Leaders inevitably find themselves in difficult situations.
There are hard decisions. There are failures and weaknesses where people demand answers. There are times when you don’t have answers (yet).
Teams get into conflicts that only you can resolve. People will make challenging statements that tempt you to respond with unhelpful emotions and words.
Challenges arise that require far more wisdom and experience than you currently possess. All difficult leadership situations require boldness tempered with patience, listening, and managing emotional responses.
There are three steps to facing these situations with all the grace of God working in and through you.
Facing Difficult Situations with Grace
1. Remember that this situation is not exclusively about you.
There is always a larger set of forces at work. You are in the same position as Joshua, Gideon, David, Peter, Paul, and many other saints through the ages.
Your growth begins at the edge of your comfort zone. The Lord has so much power that he will accomplish multiple objectives in and through you in this difficult situation.
2. Remember that you are not alone.
Jesus told us “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) You can draw from the wisdom of the Word of God and the fellowship of other believers.
Leadership crises often trigger a crushing, even overwhelming feeling of utter loneliness – but this is not reality. Thanks be to God!
3. Trust in God’s wisdom rather than the wisdom of man.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Failing to trust God is a massive temptation for leaders. There are many voices in this world giving you advice and counsel, but you must choose to trust in God’s wisdom.
The Role of the Cross in Handling Difficult Situations
May I recommend a simple exercise which has helped me?
Imagine the cross is between you and the other person(s). Make this a rich picture in your mind.
It’s not just any ordinary cross, but THE cross that Jesus died upon – splintered, bloody, attracting flies, dreadful. It was an instrument of tortuous execution. It’s the symbol of the cost of our redemption.
Now use your imagination to examine this particular leadership difficulty. Everything that comes from them must go through the cross. Everything from you is filtered through the cross before it reaches them.
Need wisdom? It’s Christ-centered, rooted in the solution to our sin problems.
Need to understand a situation? Seek help from the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
Need to be mature and capable in handling emotionally-charged situations? Only the best of you comes through the cross.
Are people angry with you, even sinning against you? The grace that comes to us via the cross transforms any ugliness. (2 Corinthians 3:18) The cross keeps your ugliness from reaching them.
I’m not advocating some kind of “magic” to manipulate situations to your advantage. The cross was real, Jesus is alive, and the Holy Spirit is available to help us. (Romans 8:26)
This exercise keeps me grounded in humility, providing a perspective that there is always something larger than the immediate situation. Shakespeare (through Hamlet) was right to say, “There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your imagination.”
Don’t shy away from difficult leadership situations. Face them with the grace of God in Jesus Christ. God will also use you to help others through your leadership, fueled by wisdom, power, and grace far beyond what you alone possess.
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