Let's take a walk down a well-worn path. A path that many times can make or break God called leaders. Lets talk about the emotions that can destroy a leader. One of the greatest attributes that a minister must possess at all times is an ability to truly feel the pain of the hurting, distraught and weary. But, what about when we as leaders are the ones that are hurting? Who is there to walk with us? Many times in a ministry leadership role the safest thing to do is to just push forward. This also the most dangerous thing you could possibly do. I once heard it said, “Hurting people hurt people!” I used to say when I pastored, “I wish someone would call and give me the same advice and counsel I give to people when they are hurting! Alas, most of the time that simply wasn’t a reality. The fact of the matter is that most in ministry deal with great hurts, and they have had to learn to bare their own burden. Every great leader faces seasons where hope seems so far away. The writer of Proverbs said it best in Proverbs 13:12 (NIV), “ Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Most leaders are at any given time 15 minutes away from wanting to quit! Whether this desire to quit is caused from criticism, small crowds or just plain weariness it is an epidemic in ministry today. But I have learned that God never uses a man or woman that he can easily get rid of! My goal with this article is to simply to tell you to hold on! God is only as far away as your knees are to the ground. He is standing over you, around you, and beside you. In fact Jesus faced every emotion you could possibly have faced according to Hebrews 4:15. We must stop the epidemic of resignations and moral failure in the ministry. God has called you to finish strong!
You see the enemies number one goal is to not make you sin or fall away, but simply bring you to a place of ineffectiveness. The enemy knows your influence will diminish and you will essentially be removed from the battle. I say enough is enough. God didn’t call each of us to live in the darkness of pain, but rather be an example of true freedom and authority.
I often share at conferences how I personally dealt for years with what I call “a failure spirit.” This is the crippling emotion that usually comes from deep insecurity. It is a failure spirit that makes a leader feel as if he or she simply isn’t good enough to do the work of the Lord. I literally could speak to hundreds or thousands and go back to my home or hotel and feel like an absolute failure. I will never forget the time I heard a profound message from a well-known youth communicator named Jeanne Mayo. The title of the message was “God of the Dark Times!” This message helped to guide me on a journey to freedom. The scripture that she used as her premise for the message is still one of my favorite verses. Isaiah 50:10 (NIV) says, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”
One of my favorite characters in the bible is Elijah. Why? Not just because he was powerful in his faith. Not because he is the only man to ever ride a tornado to heaven,
But, also because I feel he best represents what a leader feels when they are at the end of themselves. By the way the end of your self is usually the beginning of God! Elijah understood a simple fact in ministry and that is people will always love your anointing, but they wont be able to handle your humanity. Many leaders I know always seem to be in a battle. Maybe that battle is with people or groups, or maybe the battle is caused from within. James 4:1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?”
The story of Elijah is significant. He had just had an unbelievable victory. He had called fire down on the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:40). This day was definitely a “win” for him. If this was today, he probably would have sent a newsletter to the whole world with pictures and testimonies. Yet, how is that a leader can walk out of the greatest accomplishment and then suddenly find himself living in a dark cloud? The bible says in I Kings 19:1-4 Elijah gets word that Jezebel wants to kill him. So Elijah ran for his life. In fact he even became suicidal! In I Kings 19:4b he says, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Elijah was at the end of his rope and was ready to give up! He is not alone! Check out these statistics. This desire to quit on Gods call is even prevalent today amongst Gods chosen leaders:
• 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
• 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
• 56% of pastors’ wives say they have no close personal friends.
• 50% of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
• 70% of pastors constantly fight depression
These statistics are startling. It is said that all great leaders have great highs and great lows. The enemy wants to keep you in the darkness! If the enemy can sedate you long enough to keep you from awakening to his attack then he wins. God has ordained your days, but then life exposed you to insecurity, fear and hurts. I must remind you that God has promised in his word that he can deliver you. You deserve to be a healthy leader. Your family deserves a healthy leader. Believe it or not God anointed you with flaws.
There are three emotions that can destroy a leader:
1. Depression- This emotion has the ability to cripple even the greatest leader. It can come in like a cloud. It overwhelms a leader to the point that they are crippled. Psalms 88:15, “From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair.” When we feel as though we do not matter, and we feel like we can’t accomplish anything depression can take root! Depression is a blinding emotion! Find your hope again! Colossians 1:13 (NIV), “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” The darkness always ends!
I must remind you that darkness never lasts forever. Ps 139:11-14, “If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” God knew you before anyone knew you! He hasn’t forgotten you. Just as he knit you together in the womb he can knit you back together today. What you must understand is that there is a war to stop your future. Hope is your greatest weapon against depression. God can restore your hope. God will restore your hope in the darkest hour. Psalms 25:3-5, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame 4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
2. Insecurity- This emotion has the ability to rob a leader of their God authority. Hurts and injustice can bring a strong leader under the control of this deceiving emotion. Insecurity can cause a leader to believe people are out to get them, or they simply do not matter to others. Psalms 30:6, “When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Insecure people are dangerous people, because many times they will do whatever they can to find security. We must remember the one who called us is always able to deliver us! Get your mind back on him! Col 3:1-4, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Let God restore your security! Think on things above! Remember, Romans 8:6, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; “
3. Fear- When a leader lives in fear they lose all joy for life! We all know how controlling fear can be. I have battled this in ministry! I once had to be delivered from the fear of flying. This was a major issue since I fly nearly every week. I have met great leaders who suffer from panic attacks. Fear has the ability to create havoc out of thin air. A preconceived mind set of disaster or offense can destroy or cripple you! Jesus gave us a promise in Luke 21:14-15, “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” God can restore your peace! Can I tell you that if you are fearful of losing something you truly don’t posses it! Remember what Paul told his spiritual son Timothy in II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” You are too important and valuable for these emotions to control you. God has amazing plans and dreams for you. My wife once told me, “It is impossible to have compassion without first having pain!” This is your moment to rise up and lead. What you have been through is a great indication of who you are called too. If you have walked through these emotions now it is time to heal others. But first you have to get a plan for the next time the attack comes.
Elijah eventually got free of his moment of despair. How? I Kings 19 showed us a plan that worked for Elijah. I believe this plan will work for you and I as well.
The Elijah Plan for Emotional Restoration:
1. Lay down/Rest -1 Kings 19:5, “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat."
2. Get up and Eat- 1 Kings 19:6, “He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you."
3. Go on a journey for God- 1 Kings 19:8, “So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”
4. Find a cave- 1 Kings 19:9-10, “There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
5. Get in His presence- 1 Kings 19: 11-13, “The Lord said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
6. Talk to God- 1 Kings 19:14, “He replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
7. Use your anointing- 1 Kings 19:15-16, “The Lord said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.”
8. Find your disciple- 1 Kings 19:19-20, “So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you." "Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?" So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.”