Leaders are not immune to personally challenging times or painful moments, and nothing seems to be more impossible than to inspire and lead by example when you are crushed and hurting on the inside when you have to lead and bleed. Every part of your instinct tells you to hide, get out of sight, and find comfort in the serenity of obscurity, which is sometimes necessary! But sometimes, getting away on retreat is not an option. Despite how you feel your spouse needs you, your children need you, those who look to you for leadership need you. Sometimes the season is painful, and you can not just stop everything for the season, and you are put in the position where you have to lead and bleed.
No one demonstrates how to lead and bleed better than Jesus! While on the cross, he is still teaching and offering life and exhibiting the character that we are to model. He is still caring for others, and he offers forgiveness. He inspires and leads by example, even on the cross.
To the leader reading this and you are in a season where you feel like you are bleeding, please understand that God often does his best work in our lives and the lives of people we influence when we dare to lead and bleed! Don't sacrifice the Godly example you are to others when you go through the hard times! When you feel betrayed, guard your heart and stand your ground! Hang on tight to God's promise and live your life worthy of the call!
I am reminded of the aftermath of the cross in John chapter 20.
John 20:19–20 (NLT) — 19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! "Peace be with you," he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!
When you think about this story, it's pretty unusual. The Bible says that when Jesus showed them his wounds, his disciples were filled with joy! Is it just me, or is this a unique, absurd response? Jesus showed them his injuries, and his disciples were happy? If I showed a friend my worst open wound and it made them happy, I might question that friendship!
But we understand why it brought the disciples so much joy. First off, it brought them joy because it confirmed that it was Jesus. The wounds brought confirmation to identity. If someone showed up claiming to be Jesus but didn't have these wounds, it would be disqualifying. Similarly, your wounds confirm you are who you say you are! I'm not saying you always have to have a smile you don't feel on your face. Still, praising God, confessions of his grace and goodness, declarations of victory amidst the enemies' declaration of war over the blessings of God in your life is what it looks like to bleed and lead! Leading and bleeding doesn't mean faking emotion; it means staying faithful to God! When you do this, it confirms your identity! It proves that your worship isn't due to your condition; it's due to God's goodness!
Secondly, the wounds on Jesus brought joy to the disciples because it showed what he had overcome! Every injury and mark had a story to tell. Have you ever looked at a scar someone had and asked, "What's the story behind that scar?" The wounds of Jesus were a testimony of what he had gone through and yet is standing here alive! Your wounds can give people hope! If God can deliver them from that awful situation, then perhaps God can deliver me as well! Many people have heard of God's grace but have yet to see it in action; when you can lead and bleed, it is a testimony to others of God's amazing sustaining grace that is sufficient even amidst great struggles and difficulties!
Leaders are not immune to challenges. We all go through seasons where there are wounds and bleeding. These moments are the ones where our true character is revealed. Those that have the courage to lead and bleed will see God do great things! This courage is not found by looking inward and digging deep to find inner resolve. It's found by looking up and observing the love of God. It's seen by recognizing God's sovereignty and authority. I am reminded of the book of Jude.
Jude 20–21 (NLT) — 20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God's love.
My prayer is that you will realize you, too, can have the courage to lead and bleed. Your voice matters to those around you, and your influence is there even if you feel like it is absent. Take courage, stand your ground, rely on the Lord, and he will give you the strength to match your courage!