To live stress-free would be to deny our responsibility as leaders. Stress accompanies growth. We have to accept that all worthwhile change, every amazing transformation and renewal, brings about temporary stress.
For example, think about an expectant mother. Her pregnancy begins with morning sickness, and queasiness lingers throughout the first trimester. Her nose becomes keenly sensitive to smells, and pungent odors can instantly trigger bouts of nausea. As her hormones go through turbulent changes, the mom-to-be experiences a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows.
Later in the pregnancy, her body expands to make room for the baby. Some days she feels as big as a blimp. As ligaments stretch and tear, and she gains weight, simple movements are more of a chore. Sleep becomes more and more difficult, and dozens of perfectly placed pillows are necessary to minimize her discomfort at night.
Lastly, the expectant mother goes into labor. Contractions begin, and then gradually intensify, culminating in some of the most excruciating pain known to humankind. After several hours of agonizing labor, nine months of pregnancy finally reach their conclusion.
With the birth of her son, a new mother’s heart is flooded with joy. All of the pains fade from memory as she holds her newborn baby close to her chest, gazing at his face for the first time and marveling at his tiny fingers and toes. All of the stresses her body has endured have led to this miraculous moment—the birth of new life! Though physically exhausted, the sight of her baby boy instantly reenergizes her spirit.
Accept that change brings about temporary stress.
A lot of people think that pain is bad and ought to be avoided. However, the stress that leads to positive change is healthy. It brings newness that refreshes and revitalizes our lives.
Revel in the goodness birthed by change.
As each change or transition draws to a close, you not only sense less stress, but you are strengthened and energized by the process. As you begin to “come through” the process you feel motivated and renewed within.
Change looks different on the back end than on the front side. Initially, the challenges of change are daunting. We see the sacrifices that are required of us in order to change, and we can only imagine the good things we’ll gain by making them. Once the change is completed, however, we delight in the benefits it has brought, and the earlier stresses seem insignificant in comparison to the joys we have gained.
Brace yourself for continual stress as a leader.
Returning to the analogy of motherhood, the end of pregnancy is only the beginning of many more changes in a mom’s life. She will begin to breastfeed, change diapers, and adjust to a schedule that allows for only a few hours of sleep at a time. That is, she will continue to experience new sources of stress. However, these stresses will also eventually go away, too, and when her son smiles at her for the first time, takes his first steps, or looks up and proclaims “I love you, Mommy!” all of them will feel incredibly worthwhile as well.
This is the time of year when those in the Christian tradition celebrate a leader who endured unimaginable stress, sweating drops of blood, and made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his life, so that others might experience renewal. Jesus’s pain had a purpose, and it’s likely that the burdens you carry do to.
What makes the stresses and sacrifices in your life worthwhile? What good things will come about as the result of your present pains?