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Leading With Hope in Dark Times

By Kent Ingle | Posted In Ministry Tools

Leading through a crisis can be unnerving. It often means dealing with uncertainty, as our plans can quickly unravel.

Constant cycles of upheaval can lead to discouragement, as we have seen during the pandemic. We’ve had to learn to adapt to a new way of life. Among others things, that has meant moving church services online, working remotely, and interacting via Zoom.

For many Americans, the loss of social interaction has led to a season of darkness. At the end of 2020, 42% of U.S. adults 18 and older reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The data indicated young adults are suffering the most, with more than half of 18- to 29-year-olds experiencing anxiety and depression.

Leading can be difficult amid the despair our world is encountering. However, there is no better time to remind others of the hope we have in Christ.

On His journey to the cross, Jesus modeled leadership through dark times. As Good Friday and Easter Sunday approach, what can we learn from His example about navigating difficult times? Here are four lessons:

1. Keep Eternity in View

Before Jesus’ death, He retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane, crying out to His Father. In Luke 22:42, Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Jesus knew what He would have to endure. He recognized the sacrifice and the brutality of death on the cross. Yet Jesus always remained focused on His redemptive mission and submitted to the will of the Father.

If we aren’t careful, we can become so focused on our difficulties that we lose sight of what God has called us to do. It’s healthy to acknowledge our pain and seek help when we need it. But we should also ask the Holy Spirit to give us an eternal perspective on what we’re going through.

Hebrews encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus, who, “for the joy set before him … endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2).

By keeping our eyes on Jesus and maintaining an eternal perspective, we will help those around us do the same.

By keeping our eyes on Jesus and maintaining an eternal perspective, we will help those around us do the same.

2. Manage Reactions

When the soldiers and Jewish officials came to arrest Jesus, Peter struck the servant of the high priest with a sword, cutting off the man’s ear (John 18:10). Jesus commanded Peter to put away the sword, then He healed the servant’s ear (verse 11).

Jesus calmly questioned those who came to arrest Him, saying, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me” (Luke 22:52–53).

Although Jesus struggled with what was to come and called out the injustice of His treatment, the Lord did not let His emotions affect how He reacted to people. Jesus encouraged His disciples to keep their emotions in check as well.

In chaotic times, it can be easy to let fear or anger get the best of us. However, the way leaders respond sets the tone for those who are following.

3. Be Present

Before Jesus’ death, He participated in the Passover with His disciples. Luke 22:14–16 says, “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’”

Jesus valued His disciples and intentionally spent time with them before His death on the cross.

Leaders can be so forward thinking and eager to move past difficulties that they miss out on crucial moments. We should prioritize people, taking time to talk with them and finding out how they are truly doing. Leaders need to cultivate a caring environment.

4. Proclaim Hope

Easter commemorates the hope we have of spending eternity with our resurrected Lord. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The path Jesus took was painful, but He remained focused on providing for our salvation. Because of Him, times of suffering are opportunities to proclaim a message of hope.

Though we may experience trouble in this world, we have assurance that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). Our Lord’s example of leading through darkness couldn’t be more relevant today.