Being a spiritual leader can be a very lonely place and in that loneliness, the devil sees a great deal of opportunity. Let me fill you in on my current situation so you have some background and context.
Towards the end of September I accepted a promotion at work that is truly a great opportunity for my family. Not only do I get to build and lead a sales force but it also provides us the opportunity to move back home and be closer to family. In many ways it is an answer to prayers. But my oh my did I understand the workload!
Since accepting the position in September, I have not been home for more than two days in a row until last week. In addition to the travel all of my time has been taken up with the intense process of hiring a team, strategic planning, and meeting preparation. Additionally, I’ve been exposed to a higher level of corporate politics than I expected which has added a great deal of stress. In my “down” time I have to take care of my current position and lead my current sales team which basically means I’ve been working late into the nights. Even when I’m home, I’m not really home.
So we take the additional workload, the higher level of responsibility and visibility, mix in a healthy dose of stress and we end up with a potentially toxic situation. Many of the regular readers of these articles are somewhat familiar with my “troubled” past but let’s just say I’ve spent a great deal of time in the “far country” (Luke 15:13). I always seem to be blindsided by how quickly, and how powerfully, old temptations come back to knock me for a loop. You’d think I’d start to expect it by now. Needless to say the last couple of months have been a struggle in a number of ways.
So let’s get back to the lonely place. What should I do? The scripture is very clear about where I should seek encouragement and support. The Church was designed so that I would have a network of strong brothers to lean on. Brothers that would listen to my struggles, show me empathy and compassion, and help me through difficult situations. Not to mention this is the very reason God gave us marriage. I know this, I’ve preached on this, delivered workshops on this, but I fail to take advantage of the resources God has provided. Why?
I’m a spiritual leader, that’s why. Will you allow me a little foolishness? In my family, among my friends, and in the local body I’m the one with the vision. I’m the strong man of faith that encourages and lifts others up. I’m the one that struggling Christians turn to for advice, for prayer, for comfort. In this position, to open up, to be authentic and admit that I can’t handle the situation would feel like I’m letting others down. It would almost be a form of betrayal to all those people who have relied on me in the past. How could I let that happen? I can’t let that happen! As a result, I isolate myself, put on a happy face, provide token responses to people genuinely concerned and…give the devil an opportunity.
All of this hit me a couple of weeks ago when I was in Michigan conducting a men’s workshop that was completely focused on the power that others play in our Christian walk (ironic). The night before I left I was standing in the kitchen with two of my dearest friends on this earth. We had been talking about my work and the stress it was putting on Kristine and how she was handling it. During a pause in the conversation, Anna asked me, “And how are you doing?” I’m sure I provided a few sentences but my response amounted to, “I’m ok”. What I should have said is, “I’m failing! I’m drowning! I’m suffocating! I feel like I’m juggling chainsaws and torches while one arm is broken and the other is tied behind my back!” But I didn’t. Why not?
This might be one of the most irritating articles you read all month because I don’t really have the answers. I’m sure it has to do with fear and pride and shame and all sorts of other things I need to work on with a therapist but, in reality, I’m sure I’m not alone. I believe there are a lot of “spiritual leaders” out there that feel the same kind of pressure I do. Leaders that feel the weight of the world crushing them and feel somewhat helpless when it comes to opening up and taking advantage of the help God has provided through His people.
I have come to realize one thing that has helped, one thing that has given me the strength to at least write this article. I am strong…and I am weak. The two are not mutually exclusive. I am the man of faith that encourages others and lifts them up and I am also the man that struggles and fails. I am the leader that inspires and motivates and I’m the leader that gets discouraged and deflated. Both are true. That is why the only reliable source of strength, strength that never fails, resides in the nature and character of our God.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-31