July 1, 2018 • Life for Leaders
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
It was meant to be a routine professional phone call. A quick check-in to ensure that everything was in order for an upcoming national event. The call lasted all of fifteen minutes without controversy. Everything was in place. Yet somehow, I was left sitting in existential contemplation. A series of sincere questions near the end of the call placed me in an introspective mood. My friend had asked how I was doing. He made it clear that he was referring to Breon, the individual, not the government relations consultant, the author, or the spiritual counselor.
To be honest, until this question was posed to me in this way, I had not really taken the time to think about this. I had been living through the lens of imbalanced leadership. My life consisted of managing from crisis to crisis. And while my battle wins were high, I was slowly on my way to losing the war. I had never taken the time—separate from my functionality and giftedness—to assess my feelings. As I sat reflecting on the question my friend had posed, I was forced to confront my reality. I had been plugging away at ministry and in leadership with a nagging and pervasive feeling which I habitually bottled up and lock away, as my mechanism to keep moving forward. This feeling was depression.
Why was I depressed? What was the root behind this very real feeling that never went away, despite all the things that I had accomplished? This is the power of Psalm 43, which was attributed to the sons of Korah. The Korahites were known for their extensive service to the Lord. They faithfully served in numerous capacities from doorkeepers and crafters of temple vessels to warriors in David’s camp. They knew what it was to be in the service of the Lord day and night. They understood the privilege of being in God’s presence and around God’s people constantly. Still they crafted this psalm that suggests a soul in service to God can sometimes suffer depression or being downcast. Before they tell us to hope in God, they require us to consider why the soul is downcast. After all, you can’t begin to prescribe medicine to an undiagnosed condition.
Too many leaders who are struggling in plain sight have never taken the time to assess their personal status. Some of our most powerful leaders delay this very important evaluation because they feel they don’t have the time, or that the movement or ministry will suffer. So they don their leadership hats, dig deeper, and neglect their personal health and wellness. Some even live in an Elijah-style time loop where they dwell in the depressed proverbial cave as they carry out great feats of miracles, signs, and wonders.
If you’re a leader who is tired of struggling in plain sight, the first step is to assess how you, the individual, are doing. When the soul is downcast, the best thing to do is to stop and consider why. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to those who follow you, and refusing to do so could have negative effects on your ministry.
God, I pray for those in leadership struggling with depression and downcast souls. Comfort them with your love. Open their eyes to see the space and time to assess the status of their soul. Grant them courage to honestly identify and address the wounds they may have incurred as they have journeyed towards your promise for them. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.