Have you ever faced difficulty as a leader? Now I know that’s a rhetorical question. If you are breathing, you have faced difficulty! But how do we do it? How do we not give up when we face trials, personal or ministry related, while we are leading in ministry?
Surely you’ve faced struggles as you’ve been serving unless you are brand new. Why haven’t you given up? I can tell you, when I began facing trials while leading ministry, my first thought was to get out of leadership. I wrote about this experience in the blog post Leading Women’s Ministry in Difficult Seasons of Life. But God would not let me leave the ministry He had called me to. In fact He gave me ministry at times to give me a place to pour and feel like I was making a difference even in the midst of feeling like a failure in other areas where the struggles existed. It added some balance to my life.
Why haven’t I given up? Because God is and has been totally faithful and victorious in every situation.
I shared the following tips at a recent women’s leadership conference and on our last web cast. These are 7 things God has taught me over many years of life and ministry.
1. Pray Honestly and Thankfully. God can take our honest praying, even if we are crying out in anger and pain. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:18 “With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” We must pray even if we don’t want to or know what to say. We must pray continually and with thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
2. Claim Scripture. His truth is truth always, and it will sustain and help us navigate difficult journeys. Here are many that He has given me over time that I even now go back to time and again to claim. Print them off and keep them handy: Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:18, James 1:2-4,1 Peter 1:3-9, James 1:12, Philippians 4:6-7, John 14: 27,2 Thessalonians 3:16, Romans 15:13, Romans 4:20-21.
3. Admit the Pain. Trying to fake it won’t work. Psalm 40:1 says I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He already knows and your Christian sisters and co-leaders need to know when you hurt. If you stuff it, you will pray the price.
4. Accept Help. Once you admit the pain, accept the help the Lord and others offer you. Accept their prayers, cards, hugs and wise insight as you face your struggles. I had a sweet young lady leave a note and scripture on my car windshield one day when she knew I was struggling and knew some of the issue. I cherished and kept that note to re-read. I was blessed that others knew and cared rather than judged.
5. Hear God’s Messages. God will speak if we will only listen and watch for His messages. It could be through sermons, scripture, books, other people or music. The Lord gave me a song one day as I had just found out my dad had cancer and it did not look good. (In fact he only lived 4 months after the diagnosis.) The song is an old Tim Sheppard some, In His Arms. I am sure it had already been on the radio a while, but I’d never heard the words till that day as I sat in my office with the radio on. It had a line that says, “What is death but a door to the promised land, what is life living for without hope in the end, what is life without longing to be in His arms for eternity?” As I listened that day, I was so encouraged that my dad would be in Jesus’ arms when he left us. How I needed that message that day. Don’t be guilty of what we read in Job 33:14, “For God speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it.” Notice it!
6. Continually Praise. I had a flip over calendar once that said, “Praise is more spontaneous when things go right, but it’s much more precious when things go wrong.” It becomes that “sacrifice of praise” when it’s hard and when we hurt and are confused. But we can claim this with the psalmist, “The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” He is worthy of our praise especially in trials. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to “Rejoice always.” My former pastor love to say, “Rejoice when you don’t feel like it, rejoice till you feel like it, then rejoice because you feel like it.” That’s rejoicing ever more. That’s continually praising our Creator God.
7. Hope. Just remember to always hope. So many times in scripture we see someone who is at their wits end but who walked with God anyway. Habakkuk 3:17-19 is a favorite memory verse of mine. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the LORD; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!” And what about Micah’s words, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. (Micah 7:8) And even Job who lost everything, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways before Him.” (Job 13:15).
I pray that you will use these ideas to help you navigate your next struggle as you lead and serve others. Perhaps you have some tips to share with our readers of how you deal with struggles. Please share those in the comments section. The next post I will share 3 results of being transformed through trials. Keep watching.