Leading Through Personal Difficulty

David’s army had just won a military victory over a coup led by his own son Absalom, killed in the battle.

David turned what should have been a national day of rejoicing into a time of mourning. His general Joab takes a huge risk and “leads up” by telling David to suck it up, that there were greater things at risk in Israel than his personal loss…like the encouragement and leadership his soldiers and people needed at this critical time. David did exactly what Joab said. That’s vulnerable leadership. David is an endlessly fascinating character in the Old Testament. He was intensely passionate, but balanced with a cool theological logic enabling him to shift emotional gears in a moment. After he was earlier exposed in a scandalous affair and murder plot, David wept, fasted and laid on the ground for the ailing baby born from the affair. The baby died seven days after birth. David’s servants were afraid to tell him for fear he would do something desperate, but finally acquiesced. It reads:

Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” ~2 Samuel 12:20-23

David’s hyper-logical understanding of God’s sovereignty and his own eventual reuniting with his son seem almost Spock-like. David, the Vulcan-King of the Starship Israel, boldly going where no man had emotionally gone before. Okay, nerds, quit salivating. But what’s with that? Is it just a guy-thing and the ability to compartmentalize, to turn the spigot off and get down to business? Or was it because he understood his leadership and calling to something greater? I think—I hope—it was the latter. Perhaps there have been times in your life where something tragic happened and you had to be “the strong one” for the sake of your family. Perhaps you were the only one who seemed to be able to think straight in the aftermath of tragedy. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grieve, but rather to suspend your emotions for the sake of something greater, like the need of your kids to be cared for or led during a crisis. Now expand that to something larger, say, the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t mean you become stoic through leadership hardships, whether they are personal challenges or a pandemic that’s wreaked havoc in your church—that’s not healthy modeling. But it does mean you have to realize there may be a greater need in a particular moment than your own: a steady focus on advancing the Kingdom of God and the shepherding of your people. Perhaps that’s why in heaven God wipes away every tear—maybe that’s the ultimate time to exhale. But for now, leaders, you have a race to finish.


Dave Workman | Elemental Churches Check out our new comprehensive, team-based, cost-effective pathway to church effectiveness and health: the revolutionary Elemental Pathway.