Every one of us in positions of leadership—whether a mom or a CEO or a preacher or a shop foreman, just fill in your own title or position—comes to that dark moment when like King David in the awful face of treachery we wish to “wander far away” from it all (Psalm 55:7). It is a disgusting feeling really; one that strips us of our confidence and purpose and general well-being, much like some harsh gale strips the tired leaves off of the trees in the fall.
King David is an ally of ours, someone whose own journey offers us weary leaders a moving portrait for surviving those dark times. For him it begins with betrayal, when a trusted friend turned against him, left his side and joined forces with a would-be pretender to King David’s throne. Ahithophel was the man’s name (2 Samuel 15:12 invites us into that story), and his betrayal cut King David very deeply. Fiercely aggravating matters was the fact that the aforementioned pretender to the throne was one of King David’s own sons, a man named Absolom. The panic these circumstances caused for the whole kingdom was significant. The treachery nearly ruined King David.
Psalm 55 is the lament King David wrote in response to undeniable pain inflicted upon him. Perhaps you can identify with the sentiments found within the lyrics, statements like, “Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me” (Psalm 55:2-3).
Or consider Psalm 55:4-5, which offers, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” Indeed, King David proceeds to declare, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wildnerness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest” (Psalm 55:6-8).
Ever desire that? Ever want to get up from the swivel chair behind the big desk and just walk right out the door, never to look back? Ever wish you could disappear into the night, take up residence in a new place, with an easier pace, away from the rabble rousing crowd of nay-sayers and Monday-morning quarterbacks convinced your leadership is denying them their own kingdom?
Oh, the temptation. But King David chose better. Psalm 55:16-17 tells us that rather than run he called to God. “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” And what he found was that the Lord God heard him, redeeming his “soul in safety” (Psalm 55:18). Turning to God and letting God bathe him with his healing mercies changed King David, helped him in the face of the treachery, and gave him cause to have confidence. “I will trust in you,” King David penned in verse 23. Indeed he did.
My own experience finds that when I can turn to the Lord, just as King David did, I am helped. And as I turn to the Lord a small handful of resources cascade into my life enabling me to cope with the oppression that I as a leader face. Here are just a small number of those resources—values that make a difference; things to do for the heart in the midst of threats:
First, I need to forgive. Forgiving whomever is hurting me or has hurt me, releases that person or those people from owing me anything. And, it frees me from being controlled by expectations that likely won’t be met. It liberates me from the bondage of pending bitterness. It is not the same as trust, which must be earned (and may never be earned). Forgiveness helps me soar to heights far above my pain.
Secondly, I need to choose to love those who are seeking my hurt. In my experience I have never regretted offering genuine love toward those who wish to undermine my leadership. I cannot get Moses off my mind, this great leader who in the face of persistent opposition went before the Lord and interceded on behalf of the people who were hurting him. He clearly loved them. And when I do it too is very liberating, allows me to look them in the eye with confidence and not fear, and helps me see past the presenting opposition to the more realistic matters of their hearts, wherein one find what really fuels their misery. Then I can pray for them, for their healing and peace, for their comfort and for renewed joy in their lives. I pray for God’s blessings to pour out on them, that his goodness and mercy would flow like a river through their souls. For me that is real power and joy, and it is a far better expenditure of personal energy than spending all of my time whining and wringing my hands.
Thirdly, I need to take the high road. Taking the high road has always paid off for me, but when I take the low road, on which road I attempt to manipulate circumstances to my own advantage, I nearly always create personal regret. With the high road there is marvelous room for God’s Spirit to do a great work in my life and the lives of those who would threaten me as a leader. It is risky, but, doing so keeps me from reducing myself to some of the same dysfunction or pettiness that more than often dominates the thinking of those who wish to build there own kingdom at my expense.
Lastly, for now, I need to lean into God for my solace. Only in his shadow will I have peace and security. He is my Audience of One. Ultimately only his opinion matters. If I can live in such a way that he signs with approval of all of that I am, then I have courage to move forward, even in the midst of treachery. King David’s words in Psalm 55:22 help here: Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
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“Write This Down…” provides a restatement of selected points or observations from various teaching venues at which Pastor Matthew speaks. The preceding material is from Pastor Matthew’s message presented at the Fargo-Moorhead Power Lunch on January 12, 2012, at Bethel Church.