Fresh out of college and full of hope, enthusiasm, and confidence, I was ready to change the world, one pimply teenager at a time. As the school year crawled by, the demands of teaching 125 high school students wore on my optimism. Those kids seemed impervious to my influence, and there were so many things I needed to change to get my classroom running more smoothly.
By Christmas break, I was a disgruntled teacher battling a serious case of discontentment (and considering a new line of work!).
Leadership, both in ministry and at home, can leave us with a bad case of discontentment as well. Seeing what could be done better is the hallmark of an effective leader, but the constant focus on what's wrong can also lead to unhappiness. Instead of seeing what God can do, we see what's not possible. Rather than noticing the resources God's given us, we see only what we lack. We're blind to our team's strengths.
It's easy to excuse discontentment in the name of responsibility. After all, you don't want to become complacent. You're just trying to make things better!
But Scripture's challenge to find contentment in all circumstances doesn't exclude leaders. Here are a few practical things you can do to take hold of contentment, even as it tries to escape your grasp.
Start networking. I was in the throes of starting a new women's ministry. The day-to-day, week-to-week responsibilities overwhelmed me. Tending to the urgent narrowed my focus, and after a few months of bleary-eyed leadership, I suffered from leadership myopia. All I could see was what was wrong with our church, our women, and my team. Leading wasn't fun, to say the least.
I decided to reach out to a friend who had been doing women's ministry for several years. As we talked over hot coffee, I realized my struggles were normal, common, and certainly not something worth losing the joy of leading over. My friend gave me a few ministry suggestions, and a sense of peace returned.
Networking with leaders in similar positions broadens your view of leadership. Are you in women's ministry? Talk to a leader from a different church. Are your kids your primary sphere of influence? Find other moms to connect with. Do you make an impact in the workplace? Look for people who are in the same field to share ideas. Building relationships and exchanging ideas with others staves off the loneliness that can creep into a leader's heart and provides solutions for the challenges you face.
Make a list. I struggled with challenge after challenge while planning a leadership event. The website was down—again! The volunteers I was supposed to be organizing refused to be wrangled. The host church almost backed out two days before the event.