The suffering leader sounds like an un-American idea. In our paradigm, leaders flourish, whether on Wall Street or in the house church. Even in the spiritual realm, we are susceptible to expectations that flourishing leaders have flourishing lives—yet we know better. And as we read our Bibles, nowhere do we find that promise or that narrative.
Suffering eventually touches all of us. A simple but wise woman once offered these folksy words to describe suffering:
I always say that there are three things that can happen to you in life:
Things you bring upon yourself
Things that others do to you
And the meteorites that hit you from afar
She sums it up well.
My meteorite was a terrible car accident that took the life of my husband Rick Ferguson, who was a pastor and catalytic church-planting leader. At age 45, I became a widow. That meteorite nearly took me under.
Yet very quickly, God clearly showed me that I would be responsible for the stewardship of my pain. That, just like every other resource or experience God thrust into my life, I would be accountable for my suffering and for the purpose God intended for it.
Perhaps it is in the crucible of our crushed lives that we actually demonstrate the greatest leadership of all as we embrace our suffering for the glory of God and for the good of the Kingdom of God. When we understand like Paul that we are comforted for the sake of others’ consolation and salvation, our leadership DNA should kick in.
Yes, I know very well the feeling of wanting to curl up and die. I do. And yet God gets no glory in my hopeless despair and no one will be comforted by the comfort I have received in Christ unless I actually find my comfort in him.
Aside from the supernatural work of the gospel, nothing …