Hello dear friends,
Can I start this letter with a few scriptures? I think it’s always good to position your thoughts and opinions by establishing their biblical origin. I will admit that they are viewed through the temperament lens of an Enneagram Seven but that’s okay, maybe we need some solid E7 influence to add some perspective to the urgency of the day. Here you go . . .
The joy of the Lord is your strength; you must not be dejected and sad!
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you would have peace. In this world you
will have trouble. But take heart (be of good cheer in KJV)! I have overcome the world."
Yes, they are all super happy scriptures, but do you know what is so intriguing about them? They are positioned as heavenly responses to some pretty difficult situations. In Nehemiah, it’s a response to the weariness and weight of re-establishing Jerusalem; in Proverbs it sits between the startling truths of what happens to sinners, evil men, bribery, injustice and the goals of fools. The beautiful passage in Lamentations describing the steadfast love of the Lord comes after some rolling in ashes, eating gravel and the loss of all hope and enjoyment. Finally, the words of Jesus reminding us to take heart or to be of good cheer in John 16, was said during His last meal with close friends.
The Bible is filled with necessary reminders that proclaim the ever-present love of the Father, our extended sonship and provision through Jesus and the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit. They are placed there because the difficulty of life on planet earth is real and, at times, completely overwhelming. They help us understand where to position our heart as we navigate the space between life and leadership.
So, here is where we find ourselves. Most of you are feeling the weight of leading your church through COVID19, social unrest and political divisiveness. You might feel like the person described in Lamentations 3:16-17 who has forgotten all enjoyment because leading a church is like eating gravel and rolling in dirt and dust. Seriously, it’s hard to lead right now. Even still, I do not recall a time when well- grounded, emotionally healthy, Spirit-led leadership was more needed.
My friends, we were raised up for such a time as this and we will
see God’s divine provision! Let’s stand together
and support each other with prayer, encouragement,
resources and friendship. Let’s be patient, kind and compassionate,
quick to forgive each other’s faults. Let’s be leaders filled with
good words and holy actions. Let’s be like Jesus.
Are you feeling the stress of leadership? I have to admit that I am very concerned for your well-being. You are working so hard. Self-care and self-leadership are reciprocal practices, interactive in the way they help you remain healthy and thriving.
Let’s see if we can see match these scriptures to some healthy behaviors:
- The joy of the Lord and a cheerful heart: What do you do that lightens the weight of leadership? Where is your happy place? What spiritual disciplines calm your spirit? What always puts a smile on your face? These are the things that should be part of your daily routine.
I have a fairly generous view of joy, it’s whatever isn’t sinful that makes me happy and healthy. My joy spots are worship and playing guitar; anything with Marcia and my children and granddaughters; any activity in or on the water; reading and trying to understand what David was thinking when he wrote Psalms; and watching movies where things blow up.
- The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases: No matter what is happening in my life, God is always divinely present and generously applying unmerited mercies. I don’t naturally think about God’s steadfast love, in fact during times of high stress, I tend to always gravitate towards the problem. Psychologists refer to this as “negative bias”. This means that bad news and problems have a greater impact on our brains than good news, causing our behaviors and attitudes to become negative. Bummer!
One of my favorite remedies comes straight from King David. He was not afraid to embrace the challenges of life, spin them around in his heart for a bit, then lay them down to spend some quality time with Jehovah. Psalm 27 is a beautiful picture showing how David would break away from the pressures of life and leadership to hang out with God. He would remain hidden with him, and dwell on God’s beauty and faithfulness. More of that please! It feeds the soul and tamps down the urgency of worldly problems.
- The world is full of problems, but be of good cheer and have peace in Jesus because He has overcome the world: Well, first off, let’s pause for a moment to remember that Jesus (not you or me) has already and continues to overcome the world. That’s a relief. Our peace cannot be tied to our ability to solve problems. The tension we face is that some people want us to and others don’t want us to, but everyone wants to hold us responsible for all of it. Our current culture pushes people to project their ideas, fears, and frustrations onto you and other church leaders. There are some societal issues we should speak into and some we should not. Maybe Jesus already knew that we would feel pressured into human strategies to redeem what He has already overcome.
Carey Nieuwhof, recently posted a letter by Mark Clark the Founding Pastor of Village Church in Vancouver BC. It’s a good read. He was writing about the pressure to conform to societal pressures of the day. I love this quote, “The role of the pastor is to stick to philosophy according to Christ. For what other hope is there? The solutions of the Left? The ideas of the Right? Both sides are spinning. We stand in the gap. Offering Christ to both as the solution to all.” The hard work of gospel contextualization must remain centered on what Christ has overcome and our peace must remain centered on that same message. There truly is a divine joy that infuses our soul when we talk about Jesus and His finished work
Well, that’s it my friends. Seek joy, lean into God steadfast love, escape with God to His holy place – where it’s all about Him and be filled with peace because Jesus has already overcome the world! Please, please, please, care for yourself.