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Fight the Fretting Fad By Jon Lewis

The Truth About Fretting

Few things undermine a leader’s effectiveness more than FRETTING! Yet the state of being bothered, worried, or anxious seems to increase as we are bombarded increasingly with news and personal situations that directly impact our moral sensibilities. Not only has there been an escalation of incredibly troubling world events, but it seems evident that media managers try their best to present information about those events explicitly designed to make us fret. This is true especially for those intent on promoting a particular social or political perspective. It helps sell their news and increases their community of mutual fretters. Causing people to fret today has become a fad!

What Exactly Is It?

The dictionary definition of fret is a state of anxiety or worry. But its ancient etymological source comes from consuming food, such as devouring like an animal. In other words, to fret is to be consumed with anxiety. Good leaders must maintain a healthy sense of concern and even worry about critical or strategic issues. That’s part of a visionary’s role, to recognize essential needs that demand proper response. But being consumed by worry crosses the line into a state of unhealthy preoccupation that distracts or even paralyzes good leadership from happening. I define it as “verbally worrying about something you have no control over.” Believe me, that definition comes from plenty of personal experience. That’s why I know first-hand how debilitating fretting can be for those in leadership.

David’s Perspective

In Psalm 37, David warns us three times about the dangers of fretting. Fret not yourselves, he says in verses one, seven, and eight (ESV). For him, the day’s issue was evildoers who appeared to be enjoying all the spoils of their evil actions with no prospect of facing the justice they deserved. It was spoken from a position where he could not provide that justice himself but was most likely stuck tolerating the gloating smirks of his enemies. Similarly, today, we can fret about those who, intentionally or not, promote ideas, policies, and even laws that directly contradict what we know are God’s values for human flourishing. Of course, as leaders of Christian nonprofit organizations, we can also easily fret about concerns that impact the sustainability of our mission, such as slow-responding donors to our latest fundraising appeal. Whatever the case, David’s advice is not to let our anxiety reach the consuming fretting level. His antidote advice is also three-fold:

Delight and Dwell (vs. 3-4)

When our minds are focused on delighting in the reality and benefits of being God’s chosen people, of being His stewards with a meaningful life purpose to accomplish, we will not have time, and therefore the tendency, to be consumed by the subject of our fretting. And when we dwell in that state of mind, we are not easily swayed by the following troubling news designed to fill us with fear. David says when we do this, God will give us the desires of our hearts, knowing that our interests will now be repurposed by His own.

Commit and Trust (vs. 5)

To do the above takes an intentional act of the mind. This is where faith becomes a critical part of the Christian leader’s daily journey. Committing to keep our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 2:9) only happens by personal choice, an initial choice of saving to accept identity as His steward, and then a choice to maintain that identity by trusting his enduring presence in our lives. The promised benefit of these choices, David says, is that God will act. It may not always be the expected action, but simply seeing and knowing He is at work calms our fears and frustrations.

Be Still and Wait (vs. 7)

Finally, David’s advice is to take a step back from the worrying circumstances, take a deep breath, and still our emotions by grasping a new perspective of where and who we are. The psalmist admits this takes patience since God’s timing is not always the same as ours. But it’s this state of quiet meditation on God’s promises that brings us the endurance necessary to live past the hot-button issues of the moment.

Closing Thought

Without a doubt, our Enemy knows that getting God’s key leaders to be consumed by fretting over all the concerns of the day is an excellent means of crippling the advancement of His Kingdom. I pray that all of us will take David’s excellent advice in Psalm 37 to fight the fretting fad of our day and instead keep on leading with clear purpose and God-given shalom.


Jon Lewis is a Senior Associate for Partnership Advancement with OC International and focuses on encouraging global Christian leaders toward greater ministry effectiveness. With over 40 years of experience, he also served as an MAF mission pilot in Africa and CEO of Partners International.

At the Outcome Conference 2024 we are offering 16 workshops on Personal Leaderhip. You will find just what you need to eliminate worry and focus with confidence on what God has calle do you to do. We are committed to every Christian leader, thriving. Join us for the event and discover what has been prepared for you!


PS – Registration rates go up on Novemer 1 – don’t miss the great savings availabe to you NOW.


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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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