A note from Kelly King: C.S. Lewis once said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Whether you are leading through your own personal pain or leading others who are in pain, be reminded of God’s presence and take Kaye Hurta’s words to heart today.
In the current season of my life, almost every area is experiencing some degree of hurting and pain. I am learning what it looks like to live in the tension of holding the pain in one hand and tending to it while holding faith and trust in the other. Part of that tension comes from balancing the emotional work of grieving with the need to provide leadership that moves people and systems forward at the same time. Too often, our plan for leading through the pain is to “shelve” it and deal with it later. While this may seem like a good idea, it is not. It is not an emotionally healthy plan, and frankly, it isn’t modeled in Scripture.
There are several lessons we can learn about leading through pain from both the Old and New Testaments. My reading recently has found me in Ezra and Nehemiah. They both led well through a painful season in Israel’s history and through opposition.
If you have time today, read Nehemiah 1. From that chapter, here are 5 habits for leading through pain:
1. Listen well. The first thing Nehemiah did was listen to the story and current condition of his people. Verses 2-3 say, “I questioned…” and “They said to me….” In other words, I asked and I listened. This is the first and best habit for anyone who is interested in helping someone who is hurting and leading them through it—ask and listen.
2. Grieve. Nehemiah heard the condition of his people and his beloved Jerusalem, and he wept and mourned for days. Because grief work is hard, long, and beyond our ability to control, we simply avoid it. Oh, if we only could. Unresolved, unprocessed grief is guaranteed to hemorrhage beneath the surface of our hearts. Lead well and process your own grief.
3. Fast and Pray. Nehemiah didn’t wait for his grief to subside before he engaged with the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer. Both of these are critical for our helping, our healing, and our hearing.
4. Confess. Throughout Scripture, confession is named as a vital component of effective healing. Before we can rebuild, before we can be restored, we must confess—personally and corporately.
5. Lead from where you are. The last line of Nehemiah 1 says this, “Now I was the cupbearer to the king” (1:11, NASB). I love this line mostly for what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “I was a prophet,” or “I was assigned to lead,” or “I was put in charge.” He simply trusted that God would use who he was and what he was doing in the moment for the good of His hurting people. What I’m trying to say is, lead from where you are. Don’t wait for it to be “assigned” to you. If God has placed hurting people or situations in your life, lead them through the pain.
As I write these words, I am keenly aware that while you may be leading someone through their pain, you may also be hurting yourself. May I invite you to lead yourself well through these habits? Please listen to your own life and story, name and grieve your losses, pray and fast, confess and trust that God will do what only He is able to do in your pain. He alone can heal and comfort. Be encouraged, friend. He is for you, and He is with you.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.