When Leaders Disappoint Us, How Do We Overcome Our Pain and Keep Moving Forward?

By Bunni Pounds Published on May 22, 2024

Whether from our elected officials or ministry leaders, we have experienced some huge letdowns over the last six months in America.

Many in the pro-life movement are deeply disappointed that after a national victory for righteousness in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, our Republican candidate for president won’t stand up for a federal ban on abortion. A rising star in politics to whom people flocked — Arizona’s Kari Lake — also took what many Christians perceived to be a compromising position on the sanctity of human life in her gubernatorial race, following former President Donald Trump’s lead.

All most of us have to do to become extremely discouraged with government and wonder if there is any hope is look at the breakdown in Congress.

I also found out this week that one of my friends in Congress has been having an affair with a married man who also is serving there. It breaks our hearts when leaders we look up to seem to lose their way.

Meanwhile, the global prayer movement has been shaken by a scandal at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, and documentaries keep being made about Hillsong and leadership failures within some parts of that movement. Southern Baptists and Catholics are facing controversies on multiple fronts as well. Everywhere we look, there seems to be some failure in leadership at some level.

Disappointment Can Lead to Apathy

When leaders disappoint us, we can grow apathetic and discouraged. That is something we must push back against as hard as we can in our own hearts.

Failures in politics give rise to an apathetic electorate who don’t see much difference between the candidates, and who have a hard time getting excited to go to the polls. Failures in ministry can lead to a lost passion for church, desire to be a part of a vision or contribute to a movement, and trust. Losing faith in our leaders is detrimental to both our spiritual health and our nation’s civic health.

Dealing with leaders is something we will always have to do in our lives. Making hard choices between people who often don’t act like Jesus is a quandary we have to deal with as believers.

Disappointment is a powerful force that attempts to take over our hearts. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

So the question is: How do we stir up “desire” for life and the will to move forward when hope has exited our hearts?

Look to Jesus, the Worthy Leader

First, we need to put our eyes back on Christ Jesus — the worthy Leader and “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We need to renew our minds to the fact that we were the “joy set before Him” when Christ endured the cross. He loves us so much that He died, was buried, and then was resurrected to give us newness of life. He is the ultimate Leader who cares for us.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted just as we are, in every way — so He faced disappointment in others, too. He made it through the pain by talking to His Father every day. I am sure He processed His feelings in great detail, up on the mountain alone with Father God. And this is the key to how we can make it through our disappointments and confusion to find healing and comfort as well.

Realizing that God is ultimately our “Good Shepherd” (Psalm 23) who is here to restore our souls and keep us from destruction — even in the “shadow of death” and human disappointment — keeps our vision clear to move forward. When leaders fail us — and they will — we have a choice: Will we focus on human frailty and grow bitter? Or will we look back at the faithful and consistent character of God and stay faithful to His call? As the old song says,

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

It is difficult to turn our eyes back on Jesus in the middle of pain and disappointment, but it is the only way to keep moving forward, to keep our souls free, and to stop apathy and complacency in their tracks.

Wrong Is Wrong

When we are thinking about leaders we love and respect, it is easy to just gloss over what they have said, wrong positions they have taken, or think their failures are “not as bad as some others’.” Many times, we want to ignore the disappointment and not even address it. But reacting like that and staying in the muddy middle doesn’t help us overcome disappointment or move forward with clarity.

Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it or does it. Wrong statements, wrong actions, and wrong policy positions must be called out either publicly (if it was a public offense) or privately if it was not. Either way, we cannot ignore it. We must deal with it, even if it is just within our own hearts.

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When we look at candidates in a particular race, we might not want to highlight our favorite’s failures or wrong opinions because we don’t want the opposition to win. In ministry, we don’t want to speak against a movement that has blessed us or add ours to the voices busy “tearing down” versus “building up.”

All of this is understandable, but whether we say something publicly or deal with it privately, we must come to the point where we admit that the leader was wrong, and then deal with our feelings about that. Our opinions cannot be based on anything but the Word of God. On that foundation, we must stand firm as we deal internally with our disappointment.

Choosing Between Imperfect Leaders

Many times in our lives — whether in choosing a church to attend, which leaders to submit to, dealing with leadership on the job, or selecting candidates to support or volunteer for — we have to choose between imperfect people.

We must work with what we have. Our options are never perfect, which means we must analyze the big picture and not get caught up in trivial details.

How do we make those decisions and attempt to see the big picture of leadership?

We must return to the fundamentals. For example, the Word of God tells us we shouldn’t be out of Christian fellowship or “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25), so we have to choose between imperfect churches with imperfect leaders in order to obey God’s instructions for our spiritual health.

With political candidates, we must look at their whole record and what they believe on multiple issues. And even though we may be disappointed with them over a big issue, we still have to select between the candidates on the ballot. That choice should be based on their entire records. We can’t sit out an election because that will affect the nation for years to come and impact multiple other issues we care about along the way.

Dealing with leaders is something we will always have to do in our lives. Making hard choices between people who often don’t act like Jesus is a quandary we have to deal with as believers. The alternative — stuffing the disappointments, then diving deep into apathy and complacency — is not a good long-term solution. Even worse: that reaction could steal from us great joy and fulfillment in the years ahead.

How we choose to handle disappointments with leadership can leave us deep in a pit of despair for a very long time, or it can give us a story of overcoming bitterness to walk in freedom and fruitfulness.

We have a choice. How will we respond when we encounter disappointments with leaders? It is up to us to turn our eyes back on Jesus and walk free.

 

Bunni Pounds is president and founder of Christians Engaged, a ministry activating the Body of Christ to pray, vote, and engage regularly. Formerly a congressional candidate and 16-year political consultant, she is a motivational speaker and Bible teacher. Her book, Jesus and Politics: One Woman’s Walk with God in a Mudslinging Profession, was released in February 2024. Order it now. She also is the host of “Conversations With Christians Engaged,” seen here on The Stream each week. Connect with her on Facebook @bunnipoundsTX, X @bunnipounds, or Instagram @bunnipounds.

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