Hunger Pains

Leaders often find themselves coming up against the same problem: How do you get fed while you are feeding others? This is especially important within the Church. If we get too hungry or burned out, we run the risk of hurting other people’s spiritual conditions. This is why we need to stay aware of the warning signs of burnout while also recognizing that a leader gets fed differently than those they are leading.
As a mom, I find myself fixing food for my family a lot. I’m the one who plans most meals, shops for the ingredients, prepares the meal, and cleans up the meal. I am in all respects the leader of the food in my house. My decisions on the foods I purchase and ultimately the meals I make either lead my family to a healthy lifestyle or a not so healthy lifestyle. However, no matter what stage of life we are in at my house…bringing home the new baby stage when momma barely gets to eat to where we sit down most nights and eat together as a family, I rarely eat first and I rarely get the portion I would love to have. It’s the sacrifice I am willing to make as a mom because I want to feed my family well. Somehow and someway, I still get to eat.
The same is true for leaders. We plan, prepare, and do over and over again. We are constantly pouring into tasks and pouring into others, often with little acknowledgment and praise. We miss out on the “hot food” because we are busy tending to others. But you know what? We still get to eat something, and for that, we need to be thankful.
As a leader, many times I find the nourishment I need in little glimpses of hope and growth in people, a kind gesture of thanks (without a production), or a word of encouragement from the Holy Spirit. As Christian leaders, we should also get our nourishment from doing the will of the Father.
When Jesus sat down at Jacob’s Well in John 4, he was hungry. The disciples had left Jesus at the well to go in search of food in the neighboring towns. However after Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, and upon the disciples return, Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Confused, the disciples thought someone had given him food in their absence. Jesus continued by saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
Let’s not get crazy and think Jesus never ate. He did. But Jesus never fed Himself first. His concern was to feed the people. He knew His nourishment would eventually come. So will ours if we don’t give up.
As leaders, we need to be more like Jesus. We need to be okay with the fact that if we believe we have been called by God in some form or fashion to a leadership position, we will not always be fed in the same way as those we are leading. We put in more work, and we don’t have time to get fed as much, but God will provide the nourishment we need according to His will.
Instead of complaining about the amount of food we feel we are or aren’t receiving, let's find ways to be fed by making choices that result in nourishment, not more tasks:
  1. Spend time daily in the Word of God. God’s Word is food for our souls. As we sit with Him and as we read the Bible, He replenishes us with power and encouragement through the Holy Spirit. If we are not spending time with the One who feeds us, we will feel hungry no matter how little or how much we are doing.
  2. Spend time in active prayer. Take your burdens and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Be honest and tell Him you are tired, anxious, frustrated or need help. Ask Him for direction. Ask Him to show you a way to be fed while still being able to perform the leadership duties you are called to do. Jesus was the only leader for quite a long time. He would intentionally go away to pray to the Father (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12).
  3. Recognize that a leader is called to a higher responsibility. Acts 20:28 says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his blood.” God has asked leaders to care for people. Leaders decrease as He increases (John 3:30). 
I have left the dinner table many nights with hunger pains because I gave my portion to my husband or my children. I’ve had seasons of immense hunger when I had newborns at home and couldn’t find the time to consume enough calories to replace what my babies were taking from me so their bodies could grow. Those seasons don’t last forever.
Your hunger season won’t last forever, either.
Keep doing the will of the Father. Run your race with endurance. Push passed the hunger because there are people out there who are truly hungry that need to know the food and water that can nourish their souls forever. 

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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