In 20+ years of ministry, I’ve had my share of battles. Sitting overnight next to a hospital bed after a member had tried to end his life, losing a job when I wouldn’t cover up a pastor’s sin, and public slander and threats from a former member…to name a few.
There are times in the ministry or marketplace, when, as leaders, it feels like we’re on islands. Life or work begins to snowball into a season of loneliness when it feels like no one’s in your corner. It’s hard––it’s expected, but it’s not without hope.
You see, after spending all night in a hospital room practically all alone as a member clung to life on a ventilator, I was met by a member who took me out for breakfast as I left the hospital for a short break. Our conversation revolved around fitness, life, and just about everything but the heaviness of what I’d just experienced and to what I’d return. It was a God-send, and a shot in the arm to continue.
When I learned my pastor (I was a staff member) had stolen money, the writing was on the wall––the other staff member that exposed it was fired. I had the choice to look the other way and keep my job or join my fellow staff member in the figurative unemployment line––one week away from my wedding. During that time, the fired staff member earned his keep as the “Best Man” at the wedding. His willingness to listen and hurt with me helped us get through one of the most difficult seasons of our life.
When a member didn’t get their way, they left in a blaze of glory. Passive-aggressive posts and public slander on social media ensued, including an offer to fight. While there was solace in the fact these actions proved we’d made the right decision, it didn’t make the attacks any less hurtful. That was when an offer to grab a bite to eat from another friend came, which I took immediately. We laughed, we prayed, and his words kept me in the fight.
Leader, when you lead, there’ll be times when your leadership leads you to loneliness. Decisions you make may not be received as you hoped, friends may become foes, and it seems like nobody is in your corner. And yet, it’s in these times when the Lord’s presence seems ever-sweeter. What’s more, I believe this is when His people shine the brightest. “Chance” encounters for a meal, a seemingly circumstantial call from a friend––you name it.
However, you don’t have to wait for those things to happen. If you’re a leader battling loneliness, I implore you to do these two simple things.
1. Spend time with the Lord.
He’s Immanuel, after all, so He’s with us. But when you’re lonely or backed into a corner, it’s easy to try to fix everything yourself. Don’t do that. Hit the pause button, grab your Bible, get away by yourself, and spend time with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading.
2. Call a trusted friend.
In my experience, the trusted friends’ calls came first, by God’s grace. But don’t just wait for the random call; pick up the phone and reach out. Request a time to get together for a visit; go eat, go for a drive, or simply pour out your heart for them and receive their feedback. Sometimes an “innocent bystander” who believes in you will have a far better view of the situation than you.
You might feel alone, but remember, Jesus had nowhere to lay His head, either (Luke 9:58). But don’t wallow in self-pity––as you aim to lead like Jesus, there’ll be seasons when it seems like no one is in your corner. It’s in those times you need to get alone with the Lord, and also spend time with a trusted friend. That’s a one-two punch that’ll knock out the loneliness you may be facing as a leader.