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The Best Leaders Are Broken Leaders

When at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified greatly by our means, and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint. It might be imagined that amid special favors our soul would soar to heights of ecstasy, and rejoice with joy unspeakable, but it is generally the reverse. The Lord seldom exposes his warriors to the perils of exultation over victory; he knows that few of them can endure such a test, and therefore dashes their cup with bitterness.

In other words, depression often catches us off guard because it follows victory as much as it follows defeat.

That tendency to withdraw, to isolate, to allow the negative thoughts to override truth, can be the result of quite natural causes such as a backlash to the adrenaline rush of passionately preaching to a welcoming crowd or a natural imbalance in the chemicals in our brains.

When I hear a fellow Christian speak about depression as an issue of spiritual warfare that merely requires more faith and prayer, I always say Yes!!! AND…you should also talk to your doctor about possible physical causes and a counselor about the role of past traumatic experiences. Let’s approach the issue holistically.

In other words, sometimes depression can be the result of unconfessed sin. It can also be the result of our circumstances. It may sometimes be satanic oppression. It can simply be the natural low we experience after the emotional high of a victorious moment. And it can also be a physical issue on the same level as diabetes or chronic anemia.

Regardless of the cause, here are three huge lessons I’ve had to learn about humble leadership over the last few years.

Humble Leadership Lesson #1: Denying our brokenness doesn’t work for long.

I spent at least a dozen years trying to be the best pastor I could be. I wanted to fit the role, lead well and, if I’m being honest, impress the church and keep everybody happy.

So I wore my suit and my smile and tried to do all the pastor things people expect the pastor to do.

And when criticism came or when conflict arose, I bottled it away so that I could later use it as an excuse to check out mentally and emotionally from real engagement with people.

When Angie and I moved to southern California where I joined the staff as a pastor at Saddleback Church, I was badly broken and I didn’t even know it.

Within the first couple of months of life in our new surroundings, various pressures brought my pain to the surface. Our marriage struggled under the weight of it until a couple of breaking points occurred.

We joined a small group that embraced us, helped us to finally open up about our issues, and encouraged us in our walk.

I also saw our staff counselor, who would provide counseling to any staff member in absolute confidence.

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Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.