The God who called us is for us, equips and empowers us, and always has our best in mind. Remembering this enables us to move forward with confidence rather than angst-filled hearts, knowing we don’t have to fret because our God holds us and our ministries firm within His grip.
Many years ago, while attending Bible college, I read a statement that initially confused me. I don’t remember the author’s exact words, but he said something to the effect of, “If you can do anything else other than lead, then do it.” The reaction I felt deep in my gut told me, with Holy Spirit clarity, that God was alerting me to the challenges ahead.
And so, following His guidance, I diligently pursued my studies and personal growth. But I still found myself unprepared and, at times, caught off guard by many of the difficulties I faced. If you’ve led any sized group for any length of time, you probably understand what I mean. Leadership can be a tiring, frustrating, beautiful, painful, lonely, and often thankless assignment. Some people will love you while others will misjudge you, and for all the laypeople serving faithfully in their local church, you’ll do it all unpaid. These realities can leave one discouraged and weary.
Here are four truths for those who feel as if the pressures surrounding them might snuff out the fiery spark God ignited within:
1. Trust God’s Timing
Sometimes our greatest frustrations, fatigue, and discouragement come from trying to make things happen prior to God’s plan.
About six months before Covid hit, my ministry received a marked decrease in event bookings. This concerned me for a few reasons. First, in providing for most of our expenses, this once thriving area funded the many other ways we served our community. Second, I feared our lack of bookings would disappoint my team, many of whom received great joy and fulfillment speaking and interacting with retreat attendees. Finally, I blamed myself for our lack of productivity.
I didn’t recognize that God was making way for new, highly effective avenues in which He wanted us to invest. As a result, I exhausted myself trying to make things happen that I now realize were outside His will—for that season.
Eventually, however, I recognized the futility of my efforts and called a meeting with my team to share our present state. The discussions that followed led to our private online support groups, daily devotions on various Salem-owned sites, and numerous Bible reading plans used by hundreds of thousands of people through the YouVersion Bible app.
As always, His timing was perfect. Because we quit pushing to make things happen according to our perspective and strength, we survived—and thrived—during a period in which we otherwise could’ve died. Instead, when the government prohibited people from gathering and organizations began canceling their conferences and retreats, we grew.
Throughout Scripture, we read about God acting at “the appointed time.” One of my favorites comes from Genesis 21 and involves the conception of Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac. If you’re familiar with Bible history, you may recognize the story surrounding this passage. Scripture tells us Abraham received his call at seventy-five, along with a series of divine promises. Yet, Sarah didn’t conceive for another twenty-five years, “beyond the proper time of life” and when Abraham “was as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:11-12).
Although Scripture doesn’t specify why God waited until Abraham turned 100 to make him a father, the transformation we see from when self-preservation motivated him to lie about and abandon his wife in Genesis 16 and 20 to the extreme obedience he displayed in Genesis 22 suggests his faith matured greatly in his waiting.
This reminds us that although God does indeed assign you and me eternally important work, His first priority is to grow us. When we recognize this, we’re more able to release our plans, rest in God’s grace, and joyfully embrace the opportunity for increased intimacy with Christ.
2. Entrust the Results to God
We’ve probably all had seasons where we felt we were doing our best to make something happen but never saw fruit from our efforts. We’ve also likely witnessed sudden, unexpected expansion in an area where we invested little energy or time. Both scenarios remind us that every work of God indeed comes from Him (John 15:1-5).
As I consider my story, however, I’m reminded that some of His greatest miracles, too many, remain unseen. When I was in first or second grade, an older woman opened her home to me and a handful of other children. I don’t recall how many times I went to her house, and I doubt I was attentive or well-behaved. Less than a year later, our family moved, and she never saw me again. She may have thought her words had no impact, but they did. I still remember her and the day in which she told me that Jesus loved and died for me.
Although she left a soul-deep, lasting impact, she has yet to see the fruit of her words. She will, however, when we both get to heaven, where, I’m certain, she’ll see I’m one of many lives touched by her faithfulness.
3. Trust God’s Heart for You
When in ministry, we recognize that God wants us to serve others faithfully and sacrificially. We long to demonstrate the same attitude which Christ displayed when He, who being in nature God, did not use His power and position to His personal advantage. Instead, He emptied Himself, took on flesh, and died for our sins.
But while God indeed wants us to humbly serve others and do all we can to help them more deeply experience His grace, His heart is for us as well. Jesus told us that He came to give all His children, us included, a joy-filled, beyond-our-expectations life. When He calls us to embrace difficult assignments or initiate painful conversations, He does so with our ultimate freedom in mind.
Everything He does and asks us to do stems from His perfect love—for those we serve and us. Therefore, although obedience might hurt today, we can trust God will work everything out for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28).
4. Trust God to Defend You
Every leader I’ve known has experienced slander and unjust treatment at some point. In fact, those with the greatest calling often endure the worst treatment—for a season. But it is God who makes all things right. We see evidence of this throughout Scripture, from how He rescued Sarai from a lustful Pharaoh to how He protected ancient Israel’s second king from a murderous madman and then later placed David on the throne.
One of my favorite stories, however, surrounds Joseph’s life, recorded in Genesis 37-50. His jealous brothers, wounded by family favoritism and dominated by sin, overpowered him, threw him into a 15-20 foot well, initially left him there to die, but then sold him into slavery. Walking, likely shackled, across the desert and into Egypt, Joseph probably felt abandoned by God and overwhelmed by the injustice he suffered.
Had he caught the end of his story, he would’ve realized this was far from true. God never forgot the promise He’d made to raise him to leadership and never rescinded Joseph’s call, not even when the young man was thrown into an Egyptian dungeon. God was working out His plan the entire time, one that resulted in Joseph sitting as second in command over the most powerful nation in the land, listening as his brothers, in essence, begging him for food.
The abusers’ survival depended on the very person they’d abused.
When others mistreat us, may we confidently proclaim, “But the Lord has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.” He is our shield, our vindicator, and the One who upholds our rights and our cause (Ps. 9:4).
Leadership is hard and often leads to frustration and pain. But we will never face an encounter, a failed or successful event, or hurtful interaction alone. The God who called us is for us, equips and empowers us, and always has our best in mind. Remembering this enables us to move forward with confidence rather than angst-filled hearts, knowing we don’t have to fret because our God holds us and our ministries firm within His grip.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jude Beck
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.