Spirituality and Leadership

By: Diane Chandler
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

In my blog last week, I addressed how a leader’s background informs his or her adult leadership style.  From the Hebrew Bible, I contrasted David’s secure attachment to God (forged early in his life) with the ongoing anxious attachment style evidenced by Saul.  Saul’s uncontrollable jealousy and rage are ample indications of the insecurity that infiltrated Saul’s life and leadership. 

The contrasting lives of David and Saul become classrooms for understanding leadership and spirituality ~ specifically how their relationship with God informed (or in Saul’s case, did not inform) their leadership.  The contrast could not be more glaring!

As I read the Psalms attributed to David, one prominent observation concerns David’s utter dependence upon God through the leadership trials he encountered.  And he encountered many ~ namely death threats, opposition, criticism, rejection, mutiny, and troubles of his own making, including ethical breaches and moral failures.

What sustained David through these times?

From a careful reading of the Psalms, what sustained David was his dependence upon the love (Heb. hesed) of God. The Psalms attributed to David are replete with thanks to God for his hesed for past deliverance and cries for God’s unfailing love to continue to deliver and restore him.  See Psalms 6, 13, 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 31, 36, 40, 51, 52, 57, 60, 61, 63, 96, 70, 86, 101, 103, 108, 138, 143, and 145.  [Also refer to Dale Coulter’s blog of May 14th, which assessed translations of hesed.]  

David learned how to bed himself in the palm of God’s unfailing love as an automatic default when in crisis. 

Although difficult to translate into English, the meaning of hesed has been shown to connect with God’s covenantal relationship to those who “belong to him” (Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms, 1981, pp. 120-21).  In his book Hesed in the Bible, Nelson Glueck further defines hesed: “To him [David], for whom communion with God is the greatest good, God’s hesed, His love for His followers, is comparable to God’s goodness” (1975, p. 95). Gordon R. Clark notes that hesed includes grace, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, reliability, confidence, and love; yet is much broader than any of these combined (The Word Hesed in the Hebrew Bible, 1993, pp. 267-68).

David’s spirituality informed his leadership with all of its successes and failures because his automatic reflex was to cast himself upon the hesed of God. Saul evidences little to none of this kind of dependence upon or trust in God’s mercy and loving-kindness.

Often when leadership trials come, we might conclude that God is not with us.  Yet David’s spiritual default to leadership crises was to dive headlong into God’s presence, crying out for his loving kindness.  He pressed in boldly.  How can our spirituality inform our leadership with this kind of trust?

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Diane Chandler
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11 Responses to “Spirituality and Leadership”

  1. Stephen Hightower says:

    Dr. Chandler,
    Some of David’s Psalms reflect his feeling that God is not just far away, but has completely abandoned him. Yet as the song progresses, he transitions to confidence in God’s love and faithfulness. I have found many times that there is something about singing about God’s faithfulness that stirs my faith even when it seems at its lowest. Sometimes I sing out of head knowledge alone, yet as I keep singing my awareness of God’s presence increases. Then I can sing from my spirit, confident He is already at work in my circumstances. I wonder sometimes that David’s music calmed Saul when he was oppressed, yet Saul never seemed to find a song of his own.

  2. Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

    Stephen,

    Yes, some of the Psalms attributed to David do reflect this sense of “God, where are you?” I’ve looked more deeply at Psalm 31, where we see a familiar pattern in psalmody of confession of trust and petition, lament, affirmation of deliverance, praise for God’s response, and (in this specific psalm) an exhortation to others to love the Lord. Yet, even in the depth of lament, David clings to God’s hesed as his only hope for deliverance from enemies, threat, and even friends who have betrayed him.

    You have further contrasted the differences between David and Saul in noting how Saul could not seem to enter the presence of the Lord for himself.

    It begs the question for Christian leaders related to how we must learn how to nurture our souls in the Lord’s presence. Put another way, how can the soil of the leader’s soul be tilled such that we can hear from the Lord and be nurtured by Him?

  3. Deb Vaughn says:

    David chose to vent his deepest heartaches and frustrations to God, and while not knowing what the outcome would be, trusted that God “had his back.” It is a true “gut check” — believing that God was there in the times of greatest wounding or loss.

    Facing the hard stuff hand-in-hand with God is not easy. My very human response is to complain or wonder “why me?” When I think of the painful situations I have walked through, while none of them have been particularly “fun” I am still very much aware that God’s love was surrounding me. Even in times of questioning, and yes, anger, there was still a sense of God’s patient Presence.

    As I told someone recently, “when I figure out the answer to the ‘WHY??’ of a situation, I have usually just about gotten through it. It’s what helps me take that next painful step of faith.”

    Thinking that God “owes” me an explanation, or worse, that I should be exempt from these trials is a misstep. And, I submit, this sense of entitlement (or pride) is why Saul brooded and drew away from God, instead of running towards God.

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Deb,

      Thank you for your insightful response regarding these gut-level issues related to how to navigate the crucible of leadership challenge. Your point that we are not exempt from these trials infers that this is one of God’s ways of refining the Christian leader. It is never easy, thrusts us into seeking God for sensemaking, and also purifies our hearts and motives.

      Your observation about Saul’s brooding which resulted in feuding supports your contrast of David’s model of thrusting into God’s loving kindness and mercy.

      What a place to be that when opposition comes (as it most certainly will) I am not defeated or overcome by it, but rather posit my identity in His love, knowing that though others misunderstand or misrepresent me, He sees me as I am and loves me. I’m reminded if they did it to a green tree, what will they do to a tree that is dry (Luke 23:31)?

  4. Joyce Ojiaku says:

    Shalom! Dr. Chandler, I’m so blessed reading this post and I’m stirred up to share. Your comment and question, “He pressed in boldly. How can our spirituality inform our leadership with this kind of trust?” Full of nuggets!! Thank you.

    As I carefully read the book of Psalms in my daily walk with God (Psalm 98:8, Psalm 149:6, Psalm 23), I’ve come to conclude that although David pressed in daringly; He had a divine charisma and personal superiority that gave him influence, power and ability over emotions, situations, demons and even men. This charisma possessed by David is indefinable, cannot be seen, weighed, measured or purchased. This genus of trust is what we need to affect our leadership spiritually and it can only come from the anointing of the Spirit. David’s destiny was loaded, thus he took his place in God’s kingdom.

    Stay Blessed in God’s glory!

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Joyce,

      I read with interest your reply. You present an interesting perspective related to David’s sense of charisma. As I read the Psalms, I see another perspective. Although David did evidence charisma, influence, power, and ability, none of these were able to launch him over the difficulties he encountered (i.e., jealousy opposition from Saul, 1 Sam. 18:8-16, 19; warfare against the Philistines, 1 Sam. 27; capture of his family, 1 Sam. 30:1-6; being driven from Abimelech, Ps. 34; when Doeg the Edomite betrayed him to Saul, 1 Sam. 21).

      And I wonder if what we might distill from the narratives in 1 and 2 Samuel as well as the Psalms is that despite all of our strengths, it is only the Lord who is our protector, defender, and source ~ not our leadership prowess, charisma, or ability.

      If this is true, then Christian leadership concerns an absolute trust in the Lord (as you suggest), with the foundation of our faith evidencing itself in humility and grace.

      Your thoughts are always welcome~

  5. Bruce says:

    Dr. Chandler,
    Some of David’s Psalms reflect his feeling that God is not just far away, but has completely abandoned him. Yet as the song progresses, he transitions to confidence in God’s love and faithfulness. I have found many times that there is something about singing about God’s faithfulness that stirs my faith even when it seems at its lowest. Sometimes I sing out of head knowledge alone, yet as I keep singing my awareness of God’s presence increases. Then I can sing from my spirit, confident He is already at work in my circumstances. I wonder sometimes that David’s music calmed Saul when he was oppressed, yet Saul never seemed to find a song of his own.

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Bruce,

      Yes, it does seem that in several of the Davidic Psalms that David cries out to God in utter desperation and pours out his lament to the Lord. Surrounding this recall of the desperate situation, David seems then to reflect upon the mercies of God in the past and rehearses His faithful interventions of the past. This desperation seems to align with faith and actually fuels it. I can so relate to the many times when I’ve been in seemingly impossible situations. Yet as I praise the Lord, the burdens are released to Him and by His grace He takes the weight of them upon Himself. This seems to be the core foundation of faith.

      I appreciate your observations about Saul’s not being able to find a song of his own. What might this say about his leadership style and effectiveness?

  6. Anita says:

    Diane, timely (for me!) insights in your last two articles, for application to personal perplexing-and-vexing circumstances at present. God is using you richly and mightily ! Thanks ….

    • Diane Chandler Diane Chandler says:

      Anita,
      Glad you are enjoying our blog. Hearing from folks that they are enjoying the posts is very encouraging. Thanks for reading and responding.

  7. Steve says:

    Dr. Chandler,
    Some of David’s Psalms reflect his feeling that God is not just far away, but has completely abandoned him. Yet as the song progresses, he transitions to confidence in God’s love and faithfulness. I have found many times that there is something about singing about God’s faithfulness that stirs my faith even when it seems at its lowest. Sometimes I sing out of head knowledge alone, yet as I keep singing my awareness of God’s presence increases. Then I can sing from my spirit, confident He is already at work in my circumstances. I wonder sometimes that David’s music calmed Saul when he was oppressed, yet Saul never seemed to find a song of his own.