Why Christian Leaders Struggle with “Dark Nights of the Soul”

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By Chuck Lawless 

If you read church history at all, you’ll learn that men as faithful to God as Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon struggled with bouts of at least heaviness, if not depression. I’m convinced more church leaders than we know face these battles. Here are some reasons we do, followed by a simple suggestion when we struggle: 

  1. Our calling is a calling of God. We’re blessed to have that calling, but we still answer to the Creator of eternity. That’s a weighty reality that sometimes gets really heavy.  
  2. We work with life and death. In fact, we work in the light of eternity, reminding people of life and death matters. Just that fact can pound on our shoulders.
  3. We live with our own sin. No church leader I know wants to be hypocritical in front of church members, but all of us know our own sin issues. Our desire to be leaders of integrity  increases the burden of our own sin.
  4. Sometimes, few people respond to our leading. Jesus warned us that many would not choose the right path, but His warning doesn’t lessen the pain when few people respond positively to our ministry.
  5. We carry the weight of the burdens of others. Yes, we can pray and turn them over to God – but our heart still hurts when others hurt.
  6. Many of us have few real friends. Sometimes we’ve made that choice (wrongly, in my opinion), but it’s still lonely when you bear ministry alone.
  7. We don’t always use spiritual disciplines well. For some, disciplines are sporadic at best. For others, we turn to them…

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