Episode 256:

The Question Behind the Question

Suffering and Overwhelm

November 15, 2022

The question behind the question suffering and overwhelm

The question behind the question seeks to explore how Christian leaders address, guide, and lead others through the questions we’re facing today. Church leadership is exciting, challenging, and filled with questions. Often, the question that is verbally asked is not the question that needs to be addressed. In this second episode of this miniseries, explore the question behind the question of suffering and overwhelm.

Here’s what you’ll hear in this episode:

The Overwhelm of the News

Reading the news headlines can easily lead to overwhelm.  When the headlines come close to home, you can feel inundated, uncertain, and vulnerable. From personal health to your family’s health and safety to a rising and falling stock market, and rising prices of everyday goods and services, life can feel like a lot. 

Still in the midst of the overwhelm, you’re seeking to lead people to follow Jesus, trying to make a difference in the world.

Nehemiah on Overwhelm

They told me, “Those in the province who survived the captivity are in great trouble and shame! The wall around Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire!”

What does Nehemiah do hearing that news? Among the myriad of responses, Nehemiah chooses to pray. Then he raised his hand to be one of God’s people to help. Nehemiah was stepping out and risking a lot. As the cupbearer to the king, he was in a unique place of influence. 

Nehemiah 2: Since I had never seemed sad in his presence, 2 the king asked me, “Why do you seem sad? Since you aren’t sick, you must have a broken heart!” I was very afraid 3 and replied, “May the king live forever! Why shouldn’t I seem sad when the city, the place of my family’s graves, is in ruins and its gates destroyed by fire?”4 The king asked, “What is it that you need?” I prayed to the God of heaven 5 and replied, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, please send me to Judah, to the city of my family’s graves so that I may rebuild it.”

We’re seeing Nehemiah’s character as he becomes a leader. Once he arrives, he moves into action inspecting the walls, finding the craftsmen, and began his work. Nehemiah knew there was an urgent need to protect the people. 

It’s safe to say Nehemiah was experiencing overwhelm. The people and places he loved were suffering. He was living at a distance. It would have been easy to utter the words, “What can I do to make any difference?” He prayed.

Nehemiah’s Leadership

First, Nehemiah prays. His prayer leads him to share a request with the king. We might say he acted with courage. Second, Nehemiah responds to the pain of others – in prayer and action. Then he acted strategically. He led people to act. Nehemiah is a leader who follows God and takes action that is prayerful, researched, and strategic. Could it be that as leaders, in times of suffering and overwhelm we can learn something from Nehemiah? 

The Question Behind the Question

How are we leading by following God’s leading? So instead of focusing on the overwhelm in the face of suffering, focus on God and ask God to lead you to a response. Keep focused on Jesus. How often is overwhelm a distraction that calls us from God? And sometimes we create our own overwhelm. 

We don’t want to downplay the overwhelm and suffering all around us. But we need reminders that as Christ-centered leaders our focus needs to be on our source of hope. Our actions need to guide people to the One who helps us to respond. Our leadership needs to be grounded in the love of God we know in Jesus. There is a fine line between remaining aware and getting consumed.

Suffering and Overwhelm or Power & Control?

Experiencing suffering in the world is often a sign your heart is filled with compassion. Compassion means literally “to suffer with.” It’s likely part of what makes you a great leader, a great pastor, and a tremendous follower of Jesus. But please don’t attempt to take the place of Jesus. You will not only exhaust yourself, but you will spread overwhelm not peace. What is within your power to do? Do it. What is God’s to control? Give it to Jesus.

And there you have it. The question behind the question is about power and control. It’s about playing God instead of seeking God. When you see and experience suffering and are overwhelmed, what is within your power?

It’s really a lesson in what it means to be a leader who follows God’s leadership. Nehemiah stands as an example of one who takes action that is well-researched, strategic, and prayerful.

Previous Episodes in this Series

Episode 255 – The Question Behind the Question of Grief, Pain, and God’s Presence