even in Jesus’ time, people encountered worry. In the wise words of King Solomon, there is nothing new under the sun. I digress—Jesus’ words in this passage are the following:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is to life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon is all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Let’s break this passage down.

  • In this passage, Jesus emphasizes the importance of life and how we need to trust Jesus with all aspects of our life. The Lord promises to provide the basic necessities of life to us. He does so for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field—why would he not take care of His own children?

  • Although the Lord provides, it is important to remember that He promises the basic necessities. That does not necessarily mean everything you want or wish to have. When you are feeling the need to keep up with the Jones’, remember this promise.

  • The Bible does not promise that we will not face adversity or even encounter troubled times. The important fact is to ensure that we make the best decisions we can, living by God’s will and His Word. Poor choices can often land us in the wrong place. Worrying also immobilizes. If you are hitting hard times, you must rise to action; not inaction. I often life by the analogy that God is leading my life or steering the boat. That does not mean I just sit around—I need to row the boat to get there!

  • If there is nothing you can do to stop a situation, why worry or stress? Even Jesus says, why worry if it is not adding another hour to your life (it often does the opposite!).

  • The Lord also wants us to live a healthy life and to take care of our bodies. Stress related anxiety and negative thinking defeats that purpose.

  • Take each day at a time. Although we may worry about the future, even Jesus recognized each day should be taken one at a time. Why worry about the future when you cannot predict it? Take each day and focus on what it is at hand. Each day has enough trouble of its own that you should focus on it then—which could then improve future outcomes.

  • Having faith in God and living by these words can change our perspective. When we change our perspective, we often find that our outlook and thinking can become more positive.

So as we face the work week and a myriad of stressors waiting for us, how can we take these words to heart?

  1. Take your work week day by day and work through each thing daily. The problems on Monday that need to be addressed are just as important as other events later in the week. When we tackle our issues daily, we will be able to address each challenge well.

  2. When stress can get you down and in a negative spiral, remember that in order to effectively tackle the issues at hand, you need to take action. Don’t let your stress-related anxiety and negative thinking immobilize you.

  3. Often, things tend to work out—especially when we trust and abide by the principles above. Do not take away time from your life and jeopardize your health.

For some of us, reading this makes it feel easier said than done. It is a challenge that some people may face, but knowing these words of promise and hope may make us tackle these issues better. We also must remember what the Lord has done and provided for us. What are some practical steps you can take today to help if you struggle with this?

  1. Meditate on these words and the words of hope in the Bible. Ever since I have been diving more into my readings, my outlook has changed for the better. I’m not perfect and can find myself getting grumpy, grumbling, complaining, and negative but with consistent reminders from the Word, I generally find myself in a better mindset.

  2. Ensure you take your quiet time away from work and the daily stressors—Recharge!. You can use this time to study the Bible, pray, meditate, or enjoy your surroundings. If you read through the Gospels, you will find that Jesus often went away to a quiet time on His own to recharge.

  3. Take care of your body and mind. Recharging can help, but it is important to take care of ourselves mentally and physically so we can tackle the day and live the life we were meant to have.

How can you manage your worry?  Do you trust the Lord enough with your daily necessities? What actions or wise choices can you make NOW? Remember to reflect on how the Lord has worked in your life already. Do you have faith in Him today?

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