Fighting Fear, Frustration, Fatigue, and Fog

This year has challenged and stretched us all, especially those who find themselves in leadership roles.  These unprecedented times have caused many of us to question our leadership abilities and capacities, our call, and at times even our own sanity and stability.  Have you had the thought this past year, “Can I just take a break from leading … a break from life!?!”  I have.  But we have had to continue to persevere, and we now find ourselves at the end of 2020. However, the aftereffects, trauma, and scars that 2020 brought with it will be felt for years to come.  
So how do we lead people into a new year when they are still dealing with the negative effects of the last one?  This is a question that I have been asking myself a lot as I have been reflecting and getting ready for 2021.  
I think the answer lies in knowing ourselves and the people we are leading and what they are feeling.  
I have found myself doing a lot of listening this year. I’ve been attentively listening to people describe what they have been fighting against during this season. These conversations have revealed that there are four distinct feelings that have been resonating within people and holding them captive.  People are dealing with fear, frustration, fatigue, and fog.  These four feelings are also resonating in culture and the church. 
Let’s take a look at each of these.  

FEAR

People are feeling fear, fear of the unknown, of getting sick, losing a job, or not being able to pay their bills.  People are also living in fear for elderly family members and friends, and the fear of death seems to be heightened.  This fear can be paralyzing if not dealt with. I know of people who are even afraid to leave their own home, and the constant barrage of information on social media and the news has not helped to reduce this fear.  In fact, it has just made it worse.  The opposite of fear is confidence.  When there is a lack of confidence, fear has a way of creeping in. Unfortunately, it has been hard to find something or someone in our culture today to put our confidence in.  As followers of Jesus, we need to remember that our complete confidence can only be found in Jesus.  Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge.”   As Christian leaders, we must continually remind those we lead to put their confidence in the Lord, not in men, not in political powers or governments.  We need to trust in the promise that God’s children always have a refuge in Him, and we do not need to live in fear.

FRUSTRATION

Frustration seems to be at an all-time high.  People are frustrated with the government, with rules and lock-downs, with their circumstances, with each other, and with the church.  Often this frustration manifests itself through anger and outbursts or a sense of giving up, and if not dealt with on a personal level it can lead to a root of bitterness forming within.  As a result of frustration, people are giving up on relationships, establishments, political parties, brands, leaders, and the list goes on.  The cancel culture that has evolved this year is alarming, and even the church is not immune.  It seems that when the church does not do exactly what someone wants, they even cancel the church and walk away.  Long established members and attenders of good local churches are moving on and moving out due to frustration. The opposite of frustration is satisfaction. 

When there is a lack of satisfaction and contentment, frustration has a way of creeping in.  The question we must ask ourselves is what are we finding satisfaction in. Isaiah 58:11 says “The LORD will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones.  You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry.”  When we look to the Lord for satisfaction and contentment, we will not feel lost or dried up.  We will be strengthened and renewed and much better equipped to deal with any frustration that tries to creep up within us. Governments, leaders, pastors, friends, and family members will all let us down at some point; however, God will never let us down.  He always has our best interests in mind.  If we are truly satisfied in Him, we will feel less frustrated with others. 

FATIGUE

People are tired.  Parents are tired of homeschooling their kids.  Digital fatigue is at an all-time high.  Pastors and church leaders are tired, and this country is tired of all the conflict and negativity.  When you are tired, you are less likely to be motivated to change and move forward.  We tend to settle and give up when we are tired. There seems to be no rest in sight from an earthly perspective.  When people are tired, they are also less likely to serve others.  The opposite of fatigue is to feel refreshed.  We need to remind those we serve to refresh themselves in the power of the Almighty God. As we move into 2021, we are going to have to motivate those that we lead to find their rest in God.  Being with other believers and serving together is a way for us to feel refreshed.  Over and over in Scripture, we see this principle emphasized.  The Apostle Paul frequently expressed how he felt refreshed when he was around others in the body of Christ.  Even though we feel tired and fatigued, we need to press forward and continue to live in community with and serve others for Kingdom impact.  We need to find our rest in the Lord.

FOG

Many people are living in a fog.  For them 2020 has been so overwhelming, they aren’t sure how to process it and what to do.  When you think of a fog, you visualize haze, confusion, and the inability to see right in front of you.  People can’t see down the road.  They don’t know what to do, how to move forward, or how to process the emotions that they are feeling.  To quote one of my favorite movies, “Mom’s Night Out”, people have become stress-paralyzed from the fog. The opposite of fog is clarity.  We need to guide people towards the clarity of God’s truth like never before.  

Absolute truth is absent from our culture.  There are so many differing political views, expert opinions, and contradictory information that people do not know what to believe.  They don’t know what’s true.  This leads to the inability to make a decision or process what they believe. People often shut down, unable to process all the competing voices.  Directing people to the truth found in God and His Word will help people navigate 2021.  It will help them find their compass and clarity again.  John 8:32 confirms that if you are in the Word of God, you will “ … know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.  Meditating on God’s truth can set us free from all the negative feelings we experience.  The first steps are often the hardest when you feel like you cannot move.  We need to push people to continually take their next step with Jesus, even if it is a small one.  We must push through the fog.    
I don’t know what 2021 holds for us as a nation, a church, as families, or as individuals. But I do know who holds the future.  2020 has come to a close, and we have all at some point felt fear, frustration, fatigue, and fog.  Now it’s time to deal with these feelings and move into the new year with clarity expecting God to do great things in and through us.  As followers of Christ, we must exchange our fears for confidence, our frustration for satisfaction, our fatigue for refreshment, and our fog for clarity - all of which can only be found in Christ.  

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