In his book, Boundaries for Leaders, Henry Cloud identifies three styles of thinking that can block the productivity and creativity of otherwise talented leaders. He calls the phenomenon “learned helplessness.”
At points in our lives, Dr. Cloud writes, even the best of us can “find ourselves in a situation where we are continuously affected negatively, and we have absolutely no control over the things that are affecting us.” Sometimes, the behaviors and patterns and techniques that have helped us get through tough situations in the past are no longer successful. Or maybe we’re faced with new challenges that we’ve never faced before and don’t quite know how to address them. Whatever the particular situation, what we used to be able to manage and control has somehow moved beyond our power to influence.
Dr. Cloud argues that when this happens because of a change in relationships, a change in business climate, a change in management structures, etc., three styles of thinking takeover that lead to self-defeating processes. We start to think that the current negative situation is (1)personal, (2)pervasive and (3)permanent. First, we begin to believe that the bad things that are happening to us are happening because we’re inadequate in some way (It’s personal). Next, the single negative event or relationship begins to color our perception of everything else in our lives until we believe that nothing is going right ( It’s pervasive). Finally, we start to think that because the situation is beyond our power to control, the situation will never change (It’s permanent).
Dr. Cloud offers a number of proven, successful strategies to overcome this kind of kind of negative thinking and retake control of your life. If you want to know what they are, read his book. I want to suggest another remedy for the personal, pervasive and permanent pattern of negative thinking; and that is to turn for support to a personal, pervasive and permanent God.
No matter how bad things appear to be at the moment, as Christians we serve a God who is desperate for an intimate, one-on-one relationship with us ( He’s personal). We serve a God who has created everything and knows everything, inside and out (He’s pervasive). And we serve a God who doesn’t come and go; we serve a God who lasts (He’s permanent). And that same God is waiting to give us energy when we’re discouraged, to pick us up when we stumble, to push us forward when we get tired and to encourage us when we’re ready to drop out.
If you don’t believe me, read these words from Isaiah.
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:27-31, Message)
Isaiah was talking to people trapped in negative thinking, to people who’d forgotten who they were and the promises to which they were heirs. So if you’ve gotten trapped and forgotten who you are and whose you are, I hope these words encourage you. Remember, God is personal, pervasive, and permanent, and He’s constantly creating new strength, direction and purpose just for you.