Faith

Dear Languishing Leader, I know it can feel like you’re drowning

Jeremiah Tay // July 2, 2021, 8:54 pm

Dear Languishing Leader

Dear fellow leader who can’t seem to shake that languishing feeling off you…

Perhaps you’re having a dry season or drowning in circumstances spiralling out of control.

If you’re finding it hard to minister to those around you because of how you truly feel in this season – languished – I’ve felt the same way.

Knocking on the door of Emily’s* house, I took a deep breath, composed myself and forced a smile. My fellow Sunday School teachers and I were there to give Emily her certificate for graduating from our kindergarten class because in-person ceremonies were cancelled.

It has usually been a joyous occasion for celebration, except that I wasn’t as cheery and smiley as I hoped to be. I felt like a hypocrite, serving with a smile while having an impoverished soul.

It was January 2021, and I had been beaten down with that languishing feeling for half a year running. Settling into my first year in university had been a struggle, and never-ending quarrels at home had worn me out.

It was in this state that I was passed the baton to lead the Sunday School kindergarteners’ ministry.

Now don’t get me wrong as this had been a decision made prayerfully way beforehand, and I was assured of my calling in it, yet it could not have come at a worse time than this.

To make matters worse, I just had a major fallout with my best friend in that ministry, and there seemed to be no end to the series of unfortunate events.

I had tried every conceivable method to cope with the emotions as a leader going through so much, but things were not improving.

I went into bouts of binge eating, followed by hardcore workouts to break even the calories. Seeking help from that friend had combusted into our fallout.

I tried to end the day in God’s word, but bedtime scripture reading felt dry and distant, often disrupted by the unwelcomed Z monster. Though I spent time on my guitar in worship and prayer, it felt like my prayers and praises weren’t heard at all.

I was spiritually and emotionally dry, contrary to what one might expect from a leader.

Dear Millennials, is this truly the prime of our lives?

As I made visits to Emily* and other students, I felt like a hypocrite for putting on a smile in front of the children I teach when I was crumbling on the inside.

The doubts seeped in, and I began to wonder where God was in all of this, and whether I was fit to lead anyone in this state.

Was I being prideful in holding on to my leadership role while my life felt like a mess? Was I enough, and will I ever be?

Yet it was in my utmost brokenness that God came through. In one of the nightly scripture readings that had turned ritualistic, Psalm 22:24 jumped right out at me and gave me a peace I never felt before.

I teared up, moved by how seriously he took my troubles, the assurance of His presence, and His promise to answer my prayers.

It strengthened me to continue believing in who He said He is. I also made Psalm 51:10-12 my daily prayer.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

That languishing feeling didn’t vanish immediately, and neither did my problems. But ever since that encounter, the assurance of His sovereignty sunk in, and I was reminded that his grace and joy flows through us irrespective of our circumstance.

He had liberated me from my doubts of being a hypocrite and assured me that whatever little I had given in my brokenness would be turned into good.

“… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

Following suit, encouragements trickled in from the most unexpected places. Parents had expressed their gratitude for simple improvements such as mailing them hardcopy worksheets. Students also sent me cake on my birthday!

Not long after, I received my school results, and they were way beyond my expectations – my CAP had improved even without fully utilising the S/Us I had.

The unwilling, unlikely leader

Dear Languishing Leader, take heart.

Regardless of how you’re feeling right now, the God who has chosen you makes no mistakes.

He has not forgotten you nor has He changed. He has started a good work in you, and He’s not done ’till it’s good.

Stay faithful in the little things, and keep on praising him in the mountains and valleys all the same!

*Names in this article have been changed for confidentiality.

THINK + TALK

  1. What difficulties are you facing in ministry?
  2. What did the early church leaders like Paul say about their struggles?
  3. What do you think that God might be saying to you in the midst of your problems?