What Does the Bible Say About Stress and Leadership?

By Roland Heersink and Dr. Sam Voorhies

Let’s start with the definition of what stress is before looking at what the Bible might have to say about it.

According to the American Institute of Stress, the term “stress” was coined in 1936 by the Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye as a result of his research in animal responses to (negative) external influences.

Selye struggled to find a satisfactory definition of stress that people could easily understand. In his later years, when asked to define it, he told reporters, “Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.”

Stress is difficult to define because it is different for each of us. Although some stress may be helpful, much of the stress we face in our leadership has a negative effect. In the following seven readings, we look to the Bible for wisdom to help us overcome the negative.

In a general sense, the Bible’s answers are easy – almost too simple. Look at Jesus’ opening and closing words on the topic of worry, given as part of the Sermon on the Mount:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”( Matthew 6:25 NIV)

And also:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

Jesus’ teachings are so straightforward and effective that they are as amazing today as they were 2,000 years ago:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Of course, as simple as Jesus’ teachings are, they sometimes – many times – very difficult to put into practice, especially when we’re in the thick of leadership issues at work.

While Jesus’ insights are “textbook perfect,” the issues we face at work seem so complicated and urgent that we may find Jesus’s teachings impossible to accept.

That’s understandable.

And that’s exactly why we’re going to dig deeper into the various sources of stress in our leadership roles particularly at work, and find biblical truths to help us at our point of need.

Here’s some questions for reflection / application:

• On a scale of 1-10, how stressful is your leadership? What are the high/low stress ratings that you might encounter in a typical week?

• Jesus’ advice of “do not worry” is so simple. How are you able to not worry about the stressful situations in your job?

• When the stress builds up beyond what you can handle, what happens then? What is your reaction? What role does your faith play at those times?

And here’s some scripture to mediate on: Matthew 6:25-34.



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