Chances are, if you have been a leader in any capacity, you have probably felt one of these ways…or all of them.
Here they are:
- You don’t have what it takes
- You should have more tangible results
- Life isn’t fair
- You lack the right opportunities
- You are overlooked, overworked, and underpaid
- You put in the same blood, sweat, and tears but without the same results other people get
- You feel like a failure
Over nearly twenty years of leadership experience in diverse settings, I have learned that there are three keys to moving from dissatisfaction to contentment:
- Admit you are ticked off. Life isn’t fair. Overcoming the feeling of failure starts with admitting that you are angry.
- Hang out with Jesus. Knowing Him is the ultimate goal. He promised that if you learn to live from Him, you will be healthy and fruitful!
- Discover who you are. You are a work in progress. We all are. That’s okay, but it’s not okay to stay where you are. As you discover who you really are, you will become more content.
What’s life like on the other side, in the place of contentment? It’s not a bigger church or your face on the cover of a popular Christian magazine, unless that’s God’s plan. In contentment, you will find the freedom that comes from not needing anything outside of what you already have to be happy. You will enjoy your life more, enjoy your family, and appreciate where you are. It’s not about settling for less, it’s about enjoying more. After all, life is about the journey, not the destination.
Today, let’s dive into the first one: Admit you are ticked off.
The longer you live the more you realize life isn’t fair. There is always someone who is bigger, smarter, faster, richer, or more talented. You feel as if you got the short end of the stick. After all, you’ve been laboring in your market, industry or ministry for years with limited results. Then someone moves in down the street and things seems to become an overnight success. You put in the same amount of prayer and effort but experience a totally different outcome.
You keep telling yourself it will get better someday and if you are faithful things will change. Isn’t that what God promised? “If you are faithful with little things, you will be faithful with large ones” (Luke 16:10 NLT). Confident your blessing is right around the corner, you keep plugging, but time keeps on ticking and nothing changes. You get discouraged. You want to throw in the towel. You wonder, how long can I keep doing this? You blame yourself, you blame God, you blame the guy down the street – maybe you even blame your family.
You become consumed with your own success. It’s eating you alive. Finally, you give up hope believing that things could change. You resign yourself to a life of unfulfilled desires and despair but you are really good at putting on a facade. You tell people you are great, but inside you are dying.
You thought things were going to be different. You didn’t see this coming. After all, no leader goes into his or her assignment expecting to fail. You thought you were a good leader, but life has beat the hell out of you. You envisioned it all going so differently. You dreamed that people would be coming to you for advice by now, that you would be sought after…but no one comes; and you feel alone and afraid.
Then one day you wake up and realize what a jerk you have been. You’ve been so busy trying to make your dream happen you’ve been missing out on life. You realize your identity is founded on your performance. Oh sure, you’ve preached the sermons. You know all the right answers: your identity should be founded in who you are as God’s child, but the truth is you feel like a total failure because you are basing your worth on your accomplishments or lack thereof.
How do I know this story so well? Because that was me. I had all those insecurities and more. Though I never thought I was an insecure person, about three years into church planting, I discovered just how insecure I was.
What do you do when you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see? Do you quit? Give up? Walk away with your tail between your legs? No, because that’s not who you are. You are a fighter. You can’t give up because Jesus hasn’t given up. It’s all been a part of the journey, a journey to find yourself, but more importantly, a journey to find who you are in Christ. So what do you do? Where do you begin? Try starting with this:
Admit you are ticked off.
Life isn’t fair. Be gut-level honest. Get angry if you need to, but whatever you do, don’t stuff it down or gloss it over. Overcoming the feeling of failure starts with admitting that you are angry. You will never get beyond your anger if you can’t even be honest with yourself. God knows you’re angry. Your family knows it too. You may as well just be honest. Life sucks sometimes. It’s not what you thought it was going to be. Change starts with admitting where you are and what you feel.
Real, Raw and Honest
Digging out of the hole starts with being real, raw, and honest. That’s what David did all throughout the Psalms. Here is one example,
1 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? 2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. (Psalm 22:1-2 NLT)
You may even be angry at God. Some people act like they’ve never been mad at God. I have a hard time relating to those people. I’m not telling you to work up anger for God, but rather to acknowledge it’s there and deal with it. I’m confident God can handle your anger. Is it sin? Probably, because it comes from a lack of trust. At the same time, what’s worse: sinning by being angry at God or being angry at God and concealing it from Him? As author John Piper said, “If you sin by being angry with God, don’t add to it the sin of trying to conceal it from Him. That would double the offense.”
So deal with your anger – your anger at God; your anger at yourself; your anger at your situation. This is the only way to move forward. If not, you will remain stuck. This is the first step in moving from dissatisfaction to contentment. Own it.
Next time, I will share more on step #2 – Learn To Hang Out With Jesus. Until then…
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