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Leadership is not easy.  As if setting the vision, modeling appropriate behavior, and ensuring accountability weren’t enough, you’re also expected to have or develop the answers to the problems that the organization and its people bring to you.  Let’s not forget there is a life outside of the office that has its challenges as well.

It can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it seems our problems are bigger, we are more anxious, and, at least for the moment, it’s hard to find peace and enjoyment. It feels like we’re carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. Suddenly, you’ve become Atlas. You may remember him as the guy carrying the weight of the Heavens on his shoulders forever.

We have all experienced those moments in life when we are overwhelmed.  Our natural response is to buckle down, fight on, figure it out, or overcome.  We fight to stay ahead of the power curve. We do anything but surrender.

A few nights ago, I was channel-surfing when a fishing show caught my attention. As I watched the program, the fisherman caught a fish and then released it. He repeated this several times and spoke of the importance of “catch and release.”

The “catch and release” is a technique intended to prevent over-harvesting of fish, especially endangered species. When practiced, fish are caught, a fast measurement and weight may be taken, and then the fish are unhooked and returned to the water.    In all honesty, fishing isn’t an activity that I am interested in.  I couldn’t explain why this program captured my attention, but then the application of “catch and release” to life jumped from the screen.

Many times, like the fisherman, we know that “catching” a problem isn’t difficult.  Financial and relationship issues, performance or conduct issues, overdue projects, unrealistic expectations, and family and/or health concerns can take a toll and just wear us out.  We have all experienced that sense of frustration and anxiety that these challenges bring.  Yes, catching a problem is easy, but we can’t or won’t release them.  We just hold on to them.  But Jesus says:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

But before we release a problem we must take a fast measurement and weigh it.  This entails at least a few of the following:

  1. Determine if it is a problem.
    Sometimes, a minor issue will become a big problem just because of how we view it.  When Jesus says bring me your burdens, He isn’t saying that it isn’t important but that it is not too big for Him.  After all His view is wider, and His understanding much deeper.
  2. Determine whose burden/problem belongs to. Sometimes, these burdens aren’t really ours to bear, and, against our nature, we must release them.   Sometimes, the best thing we can do for someone is to give them back their problem.  The people we work with would never develop new skills, like critical thinking, if all they need to do is come to us for an answer.  Children would never grow and be able to experience life if a parent stepped in every time there was a problem.  Sometimes, the best we can do is listen, give them back their problem, and guide them through its resolution.  As Psalm 32:8 (NLT) says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.”
  3. Determine the urgency of the problem and respond appropriately.
    Not every problem requires an immediate response or solution. If you find yourself in a financial situation, speaking with the creditor can often ease the situation. After all, they would rather work with you than lose a customer. It may result in a lower interest rate or a restructured payment plan.
  4. Involve the appropriate parties. I once worked at a mental health facility as a Crisis Counselor.  People found themselves in situations where they often saw one solution. We would often explore different ways of viewing the problem, prioritizing the issues and exploring approaches often overlooked.  However, we always talked about how “temporary problems don’t need a permanent solution.”  If your problem is relational, seek appropriate advice from a pastor, friend, or other professional.  Remember, “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances (Proverbs 11:14, MSG).”
  5. Seek God’s guidance. The truth is we should begin with prayer and continue praying throughout the process.  I am often amazed how, after I have prayed over a situation, things just begin to fall into place.  Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that a check I wasn’t expecting appeared, or how suddenly there was a manufacturer’s recall on the part that my car needed to be replaced.  Honestly, I would rather believe that God decided to lend me a hand.  He didn’t fix all my problems, but suddenly, I had room to breathe and could handle the rest.  I think that a cashier at Family Christian Bookstore explained it to me best when she said, “That’s not a coincidence; that’s God working things out.”

  For the next few weeks, take a critical look at your problems.  Identify those that are yours and release those that aren’t.  Use the steps above as a guide, especially stepIn prayer, turn to God and remember, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, NIV).  Lord, I’ve caught some problems and don’t know how to release them.  I need your help and guidance to find the rest that you have promised to those who turn to you.

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