We've been talking about the very common and very real problem of stress. Today I'd like to tackle a practical suggestion for stress-reduction: spreading out the workload. There is a side of stress that is easily overlooked.
We've been talking about the very common and very real problem of stress. Today I'd like to tackle a practical suggestion for stress-reduction: spreading out the workload.
There is a side of stress that is easily overlooked, and that is trying to do too much ourselves. All of us have a limit. If those huge freight trucks on the highway have a load limit, you can be sure each one of us does, too. When we try to do more than we were designed to do, our level of anxiety immediately begins to rise.
Moses is an example of one who fell into this very trap. He was surrounded by an endless number of needs, people, demands, requests for decisions, and problems to solve. On one occasion, his father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit and witnessed the load Moses was living under.
Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone." (Exodus 18:17–18)
The classic account of an ancient workaholic! This wise father-in-law comes right out and faces Moses with the truth: "It isn't good . . . you'll wear yourself out." Jethro saw the whole thing objectively. He saw his son-in-law on the raw edge of exhaustion. The anxiety brought on by that much work would soon take a toll on Moses. He couldn't continue doing it all alone.
Before we proceed, let me ask you: Does this sound like your biography? Are you the type who tends to take on too much . . . to handle the demands all alone . . . to hang in there without much thought of passing the load around? To quote Jethro's counsel, "The thing that you are doing is not good." Perhaps this is the bottom-line reason you've become so anxious in recent days. Be honest enough to admit it if it's true. That's the first (and most important) step in the process of change.
As Moses listened, Jethro continued:
"You shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain . . . . Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you . . . ."
So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. (vv. 21–24)
Moses was smart to listen. He was hearing the advice of a wise man. Now don't misunderstand. The plan was not that he should back out of the scene completely. No, that wouldn't have been best. His presence was still extremely valuable. But he was to determine those things he should handle—the really weighty issues—then pass around to qualified people the balance of the workload.
Did you notice that those who were to help him needed to be well qualified? Read again the specifics in verse 21:
- Able men who fear God
- Men of truth
- Those who hate dishonest gain
- Leader types
Had Moses chosen the wrong kind of delegates to help handle the workload, his stress would have increased, not decreased.
He did as Jethro had suggested:
Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. (Exodus 18:25–26)
This, no doubt, enabled him to have many more effective years of meaningful leadership. We would do well to follow his example.
But What about You?
The real issue, however, is not the anxiety of Moses. It is you and your stress. What is it that makes you think you are capable enough to handle more than you should? Why do you feel the need to continue living under the heavy weight of anxiety when it seems so natural to spread the work among several others?
I challenge you: Release your grip on all those details! Find a few qualified people to help you get the job done.
This same principle works when you are under the pressure of an intense trial in your life. No need to tough it out alone. Share it. Let a few people enter into that lonely experience with you. They can stand by you and provide an enormous amount of support, relieving much of the stress you would otherwise be enduring alone.
This devotional is part three of a four-part series.