Candidly, every leader I work with struggles with the stress and strain of leadership. The demands of leadership weigh on us day after day. Over time it can take a real toll on our souls and outlooks.  Through the grace of God showing up through my wife one weekend, I was stunned by the power of three ways to reduce the negative power of stress

It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget. One summer weekend, my wife persuaded me to step away my self-imposed demands for the weekend.  From there, I drove the family up to Lake Michigan. We were going to the infamous sand dunes.

We walked from the parking lot to a wooded path that took us up a lengthy incline with no lake in sight.   Little did I realize what was in store for me. A few moments later, I saw in person the picture you are seeing (without the text on it!).

Lake Michigan Sabbath picture v IV

Oh my.

It was so beautiful. Breathtaking, really.

As I took in the beauty of the water, and enjoyed the wonderful warmth of the sand in between my toes, I couldn’t help but to invite God into that glorious setting.

Shortly thereafter I made a critical decision. I decided to launch early into Sabbath Rest.

And on that particular day, something really striking happened as I entered Sabbath Rest. For some reason, I was able to hand over to Him nearly the entire load of worries and wishes I had carried the whole week.

Even more striking was how I took a much greater risk than usual with Him, and that Sabbath, actually give him charge of the whole world.  Yep, I was going to let him be completely in charge of everything for at least twenty four hours. It felt wild to do something so bold. But the beauty of the setting and the work of the Holy Spirit just pushed me over the edge. I was really going to let go and let Him completely carry everything…all my concerns, and even the concerns of the whole world. Man, was it liberating. The stress and strain in my back and shoulders just started to melt off. Exhale.

It was such a wonderful time.

It remains one of my favorite Sabbath memories, and by the grace of God, I have nearly 28 years of weekly Sabbaths for comparison.

Through that Sabbath, I was drawn into greater faith in the bigness of God. It has given me a greater commitment to embracing the Sabbath. Even just recently, my appreciation and delight in the Sabbath went up another big notch. It is such a gift, especially needed for us as leaders.

Now, I’m guessing I’m not alone in my laughable delusions of authority and power. Not alone in the ways that I unwittingly take on the weight of the world, when I was never asked to do that, or frankly ever could. Man, Satan is so sneaky, and I can be so foolish.

From what I can gather, one of the biggest struggles Christian leaders face is when we fall prey to the potent illusion that we are way more important than we really are. Especially when we ignore taking a regular Sabbath Rest, we fall for the lie that our efforts are irreplaceable, and frankly, on the flip side, that God is that much smaller, and desperately needs our help. Phew. Talk about a dangerous place to be.

If we are going to have a decent shot at finishing well, we must learn to rest well. We must kill the lie that we are more important than God. Destroy that lie.  That is no easy task for sure. (I’m sure there are some times of course when we do have to engage on our Sabbath…my real issue is when leaders don’t regularly embrace the Sabbath…to their detriment, and ultimately ours.)

There’s lots more here we could look at, but for now, please consider experimenting with these three practices to reduce your stress levels:

  1. Do your very best to get to some place ideally weekly, at least monthly, where you are surrounded by beauty, by the wonder and beauty of God’s creation in nature. Being in nature, in the beauty of God’s creation, does wonders to strip away the veil of the overvalued importance of our productivity and tasks.
  2. Do your very best to practice on a weekly basis the gift, and yes, the commandment of keeping the Sabbath. For yourself, for your family, for those who serve, and yes by the way, for your relationship with the Lord.
  3. As your Sabbath begins, and even throughout it, ask God to help you trust him more with his world. Ask for more of the grace to let yourself be little, and let him be big. Repent of your presumption and lack of trust in him, and ask him to heal your anxious heart.

 

What I’m beginning to think is that we often don’t realize how little we trust God as leaders. If we don’t trust him, we can’t rest. If we don’t trust him, we can’t have peace. If we don’t trust him, we can’t let go of our stress. That all means our leadership eventually loses life, and can ultimately become toxic. That is not good for you or the Kingdom.

May these words, encourage you, and yes challenge you to step into greater faith in resting when you are called to rest. May they help you reduce your stress, and help you grow in fullness.  May you have your own sweet stories to tell about the beauty and wonder of the Sabbath.