Navigating Dark Seasons

School Leadership

Life has many different seasons. Some seasons are full of feats and victories; these are the mountaintop seasons. During the mountaintop seasons it feels like life is amazing. It seems like nothing can stop what God is doing. It is these mountaintop seasons where most of us want to stay. A mountaintop season is sometimes followed by a valley season, which may be dark and trying. It is in this season where hope seems scarce. As leaders, no matter the season, we must remain faithful to what God has called us to do.

Fade to Black

In the spring of 2015, I was leading a growing youth movement in my hometown and discipling many. Things were looking great. Miracles were breaking out, people were encountering the presence of God. Visitors came from surrounding areas to experience the move of God. I was in my mountaintop season. My team and I felt victorious in every way. Then our church’s senior pastor, who was also my grandfather, became ill. He passed away within days. I loved this man and we were very close. He was my mentor, my pastor, the head of my family.

Everything came to a sudden stop. In an instant, I was in the valley.

In the midst of immense grief from losing someone so meaningful, I found myself in a dark place. Not only did I lose a sense of direction, but the church and its members felt the effect of our great loss. Despite everything that I was going through, the burden fell on me to continue on and lead.

Finding Your Courage

As leaders we must press forward despite being in a dark place. Sometimes the luxury of taking an extended time to heal is not available. It’s important to learn to manage yourself as a leader during the valleys of life. Some we find our greatest tests of strength and courage while leading in these seasons. During this time, I learned some principles to help me persevere as a leader.

In Joshua 1, the children of God were in a very volatile place. Moses, the great leader of the children of God, had died, and in his place a young man named Joshua succeeded him. In Joshua 1:9, God gave Joshua a very challenging but profound word. God commanded him to be strong and courageous. It is interesting that God had to tell Joshua to be courageous. Joshua must have been going through a dark time because of the loss of Moses. The pain from Joshua’s loss was great, so much so God had to command Joshua to be strong and courageous.

We must find strength and courage somewhere. As a leader I had to draw strength and courage from God. I needed to continue leading the people God had called me to lead. I drew strength from being close to Him during this dark time.

Out of this intimacy, I found strength. It was the nearness of God that gave me the grace to lead in the valley.

Finding Rest Away from the Crowds

In Matthew 14, Jesus responds to the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded. Through Scriptures, it’s evident to see that John the Baptist’s death caused Jesus pain. In response to that pain, He withdrew from the crowd and rested. It says in the Scripture that Jesus immediately went on a boat to be alone.

As leaders, we must find time to be alone and rest, regardless of what the crowd demands. Jesus rested to regain strength from the Father. As leaders we still have responsibilities to be available to the people we lead, but we must also know the importance of withdrawing to be with God.

Rest is an important time to regain composure and strength. In practice, rest can look like many things. Rest can look like spending time alone to refocus and recharge. Rest can also look like taking care of yourself and prioritizing it in leadership duties. For me, rest looked like worship and entering into the presence of God. Rest done in concordance with leadership responsibilities will help you continue to lead during a dark seasons.

The Strength to Continue

In Matthew 14 we see Jesus almost immediately getting back into ministry after his time of rest. Jesus demonstrated that even if life becomes difficult, we can still continue to do what God has called us to do. Continue to lead. Continue to build. Continue to dream. During these dark seasons, the temptation to quit becomes very real. Throwing in the towel and completely giving up is a real option.

My grandfather passed away right in the middle of planning a regional youth conference. This time was extremely painful because of the amount of grief we were experiencing. After much prayer, our team felt there was a tremendous grace to continue the event. In retrospect, that was one the most powerful conferences we ever had. The lives affected were far greater than we could have ever imagined. Had we given up in our dark season, we would not have made an impact on many people’s lives that year.

Keep your Momentum

Learning these principles helped me navigate dark seasons. It helped me set a continual momentum for me and my organization. Leaders must learn to glean strength from God. No matter what season you find yourself in, God gives you the ability to grow and expand where you are. If you are in a mountaintop or a valley, God is with you and he has given you the tools necessary to navigate the season you are in. Learn to find your rest and your needs so that you can navigate your season well.

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