NEHEMIAH : Leading in a world with pain, brokenness and disappointment

Within the open verses of the Old Testament book Nehemiah, we see the reality of leading in a world filled with pain and challenges. 

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”                  Nehemiah 1:3-4

When Nehemiah gets word about the conditions of those who had survived the exile because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God’s covenant, his heart his broke.  As a leader, your heart will be broken over people and places in ways that will surprise you.  There will be moments of great disappointment on your journey as you seek to bring change.  People will let you down, people will make destructive choices, people will hurt each other and you will see evil present in the world around you.  How will you respond?

Nehemiah’s response is helpful because it highlights three things: compassion, emotional health and dependence.


Nehemiah is moved to tears as he reflects on the conditions of Jerusalem and God’s people in general.  Their sin had led them here, and Nehemiah was mourning the results.  He was mourning the condition of his people. 

Emotional Health

I am thankful that we have Nehemiah’s mourning recorded.  It helps me in those moments when I am moved to tears because of the condition of people or cities.  Mourning over brokenness because you care about people is healthy.  Bottling it up inside is not.  As a leader, we need to find outlets to process these emotions as we come into contact with brokenness in people or places and we feel it. 


Nehemiah mourns and then he turns to God in prayer.  Where else can we go?  Nehemiah doesn’t just move to action on his own, he moves to call upon the God of the universe to act to bring about the change.  Moving to action by ourselves, working in our own power is a formula for failure.  We can’t handle it, we can’t bring lasting change, we won’t be sustained in the general if we rely on ourselves.  Only real, lasting change can come as a result of God’s presence and involvement in whatever we are seeking to do. 

What are Your Employees Look for?

“Employees today do not see the employer through the same
loyalty-shaded glasses, as did the employees of the 1950s.
Rather, there is a much greater sense from employees that
they stay with an employer because it is mutually beneficial
on several levels: in physical terms, such as compensation; in
mental terms, such as in a stimulating relationship; and in
spiritual terms, such that the greater “self” is served and
blessed by the involvement with the leader.”           pg 19 Be a Leader for God’s Sake


As leaders or managers we need to consider what an employee is looking for from us if we want to create a team with longevity and effectiveness.  It is an over-simplification to assume that employees are simply looking for a pay check, though this cannot be undervalued as well.  Moving beyond the paycheck, we must recognize employees are looking for a sense of community from their work teams.  They are looking for us to help them find a place of belonging where they are welcomed.  Team members are also looking to the leaders to foster an winning strategy, where they feel like they are moving forward and contributing to the success of the organization.  An employee won’t endure in an environment where they feel they are constantly loosing or failing.  Though employee’s are looking for more, the last aspect I will address in this post is meaning.  Team members want a sense of meaning from their work in their lives.  They want to drive home at the end of the day and sense that what they are doing is worthy their time and is fulfilling to their long-term view of their life. 

What else are employees looking for from you as a team leader? 

Keeping Your Fire Over the Long Haul

If you’ve been leading or pastoring for a little while, then you know those moments where someone or something discourages you and makes you do a gut check.  Is there worth it?  Easy to start off with passion that is contagious and belief that much transformation in our organization, team or world is possible, but it is hard to sustain passion over the long haul.  Many people and situations make passion withdrawals, leaving us struggling to find the motivation we need to fulfill our calling|role.  In these quiet moments inside, after the email, after the conversation, after the event or meeting that flopped, we have a choice.  We either choose to dig deep and realize it is a MOMENT of discouragement, but what we are doing is worth it in the end, or we choose to quit.  There are moments where I feel alone in my desires  for our team/organization/mission and in weak and self-focused moments I think about giving in, giving up.  Never make deep decisions in these moments.  Take some time to catch your breath, take some time to see the bigger picture, take some time to think about it from others perspectives, and choose to stick it out.  Its worth it in the end.  What are you willing to endure to accomplish the vision within?  If you’re not willing to endure much, is your vision really big enough?