The role of a leader can be a difficult one. It’s interesting that as we look at those in leadership positions we forget that often they are going through the exact same process we are. Almost every teacher I have ever spoken to tells me that they learn themselves as they teach others. It is a very symbiotic process. The problem comes when we as leaders struggle in that process. It is difficult for me, at times, to lead parenting seminars when I am struggling to parent my own sons with wisdom and calmness at home. One of the hardest aspects of struggling as a leader is doubting and questioning our faith as we try to lead others in their own faith development. It can be very easy to feel insecure or even unfit to lead.
However, this could not be further from the truth. At the very core of this process, we must understand that we don’t lead people in faith by control. We are helping lead them to their OWN faith. This is an organic process that happens through relationship, struggle and doing life one day at a time.
The idea that you have to have it all together and have all the answers to lead is not only a lie, it’s debilitatingly unhealthy.
As a leader, whether you struggle with your faith or not has no impact on your ABILITY to be a powerful leader. This is because faith isn’t about you, it’s about God, and He isn’t struggling with His faith of you. He loves you. He can use you whether you’re in a season of struggle or strength.
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What’s more, strength and struggle are the different sides of the wheel of growth. As we travel down our journey, the pavement (our present life and all that’s in it) continually makes contact with strength then struggle then strength then struggle over and over as the wheel turns. This is the way you were created.
Too abstract for you? Well, think of it this way. All learning, growth, and strength follows a pattern. We experience something we’re unable to master whether that is an amount of weight we can’t lift, a knowledge we can’t wrap our mind around, or an action in which we aren’t competent. To move past that stage, we have to struggle until we’re more aware, more competent, more knowledgeable, or stronger. If we don’t struggle again, we’ll become stagnant and weak. So, we accept challenge, become stronger, then struggle again. Struggle is a natural, normal, important part of the process. This is true for everyone no matter how far down the road of life they’re on.
At this point you may be thinking, Great, but that doesn’t make it easier. It’s still a struggle. Yes, yes it is. So, here are some tools to stay locked into your leadership while also struggling with doubt.
Exercise your faith. This is actively engaging in spiritual disciplines. So many people that wrestle with faith do the opposite thing that will help them journey through it. They stop doing the things that are connected with that faith. They stop reading the Bible, they stop praying, or they stop engaging in spiritual practices in general. How are you able to process your questions about the Bible if you’re not reading the Bible? How can you wrestle with your relationship with God if you’re not talking to God? How can you work through new ideas if you’re not spending time with people processing new ideas or those on the other side of that process? Often when we find ourselves questioning our faith we inadvertently isolate and rely on our own understanding which is what probably got us there in the first place. It’s important to do spiritual disciplines not as some act to garner favor with God or some external measure of how “good” we are. Instead, spiritual disciplines simply exercise the things that we want to grow.
When we think of spiritual disciplines we often think of fasting or praying for hours on end. These things seem hard and take years to master. However, in essence these things are simply to help us grow stronger in understanding. As we read the Bible, we become more familiar with its message and meaning. As we pray we become more comfortable in the presence of God. As we interact with fellow searchers without feeling like we have to have it all together all the time, we’re able to expose ourselves to new experiences and hear different perspectives.
This is all about asking questions. No faith has a strong foundation unless it’s built on questions and discovery. It’s important to give yourself permission to ask hard questions. After asking those hard questions explore the answers. Doubt isn’t about weakness and questioning isn’t about stupidity. It’s part of the process. By exploring, we’re able to put energy into the areas that are actually going to help us through doubt. This goes for our own faith journey as well as leading others in their faith. Encouraging people to explore is part of the process of helping people find THEIR faith just as much as it is helping us strengthen our own.
While exploring, there is a mindset that that will make all the difference: Welcome the power of not knowing.
Faith isn’t something to be controlled, but cultivated. It’s organic, it’s a journey, and it’s beyond formulaic. As you explore and look for answers, you must accept the fact that you may not always find those answers. The very nature of faith is believing in things unseen. In my own faith journey, I find comfort in knowing that I can search for the things that are knowable, but I have to accept the fact that many things in life are mysteries that will never be solved. I have to make the best decisions possible based on the things that I do know and that which can be known.
This is referring to relationship and community. Embrace those around you arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, as we all work toward understanding and stronger faith. This isn’t making sure you’re around people that will convince you of one thing or another. This is about being around people who are safe and can help you process your own questions in the journey. In a leadership role, it won’t always be appropriate to do this with those you are leading. So, if you’re questioning and doubting your own faith as a leader it will be important for you to find other leaders or other people you can lean into that are outside those you serve. Faith building is a relational endeavor. We learn context and meaning through relationship. The very nature of faith in God is a relational one.
Faith is a lifelong journey. If we live healthy, we’ll find ourselves throughout our lives in seasons of doubt and seasons of strength. Being comfortable in our own skin is essential as we walk in our faith development and as we lead others in theirs.