Are you a leader? Do you ever have doubts? Do you dare admit you have deep questions for God? Do you believe but find it difficult to see what God is doing in this world?
Yesterday was my first day of not going to the Good News Group…but of course, the wonderful people there have been on my mind all summer and yesterday I found myself fretting all day. Not because they can’t all manage without me, but because I wouldn’t be there to talk and fellowship with them.
The thing about taking a sabbatical is that you are supposed to take time to think, reflect and listen to God without the distractions of busyness. And what you forget when you haven’t done this in a while, is that it’s quite an uncomfortable and dangerous thing to do.
I like to go to a special place not far from where I live. It’s a small country park nestled in the midst of the motorways and residential areas. There’s a bench in a wooded part of it, that is raised up and makes you feel that you are sitting in the trees themselves (see picture above). They put out bird feeders and food for squirrels and I sit and just watch the nature around me, doing its thing. It helps me calm my hyperactive mind. And it’s a lot easier to listen to the Lord in that place.
However, I have felt the Lord uncovering some big holes in my faith that I had carefully covered over. My faith in who Jesus is and what he has done for the world is secure. I know he loves us and has saved me. But I’ve been trying not to think about things that underneath my veneer of trusting him for everything – I have no real foundations. “Everything? You trust me in everything?” says the Spirit to my soul.
And then I started to ask some questions…”Yes, but…” I want to know if I can trust him for the salvation of friends and family who I’ve prayed for constantly since I first became a Christian 27 years ago and who seem so far from him right now. I want to know why people are disabled and some get healed and some don’t. I want to know what he’s doing in this messed up, stupid world where leaders are more concerned with their own reputations than actually doing things to help their people. Where religion is used for an excuse to kill and enslave people…including Christianity. And while we are on that…why DO churches exclude people because they have a disability, are different or because they don’t fit a certain stereotype? Why are so many people sharing with me that churches were places of pain and rejection for them because they or their children have a disability?
It feels like I’ve opened a Pandora’s box! My carefully constructed lids have been blown away! And I’ve only just started, just a few little sessions sat watching the birds and trees and the Holy Spirit smacks me with this lot! Woah! My instinct is to stop this right now and put those lids right back on!!!
But…..what if God wants to answer those questions? What if he wants to teach me and show me what he is doing and can do?
I believe it is good to ask our Heavenly Father those big questions. I believe he is just waiting for us to ask them so he can begin to teach us new and wonderful things. It makes us so vulnerable before him to admit we haven’t a clue where to start or how to figure it out. It make take a lifetime to just learn some basics, and a lifetime of continually asking him for more understanding. We really won’t be able to grasp the answers because God and this world is far beyond what we can understand. I know we can learn to trust him better and that he can give us the gift of faith to do so. I believe he can use our faith to make a difference to people’s lives and bring his love into the dark places. And if you are a leader, I believe your greatest strength will be found in opening up your vulnerability before God and asking him to build your trust and faith in Him. He is active in so many ways we often can’t see, but already I am being drawn to stories and testimonies where God is at work in this world, mostly in individual lives, transforming them into lives of faith.
Leaders can think they have to have all the answers when really our job is to lead people to Jesus. We shouldn’t be afraid of uncomfortable questions and times of desert or valley experiences. I was thinking about Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and Moses or Elijah in the wilderness and how much God taught them there. They were places of meeting with God and places of miracles. I’ve learned not to panic or try to avoid the difficult things through those stories.
Leaders, take off those lids and expect God to teach you new things. But be open to being surprised, challenged and even disciplined for the wrong assumptions you might have about things. Its going to be worth it. He has promised. And those you lead will certainly benefit.
And please remind me of my own advice when things get a bit challenging for me!