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Beside Yourself

“He’s wheezing when he’s crying! It sounds like he’s punctured a lung! What if he broke a rib and it’s sticking into his lung?”

I was beside myself with worry about the health of my young son. Not yet two years old, he’d set my heart racing several times with his attraction to climbing just about everything he saw. Usually I was pulling him out of trees, but this time, as soon as my back was turned, he’d pushed a stool to the front of the car and scrambled up the hood and windshield. His precarious perch on the car roof didn’t last long and before I could catch him he’d tumbled to the ground. I was sure he was seriously injured.

But the emergency room doctor didn’t seem at all alarmed by my child’s symptoms. He addressed me in a quiet voice in an attempt to reduce the tension in the room:

“I think if Mom will calm down and collect herself, little guy here will relax and stop his hysterics.”

As distraught as I was, I knew he was right. Sure enough, as soon as I took a deep breath and lowered my voice, Noah picked up on my signals and stopped wailing. The wheezing disappeared. The doctor checked him over carefully, pronounced him a resilient child, and sent us home.

Emergencies jolt our bodies and often overwhelm our ability to focus. But ongoing problems and difficult situations can also distress us. We don’t see an end to a dark tunnel. There doesn’t seem to be any respite to our pain. Life has rounded a bend we weren’t counting on and has turned our world upside down. We are beside ourselves… with worry or even anger. Our emotions are on edge. We can’t trust ourselves to think straight in addressing even the basic issues.

This certainly isn’t the picture of a leader who is in control. I know as a parent I’m usually able to push down my emotions so anger or fear doesn’t spill over into the family. It doesn’t help any organization, business, company or church to see the person they’re looking to for guidance falling apart or exploding with anger. We can’t be beside ourselves and still lead effectively.

Some leaders take another approach to being beside themselves. They look to themselves for all the answers, as if they are in consultation with their clone standing next to them. Isn’t that what happens when we trust in our own judgment, when we use ourselves as the measuring stick for what is right and good?

Scripture warns us to not trust our own counsel, advice, opinions. And leaders who look to Jesus don’t lean on their own understanding. They put all of their trust in the Lord, confident He will make the way forward straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). He will turn around those times when we are beside ourselves, telling us to be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10).

One of my favorite Easter stories talks about two men on the road to Emmaus who were beside themselves with disappointment, confusion, fear for their own lives, worry about the future (Luke 24:13-35). In the beginning they were overcome with their grief.

And then Jesus came along side. He was beside them. He provided the insight they needed into the events that had happened, the fulfillment of the prophecies. He calmed them and at the same time ignited them with the reality of His resurrection and all that meant for them and the world.

And after He vanished they were beside themselves once more, full of emotion: “Were not our hearts burning within us?” (v. 32) You can hear the excitement in their voices as they recounted the events to the disciples back in Jerusalem.

What a great reminder when I’m beside myself with anxiety. When Jesus is beside me there is no need to worry. He calms the storms in my life. Like the disciples on the road, I can let go of my fears and give them to my Lord Jesus. And then, just like those excited men of long ago, I will be beside myself with joy!

Leaving my guilt at the cross,


First published at Lead Like Jesus April 2021


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