Yours, Mine and God’s: Holding Anxiety Well

Posted by on Jul 31, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

man looking up

I direct the AVENIR Leadership Institute and we recently hosted an exceptional masterclass on Managing Leadership Anxiety led by Steve Cuss, the author of an outstanding book with that title. I can’t remember if it was during the class or in conversation afterwards, but at some point Steve commented that when faced by people working through a problem or facing a difficult issue we need to decide what of the problem is ours to carry; what is theirs to carry and what is God’s to carry.

It also works in reverse. When I am facing a difficult situation, what part is mine to carry, what part should I expect others to help carry for me, and what part must I trust God to carry?

It’s simple – but the more I think of it the more I am struck by its profundity. In most difficult situations there is a yours, mine and God’s component – and having clarity as to who will carry what is a significant step. Often we land up feeling responsible for or carrying what is not ours to carry. When we do, we might become anxious, over busy or resentful.

Let’s unpack this a little more. Two framing verses can help. Gal 6:2 alerts us to carry each others burdens – a clear reminder that we are here to help each other and should feel some measure of responsibility for how the other fares. It is however beautifully balanced by Gal 6:5 which reminds us that “each has their own load to carry”. So while we help others to carry their load, we know there’s a part we cannot carry for them, for “each has their own load to carry”.

In a difficult situation how do I decide which part is mine, which part the other must carry, and which part is God’s?

A bit of self knowledge helps. Are you one of those people who is immediately moved by the struggles of others? Is your instinct to rush in and help? Noble though your inclinations are, pause for a while. Are you at risk of trying to solve the problem for the other? In the longer term, is this the best thing to do? And are there signs that you dive in so deeply that you might burn yourself out – carrying what is not yours to carry? And are you in danger of having your emotions manipulated so that you feel guilty for things you are not responsible for? And do you sometimes move from trying to help, to trying to take control and becoming really annoyed when the other doesn’t do what you think they should? That’s a very dangerous shift and can actually do harm.

Perhaps the reverse is true. Your boundaries may be very firmly in place – so firmly that you don’t allow the needs of others to touch you. That’s not a good place either. Nor is it very Jesus like.

So how do we decide when we are imposing our care into a situation we should stay out of, or if we are appropriately involved.

First I should do the respect check. Am I really respecting the other and their capacity to carry their load? I should not rush in prematurely.

Second I should give myself the “I am not God” reminder. There are many, many problems in the world. I can do very little about the vast majority of them. I am indeed, not God.

Third I should ask if I sense that this situation has my name written on it. Not that my name can ever dominate the name of the one whose burden it is (for there is great dignity in carrying your own burden), but sometimes you sense deep inside yourself that your encounter with this person and their situation is not accidental and that you are meant to be present for the other.

Fourth, if I try to walk away from this, do I constantly feel drawn back to it. Is this God’s way of underlining that I have some responsibility in this situation?

Fifth, am I listening deeply in this situation, not trying to solve it for the other, but primarily simply being there for them, and listening well to them. Being there and listening well is most often the greatest gift we can give to another.

What about when I am the one who is carrying a heavy load? How do I know when I should look for help, and when I should simply press on alone?

First run the pride check. Is my pride preventing me from seeking the help I should? This is not the same as the dignity test. It is right for us to do what we can to carry our load for that is part of our dignity as humans. That however is different from simply being a loner too proud to share our vulnerability and need with another. That can leave us carrying what another should help us with.

Second, and this might seem counter intuitive, do I in some way help another by letting them into my life to help me?

Third, am I able to receive the help of another and see it as a reminder of God’s love and kindness to me?

Which brings us to God’s part.

Life is complex and many situations are well outside of our control. Often we are called to sit in the place of simple trust where we say say: “God, this I can do – but we both know it is not enough. Please help. Show me what the next step is.” We then need to wait – and sometimes that can be for years. If we have to act, we can quietly trust that God is guiding.

It might be a prayer on behalf of the other: “Oh Lord, I can do nothing in this situation, but I entrust it to you. Thank you that your love and power is greater than mine.” And then we back away and trust them to the loving hands of God. In the end, God’s hands are the safest of all…

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Anfisa Eremina on Pexels.com

Feel free to reproduce this post with acknowledgment, or to forward to any who might find it helpful.

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