In my book, Defying Gravity, I describe nine gauges on the “leadership instrument panel” that can keep leaders from losing perspective and spiritual altitude as they encounter life’s storms. These gauges are helpful to any believer encountering difficulties. Last time I checked—that’s all of us.
Wisdom For the Wounded
One of the gauges that surprises readers, and has been the subject of interesting conversations during recent radio interviews, is the topic of “Indispensable Pain.” At first, this does not seem to be an essential or positive idea for leadership survival. Yet, on further consideration, we should all see that pain and wounds are crucial to our maturity and longevity.
C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain is God’s way of awakening and shaping leaders as well. Seasoned and enduring leaders always have stories of pain and loss that have powerfully shaped their character, approach, and longings.
I’ve heard it said that before God can use a man greatly, He must first wound him deeply. Oswald Chambers was right when he taught, “If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.” Charles Spurgeon understood this when he wrote, “I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain.”
That Strange Flight Gauge Called Pain
Of the nine gauges of the leadership instrument panel, none may be more paradoxical than pain. It may be indispensable, but it is rarely welcomed. Yet God uses it for good. Consider these paradoxical truths about the role of pain in our lives:
- Wounds are the preface to true greatness.
- Before God can remake us, He must first break us.
- Leaders tested by adversity are better able to understand and minister to those they serve.
- Authentic, high-impact ministry results from an honest admission of the hard-earned lessons of life.
- Before you bless, you must bleed; before you can help, you must first hurt.
- Our wounds become tender scabs but later empowering scars.
- Through our wounds God notarizes our leadership as true and authoritative.
Wounded Heroes of the Faith
Eventually leaders learn from experience that before God can remake us, He must first break us. The truly lasting lessons are learned through suffering. Wounds are the preface to true greatness. Just a few of the many biblical examples convince us:
- Job lost his family and fortunes and endured painful misunderstanding from friends before he was blessed with a deeper knowledge of God and the restoration of his life.
- Joseph was rejected by family and forgotten in a prison he did not deserve before he saved the day for Egypt.
- Moses endured the desert in forty years of obscurity and bewilderment before he became the great leader of Israel’s deliverance.
- David ran for his life many years, facing painful rejection and perplexing delays, before he became Israel’s king.
- Hosea endured the pain of repeated infidelity after marrying a prostitute before he became a powerful prophet.
- Peter felt the regret and brokenness of his own failed loyalty before he preached with power at Pentecost.
- Paul was blind, broken, and banished on the back side of a desert in preparation for his world-changing ministry of church planting and inspired biblical writing. He became even stronger through the weakness of a nagging thorn in his flesh.
I’ve always loved Paul’s undisputed statement of his credibility as a leader in reply to his critics. Facing the recurring pain of criticism and personal attack, he wrote, “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). The marks of pain are a crucial component of every leadership instrument panel. Remember them. Trust them. They are your friends through the turbulent seasons of life.
Embracing Our Wounds
Years ago, when my wife and I were going through a terribly painful season of ministry, our elders sent us to a retreat center designed for ministry couples. While there for 10 days, the Lord healed our hearts and restored our hope through the wisdom of biblical counselors and time to pray and think together about the Lord’s calling on our lives.
One afternoon, I experienced a breakthrough as I sought to write out the deep reflections and truths the Lord was pouring into my heart. I wrote the following poem. It has been a great help to my heart on many occasions since then and has blessed many other leaders over the years. Perhaps it will provide the encouragement you need today as you receive God’s grace in your pain, and His wisdom to “defy gravity” in the midst of life’s storms.
Photo by Danka Peter