The Elephant in the Room for Leaders: Feeling Discouraged

Encouragement for Pastors
Leadership Development
Spiritual Encouragement

The Truth Leaders Need to Accept to Move Forward: Feeling Discouraged is Normal

The Elephant in the Room for Leaders: Feeling Discouraged

Author M. Scott Peck begins his book The Road Less Traveled, with this rather blunt declaration, “life is difficult.” I quickly agree with him and would suggest that for some it is an understatement. Frankly, such a statement may assault your sensibilities due to the perception that Christians aren’t supposed to talk about feeling discouraged and are supposed to be fully happy in Jesus. We often work hard at hiding the experiential reality that indeed, “life is difficult.” Especially for leaders, there is often tremendous pressure to put on a show and make sure everything looks perfect, despite the reality of life’s difficulties.

Sometimes when the difficulties mount up, they seem to roll in like waves so that we are overcome by feelings of sadness and dejection. Then everything looks gloomy. There is no sunshine in our life, only clouds and darkness. We may find ourselves admitting, “I feel depressed.”

Christian Psychologist Dr. Les Carter wrote, “At any given point in time, as much as fifteen percent of the population experiences feelings of depression. That means that today over thirty million people will feel depressed, half of whom may be labeled as seriously or severely depressed. And while most of us may not have extended battles with depression, virtually no one is completely immune from it. We have imperfect personalities which interact with an imperfect sinful world and therefore we will have experiences with this emotion in some form or fashion.”

All of us know what it is to be discouraged; to be overcome by a feeling of sadness and as a result everything looks gloomy. Spirituality is not immunity from discouragement and even depression. Often we don’t realize the battles that are fought by those we respect for their passion and ministry for God.

Honest Words of Discouragement from a Leader:

“I am the subject of depression of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extreme of wretchedness as I go to… Personally I have often passed through this dark valley.”

Those words were spoken by one of the world’s greatest and most successful preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

What causes a man like that, or anyone else, to go through periods of great discouragement? Sometimes there are physical factors involved. Sometimes there are spiritual problems (sin is a great depressant). Yet often times the cause is upsetting circumstances. We live in mortal bodies in a world we can’t control, so these disappointing situations are inevitable.

Feeling Discouraged? Here’s Why Leaders Need to Acknowledge Those Feelings…

  1. In Jeremiah chapter twenty, we see Jeremiah was whipped and publically shamed in the stocks for preaching God’s word. He suffered great pain in the midst of living his life for the Lord. He cried out in sorrow telling the Lord he felt deceived and describing his hurts. God welcomed these cries, because he knew Jeremiah needed to process this hardship. After dispelling his feelings, Jeremiah’s thoughts turned to the love and grace of God. He was then able to persevere in his spiritual leadership mission and find peace in the Lord. So it is important for us personally to work through and acknowledge our hardships in order to move forward.
  1. In addition, acknowledging and empathizing with others who feel discouraged is important for leaders in order to show compassion and offer encouragement. We need to be able to work through dark feelings just as Jeremiah did. One of the most hurtful things for someone feeling discouraged is when they’re expected to just get over it. One of the best things for spiritual growth is when leaders come along side those who are discouraged and acknowledge their hardship. First we must acknowledge the difficulty and pain of a circumstance, before we can move forward to resolving the situation.

I encourage you to go forth feeling grateful for the many blessings of life, but preparing yourself internally for the inevitable challenges, by giving it all to God. Life and leadership are both difficult and rewarding. Leaning on God brings peace and perseverance for all seasons of your life journey.

If you’re a church leader, pastor, or the leader of a non-profit organization, are you looking for leadership training or team development help? Thanks to the backing of a generous foundation, LifeEquip is able to offer leadership and organizational training at highly reduced rates to meet the needs of smaller organizations. Some LifeEquip services include pastoral coaching, OLA, Everything DiSC, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, and Lead Like Jesus.


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Glenn C. StewartPastor & Church Coach
Glenn C. Stewart has forty years of experience leading churches, planting a church, and developing leaders. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology and leadership at the Orlando campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University, and as the chairman of the board of a Christian college and seminary. Along with his degrees in Bible and theology he has a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Glenn has a heart for serving pastors and being a spiritual mentor.


Glenn C. Stewart
Glenn C. StewartChurch & Pastor Coach

Authorship Credentials:

  • Adjunct Professor of Theology and Leadership
  • Certified as a Human Behavior Consultant
  • Authorized Wiley Everything DiSC© Partner
  • Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) Partner
  • Certified Facilitator of Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus Encounter Groups
  • Certified Facilitator of CPP Personality, Career, and Organizational Development Assessments
  • International Speaker and Trainer


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