Globally, the human race is facing a trend not realized since the early 1900s.
World Wars, isolated events, terrorism, sickness, famine, and natural life expectancies have left their indelible mark on our hearts during the last century. Yet it’s challenging to think of a time in our collective lives where the entire world was grieving.
As leaders, we are not above reproach – nor are we above suffering.
Jesus was frank. He pulled no punches. We will suffer. In this life, we will know pain. We live in a fallen and broken world.
Yet as Christians, we have hope. We will overcome because He overcame.
It’s time to look at how to successfully navigate loss, and consider how doing so well makes all the difference for both leaders and those they lead.
My dad died very young in 2008; he was only 59. It was a painful and difficult process, one that took a toll on myself and our family. Emotionally, it was complicated. Relationally, it was difficult.
Looking back, there are things I did well and choices I want to steer others away from if possible. Know this: grief is a process and unique to the individual. My hope is that this reflection can bring you comfort and guidance in some way, shape, or form.
Words of Others
Whether an entire book or simply a meaningful quote, I take comfort in going deep into someone else’s solid thinking.
Scripture above all else helps. God’s Word is living; it’s eternally true and yet someone through God’s Glory relevant to every age.
Beyond the Bible, I took great comfort in reading works grounded in God’s teachings.
“A Grief Observed” by C. S. Lewis is an honest, forthcoming account of what it means to journey through pain. Whether you’ve lost someone to the pandemic or have an aching heart for the suffering others around you are experiencing, this is a meaningful text worth your time.
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll’s three texts “Strengthening Your Grip,” “Grace Awakening,” and “Flying Closer to the Flame” all served me well as I navigated my pain. He has a pastoral heart that is apparent in his writing, which will likely be meaningful to you as leaders yourselves.
Not for the writing but for the authenticity, Rev. Frank Barker’s “Flight Path” discusses the discipline of life in ministry.
From a direct leadership perspective, “Courageous Leadership” by Bill Hybels truly struck a chord. Open about his mistakes and difficulties, he shares how even in the throes of an emotional mess we can be used by the Lord.
Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More” is a classic in the recovery world for alcoholism, drug addiction, and the like, so it may be an odd book to recommend. However, it is powerful in its dealings with extreme examples. This speaks to leaders who have believed the lie that it’s not okay to hurt, not okay to have problems, not okay to struggle, not okay to be in pain because of the pains of the world.
Lessons, Like Grief, Come in Waves
Christ had to suffer and die.
As humans, we want to find the meaning of our suffering. The purpose.
God works with and through suffering, though we may not always know in the thick of it just what the plan is. In fact, it may go beyond us and we never know.
We do, however, know that Christ learned obedience through suffering. If the only perfect man to ever live suffered great pain and endured unimaginable suffering before being reunited with His Father in heaven, it stands to reason there are lessons in pain for us as His followers.
Christ, himself, certainly didn’t deserve suffering but somehow God’s plan could only ultimately be fulfilled through that. I encourage you to think deeply in your heart and pray about this difficult truth.
I spent time in the Book of Job when I was suffering, as I’m sure many do. One of the important things for me was to see that Job spends most of his time asking God questions and asking God to come down and answer him and explain certain things. When God finally shows up and starts talking, he doesn’t provide any answers. He responds to Job’s questions with questions.
Loads vs. Burdens
Every now and then, I enjoy a trip down the rabbit trail of word meaning, translations, connotations, denotations, etc. for it brings me closer to the heart of God.
Galatians 6 encourages us to carry one another’s burden so we fulfill the law of Christ and also instructs us to carry our own load.
Why the contradiction?
A friend helped to understand.
In Greek, two different words are used. A load is something that you are able to carry by yourself. It is something that is yours. It is something that is heavy but you are able to carry it. A burden is something that someone is not able to carry by themselves. In fact, it was usually something that they had other people or even a pack animal to transport.
Grief is a burden, not a load to carry. You cannot carry this by yourself.
I encourage, I beg of you, to surround yourself with those close, chosen few for moments of suffering. That is God’s design.
Work. Rest. Separately.
Make sure you are spending time alone praying and thinking, spending time resting.
When you work, work really hard – throw yourself into work. This is not an escape, it is one of God’s gifts to you, but then you also need to work just as hard at resting and disengaging, and doing things that are fun for you.
Do the things that re-energize you.
When you are doing, do more maybe than you are used to doing as that keeps your brain fully engaged, not drifting, but then when you are spending time alone thinking and praying, do more of that than you are used to as well. Really go deep and wrestle with God and talk deeply with those trusted few people.
I hope this is helpful to you. I pray it revitalizes you in this difficult season. Keep moving forward.
Let’s continue to connect personally and encourage each other along the way! Click here to text directly with me.