Leaders are not exempt from the painful. Far from it.
And bad things do often happen to good leaders.
It sometimes has little to do with the individual or the leader, but more to do with the situation, and those involved. But that is actually what makes it feel all the more unjust.
Another person’s choice, pathology, wrong behavior and acting out can have radical implications on your life and your leadership. Right in the middle of a leader trying to be faithful to God’s calling on his/her life!
So the answer is Yes! If you are going to serve God’s people, you will (at some point) face a severe test and even deep, wounding experience. And, there is a good chance that the hurt will come from (or involve) those with whom you have a close relationship, or even friendship! Ouch!
One way (of several ways ) to understand these moments, within the frame-work of the lifelong development of a leader, is to see these moments as time known as “Negative Preparation.”
Negative Preparation experiences could include:
• Incidents of injustice and unfair treatment
• Conflict and wounding from Christian leaders/workers
• Job loss, dismissal and/or removal from role/influence
• Non-deserved, wounding moments in ministry; especially from those you sought to love and serve
• Sudden changes/problems in marriage, family relationships, children, home-life
• Situations of hurt where you have little/no control; little/no ability to affect change/reverse the situation
• Sudden loss of income; cutbacks, promises not kept, financial wrong-doings
• Tragic situations; sudden loss, changes in life or physical health
While God finds no delight in the pain, hurt or wounding of His own, He does use these moments to shape the life and leadership of all those He’s seeking to develop.
Negative Preparation often serves to: (1) clarify the values and priorities of a leader. (2) cut a leader free to move onto the next assignment, and/or stage of his/her development, (3) take a leader deeper in his/ her intimacy and dependency on Christ, and (4) all of the above.
Negative Preparation can be instigated through a series of moments that are: (a) situational driven, (b) self-initiated or caused, (c) organizationally initiated (problem or conflict), (d) job-initiated (short or long-term struggles), irrational or non-justified circumstances, or (e) or from issues related to change in life stage.
The Biblical leader Jeremiah lived in a day when bad things continued to not only happen, but got even worse for the people of God. Jeremiah developed a long-enduring, close relationship with his Creator despite these moments. It was developed over time. He learned to trust God when bad things continue to happen in his life, and those whom he served.
“Blessed is the man [or woman] who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
In times of heat (conflict, disagreements, injustice), and times of drought (lack of resources, lack of fruit, little or no results) God does the deeper work. Jeremiah teaches us to be God-chasers regardless of the circumstances; to subject our outlook to God’s sovereign perspective.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
Negative Preparation and its processing is never easy. But hard things can also bee good things. And often, that which is negative often has a way of coming full-circle, pushing leaders into needed change and new growth.
The results of Negative Preparation can sometimes be the “cutting a leader free” to move on. Some leaders are often too loyal for it to happen any other way. As a result, they take a new assignment where the “fit” and “role” takes them to the next level. Sometimes, NP means staying put, in the same place, even the place that is hard, but learning to do life and ministry differently. Though painful, Negative Preparation does serve greater Kingdom purposes.
© Terry Walling / 2013