Stress is something that almost everyone is familiar with. Whether it be a test we’ve taken, a sporting event we’ve participated in, watching our favorite team in crunch time, or driving during rush hour, we’ve all experienced some form of stress in our lives. A career in sports is exciting, but it can be stressful at times. Long days, a high level of competitiveness, heavy demands, and the fast paced environment of sports are all contributing factors to increased stress levels across the industry. The challenge for young professionals in the sport industry is learning how to manage their stress. In this blog, we will take a look at how we should be managing stress as followers of Christ and the counsel God has given us to handle the anxieties we experience in his life.
A career in sports is like many other careers in that there is always something young professionals are seeking. Promotions, recognition, networking, and winning are some of the most sought after things in the industry. When we read the Scriptures, we learn that God has an entirely different command for us and points out that the things we seek after are what most often causes our stress:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” - Matthew 6:25-34
In this passage, Jesus directly tackles stress. He leaves us with three applications that help us manage our stress:
Life is more than accumulating material gain.
We can trust in the Lord’s provision.
We must seek Him and a righteous life above all things.
Let’s start with the first one. Jesus says in verse 26, “ Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Stress is often born out of our desire to gain material possessions or tackle responsibilities under our own strength. The harder I work, the more hours I put in, the more games we win, the more people I network with the more I will be able to provide for myself, fulfill my desires, and successfully complete my tasks. In following these lines of thought, we forget that our lives are worth more than material things and worldly responsibilities and that the material things we gain are provided by our heavenly Father. So, what is Jesus saying about how we should approach material things and worldly responsibilities? Life is far more than our basic needs, possessions, and tasks. We were created to enjoy and worship God (Isaiah 43:21; Titus 2:14). Therefore, we shouldn’t spend our time stressing about these temporary material pleasures, but rather shifting our focus away from ourselves and our own efforts, and joining the yoke with Christ (Matthew 11:28-30) as we journey through this life and a career in sports.
What about the second application? In verse 30, Jesus says, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Just to be clear, this verse is not saying that God will give us a fresh new pair of Air Jordan’s because we put our faith in Him. Rather, the Scripture is saying that if God so beautifully designed the grass of the field, which isn’t nearly as valuable in His eyes, shouldn’t you trust that He has given you everything you need to be successful in what He has called you to do? Therefore, we should not be anxious about not having enough skill, experience, or finances, but rather we should trust that the Lord has provided us with everything we need for the task we have been assigned.
The third application is one that is commonly discussed in sermons and Bible study groups but is rarely lived out. In verse 33, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When we seek something, we attempt to find it. By using the word “seek”, Jesus is telling us that no matter what we do, we have to find Him at the center of it. We have to allow Christ to be the King of our every affair, we have to hand over every situation to His hand, and we must submit and obey His righteous calling over our lives. In doing this, we remove the weight of stress and anxiety from our own shoulders, and we place our Creator at the center of it all. Do you see what God is calling us to do? In our careers, in our relationships, in our menial tasks and responsibilities, our purpose and mission remain the same. We can’t separate our relationship with Christ from our worldly responsibilities. God is calling us to not just include Him in our careers and responsibilities but to make Him the main thing we seek while we are engaged in careers and responsibilities. There is a lot of freedom in that calling.
A career in sports can be stressful, but it was never meant to be done alone. As Jesus stated in the verses above, we can know as followers of Christ that our lives are far more than material possessions and worldly responsibilities, and that we were made to enjoy and praise our Creator. We can know that the Lord has given us everything we need to be successful in the worldly positions He has given us. Lastly, we can know that Jesus wants us to find Him in the midst of everything we do. If we take the words of this Scripture and apply them to our lives, we can find freedom from stress and anxiety, both in a career in sports and in life itself.