One of the most painful stories I’ve personally experienced is the story of a young middle school girl who came back to a campus youth club that I lead after Christmas break and pulled our leaders aside and told us that her stepdad had raped her over the Christmas break and after doing so told her Merry Christmas.
I have no category for explaining the pain this young girl endured. And I have no category for explaining what I wanted to do to her stepdad. How do you bring a healthy personal presence into the midst of that kind of pain?
Most Psychologists will break pain into roughly four categories. 1) The pain of scarcity; 2) The pain of physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse; 3) The pain of loss and 4) Physical or neurological pain.
Our tendency is to medicate or numb the pain. We want to escape the pain or make it go away. We do this through addictions of all sorts. Pornography addiction, substance addiction, eating disorders, purging, overspending, overeating, self-harm, isolation, unhealthy or inappropriate relationships, overworking, etc.
These are all unhealthy ways of seeking nutrition to feed our hunger for healing. And the truth that we all know is that these behaviors result in more harm than healing.
And here’s another truth about these four categories of pain… we’ve all had personal experience with at least one of these if not all of these.
And it’s not just that we know someone that has experienced these things, we’ve all experienced pain because we are human and we live in a broken, pain-filled world. Take a minute and write down the number one category of pain for you.
Take a few minutes and reflect on where you see these four categories of pain in Luke 18:35-43; Psalm 42; 62:1-8; 2 Timothy 4:9-18; Luke 17:11-19 and Mark 15:13-37. What kinds of pain did you see? How did the characters deal with heir pain? What was the key to staying personally present in a healthy way? What does patient persistence look like in these passages?
A healthy leader who is personally present in the midst of pain stays patiently persistent. But how do you stay patiently persistent in the midst of pain? Here are a few things I’ve been practicing that seem to help:
- Recognize your limitations and live within them. Vacation, Sabbatical, Sabbath, extended Sabbath.
- Be aware of your addictive tendencies and kill them. Kill sin or it will kill you. (John Owen)
- Get a good Christian counselor who will help you seek healing from your painful wounds.
- Ruthlessly manage your schedule and get some accountability with it.
- Hook up your umbilical cord to life-giving sources like mentors, coaches, counselors, small groups.
- Exercise well to burn negative energy. (3-5 days a week 45-60min)
- Confess and repent of sin regularly. Don’t live in the darkness.
- Recognize your weaknesses and get some coaches and mentors to help you grow stronger.
- Be present in your pain. Don’t hide it, run from it, mask it, fix it or medicate it. Patiently persist.
- Go back and read this list again and then do it!
A healthy leader who is personally present in the midst of pain stays patiently persistent. You cannot give what you do not have and you cannot completely love the present person you are or the present person you are with if you love a future version of yourself or them more.
The future version of me is not the person Jesus died for. And Jesus was fully present at the cross experiencing every category of pain known to man so that I could be saved and changed. Be encouraged in the gospel and become a healthy leader who is personally present in the midst of pain.