Four encouragements on how to lead yourself in these challenging times
(I was asked by Evangelical Focus to write an article on a webinar I did recently for the European Leadership Forum. You will find the text on their website or below: https://evangelicalfocus.com/features/6437/leading-yourself-in-the-crisis-4-encouragements
Leading yourself well is indeed an art. Once we think we have learned to lead ourselves in one area, we might start neglecting another. These tips here will not mean following them makes everything perfect once and for all, but might remind us of some areas neglected while striving to find the right balance, also in the midst of Covid-19.
We are surrounded by many challenges these days, our life rhythms have changed, we need to adapt to so many different factors, but God is right in there with us. As Christians we seek to walk with God in all spheres of life. He is our anchor and foundation in the midst of this storm. For him it is highly important that we lead ourselves first before leading others.
Even when you are not in a leadership position, your primary role is the responsibility for yourself before you help others. And this applies also to this Covid-19 crisis.
In Acts 20:28, 1 Tim 4:16 and Gal 6:1,4-5 we are encouraged to first keep watch over ourselves before we keep watch of others.
To continue thriving under such circumstances we face in Europe, I am covering four areas of leading yourself (among many others) which help us to once again go forward and not lose hope.
- Know who you are
I am valuable to God and I am loved, no matter what.
With knowing that I am loved by God and am his child, it is a journey of discovering and developing my identity, character, giftings and skills. It is finding clarity over who I am, what is important to me and how I involve myself.
In the midst of such turmoil, the question will be who defines you? Is it God or people? Which voice do you listen more to?
Nicki Gumbel, Holy Trinity Brompton and Alpha founder said recently, “right now in Covid-19, we can either start with hearing the news or social media, in which case it´s like starting the day with fear and anxiety and distraction. Or we start with the Bible”.
It lies within our self-responsibility to say yes to my own responsibility for how I feel and how I behave, also in the storm.
It is so important to be reminded that God determines us and not what we do. As Jele Mailänder in her book “Herzheimat” described having more worked for God then with him. And in that she lost her inner “home”.
One exercise I have found incredibly helpful was taught by Dave Patty, Josiah Venture on writing down my inner convictions and resolves. What are some of the inner voices I listen to? When the going gets tough, what keeps me going? Being reminded that Daniel in the OT (in Daniel 1) had inner convictions, which helped him to take control of a situation instead of being overpowered by his refugee status. One of my personal resolves is: “I will not pester God with my why but with what for?”
- Discover what you are made for
Mark Twain speaks of the two most important days in our lives. The day we are born and the day we find out why.
As Christians, we know our destiny and our overall task of loving God and people. But what is your particular puzzle piece which would be missing if you would not exercise what you are gifted for?
Knowing it is not about how much you achieve for God but that you use the unique talents and gifts entrusted to you. As you keep checking that your tank of your spiritual life is filled, you will need to find an output. Blessed to be a blessing (Gen 12:2). It might look different today as it did 6 months ago, but your calling has not diminished. It is only adapting to the circumstances.
One of the things helping us on this journey is discovering our personal calling, discerning my unique gifts and skills. On this road to discovery, defining a personal mission statement can be hugely helpful to be able to say yes to the right things and no to things, which merely serve as a distraction to your purpose.
One of the ways of identifying yours is partaking in this process with some outside help. There is a free and brilliant booklet by Andy Andrews helping you to write yours.
Bobb Biehl, executive coach and speaker at the European Leadership Forum encourages us to create a list of milestones. For every 5 years or each decade, list areas where you have seen success, development or fruit in various areas of your life. This list will be an encouragement to discern what has worked well and in retrospect confirm your calling. But it will also be helpful when you might have failed in an area and feel like a loser. As we sometimes stumble through life, it does not mean we are failures because one thing went wrong. As many face the reoccurring question, “am I good enough?”, God is asking me to simply follow him where he leads.
- Exercise self-control
To know yourself better and discover what you were made for only is good on paper when not put into practise. To get you there, it takes self-control.
In exercising self-control, I intend to create the best of my family, my job, the circumstances and relationships. In doing so, I am conscious of constantly aiming for a balance not to run out of energy but refuel constantly. Refueling concerns your mind, spirit and body. It might look very different these days, but self-control will get us through these times like an engine.
Self-discipline is so hard to maintain because we need to put the cart before the horse. We only reap the benefits of it later. Instant gratification might come from a bar of chocolate but regret might also set in immediately.
As many of us are more home bound, do home schooling or as singles maybe have more free time etc., we need to find a new structure and rhythm for our lives. Instead of just living with the flow, we are asked to make decisions, create patterns of new recreation, working hours, time to recuperate and time where we sit down with God and let our souls be refreshed.
An exercise can be listing your motivational factors. What are your intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors and what kills these? And then reflecting about them before God to help identify the helpful and the destructive ones.
To be accountable to someone outside your home might really help you to get going here. This will take some openness and vulnerability but will be very rewarding as someone prays for you and cheers you on.
- Live in Community
We are made for community and will only be able to thrive in fellowship with other human beings. This lockdown has been hard especially for the extroverted, single parents, singles etc. as many situations have to be faced alone.
As one response to help this, Nay Dawson, IFES Europe has founded the initiative “Community in crisis”which helps churches to not just get online with their services but build community. In simple ways it might be posting food to a friend and enjoy dinner together online. Or meeting up online for a virtual coffee break. My friend Agnes Weichel has started online Bible lettering with single ladies. Another time they would watch an online service together and at the same time interact about the content. We also have just heard about the Alpha courses worldwide having doubled in attendees compared to before Covid-19. There is a real longing to meet the physical and spiritual needs.
Surely these days require us to think outside the box to enjoy people but it is not impossible. Especially in surviving these challenges, we need to do this in heart to heart fellowship. Alone we cannot succeed and come out healthy the other end.
Sometimes it is harder to come up with creative ideas on your own. How about getting together online as friends and brainstorm how you can build community and also include others?
These four ways of encouragement are just a teaser for more. As we focus on God and not primarily on this crisis, may our heads and hearts be lifted and filled with hope. God is still in control and wants us personally to come through these challenging times and at the same time also wants to use us to be his partners in reaching others with his love. Maybe like never before!
 Herzheimat = Home of the heart, https://www.amazon.de/Herzheimat-Dort-ankommen-Gott-wartet/dp/3417268583