The Leader and Emotion: Vengeance

When someone has opposed your leadership, have you ever wished you could just hit them in the face? Or, knowing that action doesn’t sound very Christian, did you wish God would do the same?

Every leader has moments when the natural response is to take revenge and see someone else suffer. David certainly had these times in his life as he experienced opposition from many different places. Psalm 109 records one of these situations.  

1My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, 2for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 3With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. 4In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. 5They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship. 6Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand.  When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. 8May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. 9May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. 10May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. 11May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor…. 27Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it. 28While they curse, may you bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may your servant rejoice. 29May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. 30With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD; in the great throng of worshippers I will praise him. 31For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them (Psalm 109:1-11; 27-31).

Vengeance should be recognized. David recognizes what he is feeling. He wants revenge! He wants those who oppose him to suffer! Vengeance is a strong emotion that stirs up intense feelings.

Many leaders would prefer not to acknowledge these kinds of feelings since they seem so wrong. But servant leaders learn to recognize vengeance. They acknowledge that it is better to recognize vengeance than to pretend it does not exist.

Vengeance should be revealed. David recognizes his emotion and writes it down for all of us to see! (There is more revealed if you take time to read the entire chapter!) Although David is a “leader after God’s own heart,” he is secure enough to be honest with what he feels and to share this with everyone.

Many Christian leaders find this emotion difficult to reveal since it seems so negative and so unlike Christ. What will others think about me if I reveal what I am feeling? Yet, until vengeance is revealed it cannot be redeemed. Servant leaders learn to reveal vengeance knowing that as they do, God will be able to direct them to deal with it in an appropriate way.

Vengeance should be restrained. While David revealed his desire for vengeance on his enemies, he fortunately did not act on his feelings! Instead, he goes to worship with others. As he worships, David understands that it is God who will “save their lives from those who would condemn them.”

Servant leaders learn to restrain their vengeance. They don’t allow their leadership position to become a place to attack their enemies. They learn to join with others in worship and turn their desire for revenge over to God. He is the only one that can save us from those who condemn us as He also saves us from the poison of revenge in our own hearts.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When is the last time I was hurt and really wanted revenge? What situation produced this emotion? Did I acknowledge and reveal my emotion or pretend it wasn’t there? Did I take it to God and ask Him to deliver me from the poison of revenge in my own heart?
  • Reflect on Romans 12:17-21. What does it mean to “leave room for God’s wrath”? How can God change my heart so that I am able to bless my enemy? 
  • Is it possible for our desire for vengeance to be in line with God’s judgement of wickedness? How do we know when our hearts and His are aligned?       

The Leader and Emotion: Anxiety

What will happen to me tomorrow? Will I be able to pay the bills? Can I overcome the obstacles I am facing? What if I lose my job?

Every leader deals with questions like these about the future. These questions can easily lead to anxiety—a feeling of worry or nervousness about an imagined threat or future event.* In this issue, we’ll examine how David experienced the emotion of anxiety and what we can learn as servant leaders from his life.

16Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? 17Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. 19When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. 20Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? 21The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. 22But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. 23He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them. (Psalm 94:16-23)

Anxiety should be recognized. David has many questions as he wrestles with God in this psalm. He questions whether there will be justice for those who oppose him. These questions troubled him to the extent that he felt that his “foot is slipping,” and could lead him to the “silence of death.” In the middle of his questions he recognizes that he has anxiety in his heart.

Anxiety is usually seen as a negative emotion, so it is more difficult for leaders to acknowledge. David might have paused to ask himself, “What am I feeling?” At least he recognized his emotion of anxiety.

Many leaders don’t stop to recognize what they are feeling and may not even be aware of the anxiety in their souls. But servant leaders learn to recognize anxiety and be honest about what they are feeling.

Anxiety should be revealed. David recognizes his anxiety and brings it to the surface. Because anxiety is not a healthy or positive emotion, many leaders try to ignore it, to pretend that it’s not there or to call it by another name! But David is honest enough to admit that he has a “great” amount of anxiety!

We can learn from David that anxiety thrives in secrecy but can be dealt with when it is revealed. Servant leaders learn to reveal their anxiety. They find a trusted friend or counselor with whom they can be completely honest. They are not afraid to say, “I’m filled with anxiety about….” Sometimes the honest confession is enough to break the grip of anxiety in the life of the leader.

Anxiety should be restrained. All leaders look towards the future and can be immobilized by anxiety and unanswered questions. But David’s response to his anxiety shows us that this emotion does not need to control our leadership. As he revealed his anxiety, he quickly came to a place of hope. God’s “consolation” brought him joy to replace the anxiety. In the final verses of this chapter, he acknowledges that God is his “fortress” and the One who will take care of his future.

David teaches us to focus on the One who controls the future, instead of the lies our enemy wants us to believe. Servant leaders learn to restrain their anxiety as they trust God for their future and then lead others with courage.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What situations in my own life bring me the greatest temptation to be anxious? 
  • How aware am I that I feel anxious? Am I able to quickly recognize this emotion?
  • Are there fears that keep me from revealing to others that I am anxious about the future? What does this say about what is happening in my soul?
  • What is at the root of my anxiety? What lies am I believing about myself, this situation, or about God?
  • In what way does my anxiety represent a lack of trust in God?
  • Reflect on 1 Peter 5:7. What does this verse teach me about my anxiety?

*We have already examined how David responded to fear which relates to a known danger or event. Anxiety differs from fear as it focuses on a future imagined event.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.