I recently experienced an unexpected ministry transition that in due time I’ll feel comfortable sharing more about. My wife, Allison, and I are an open book. However, right now our family is focused on leaning into each other and unpacking what God has in store for our family.
During this transition our family has been meditating on 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 which says:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
In this time of stress, our family is encouraged by the truth that God brings life out of death, healing from brokenness, joy from sorrow, and glory from ruin.
We have also been massively encouraged by a group of friends (some with leadership titles some without) who have modeled what it means to lead others in grace. One of the most humbling things, as a leader, is to be led by others by grace into grace.
Since our resignation, these people have shown us what it means to lead in grace in eight really practical ways. I want to chronicle these things now, in the midst of my storm, so that I can live them out later with others in the midst of theirs.
Here are eight practical ways to lead in grace:
When someone is in the middle of a crisis, the thing they need most is a person who will hear their story. The best listeners are those who listen with their whole selves: their eyes, their body language, and even their verbal affirmations that they hear you and understand. Resist advice-giving. That comes later. For now, just listen.
Depending on the situation, the act of showing kindness will look different. Perhaps it’s bringing food, offering support, helping with chores, or hanging out with kids. Maybe showing kindness is providing an opportunity for a distraction like going to the movies or a meal out. Those who lead in grace seek out opportunities to show kindness.
Keep proper focus.
For some reason, some people want to make your crisis about them. The middle of a storm is not the time or place to hash out every minute detail of your interpersonal relationship. Unless the crisis explicitly involves you, have the grace to keep the focus on others and resist internalizing every detail.
Everyone either has experienced a difficult transition or will. Storms and trouble are natural parts of life that in the moment feel insurmountable. To empathize is not to internalize. Instead, empathy is simultaneously the ability to walk with the wounded, remembering what it feels like to be in their shoes, while being able to stand apart in encouragement and comfort.
In the middle of turmoil, it can be difficult to see the positive. Perhaps the person who has led in grace best when it comes to providing a laugh is our son. He is not unaware of the stress lately, yet he continually finds ways to cheer us up or make us laugh. The ability to elicit a smile when things are hard is a gracious gift beyond measure.
Sometimes life is just sad. Be willing to be sad with people. Resist banalities like, “It will get better” or, “Give it time.” My wife shared a Beth Moore quote with me the other day that said, “Time doesn’t heal anything. God heals.” This isn’t an altruism, it’s truth to hold on to. There’s a difference. So embrace the healing process with others, and don’t be afraid of the nasty cries. The Bible is clear: God hears the cries of the afflicted, not the platitudes of the insincere.
Perhaps one of the things that has meant the most to me personally has been the grace people have shown through appreciation. Especially in a difficult leadership transition, it’s easy to feel as though the years invested were wasted. When a position is vacated quickly, it feels like everything was expendable and useless. However, I’ve been surrounded by incredible friends and acquaintances who have spoken up and encouraged us. We are reminded that it was never “our work” but it was God’s; and God’s work is never wasted.
Tell the truth.
In every possible way, the truth is freeing. Lead in grace by allowing those who are hurting to tell the truth. Do not be afraid of truth, but invite truth into the light. But you, too, should tell the truth. Tell people who are hurting the truth of who they are in Jesus. Tell them the truth about the grace they have available to them by the blood of Jesus. Tell them the truth about how the Spirit gives rest for the weary and binds up the brokenhearted. Be willing to hear the truth, and be willing to speak the truth.
More than anything Allison and I want to express our love and thankfulness for our friends who have lifted us up in prayer and through practical support. We have confidence that the Lord will bring us through this season and into something new.
I won’t quote Jeremiah 29:11, because that verse does not apply to these things despite what a bumper sticker will tell you. However, I will reference the chapter of Jeremiah 29. In this passage, God promises a period of trial. He promises that things will be difficult. In fact, the message of Jeremiah 29 is to settle in, because the trial isn’t going to end soon. However, God brings hope in the midst of trial. God does not promise things will get easier or better. The Lord simply promises that in the midst of trial, He has not forgotten you, and that promise is more than enough. It’s the promise that has and will continue to sustain our family.