3 Ways God Delivers Us From Dismay


Be not dismayed, for I am your God

Isaiah 41:10


As we start 2018 we are focusing on God’s special role through us as leaders. We tend to think what we do determines what we achieve for Him and forget that what He wants us to do is beyond anything we can do apart from His enablement So as we begin 2018 we aim to transform our fear into freedom, our inferiority into confidence, and our emptiness into God’s fullness for us as leaders. Last week we focused on the sense of God’s presence that delivers us from fear. Today we turn to our dependence on God’s power that delivers us from dismay, a concept we don’t often discuss but a struggle that is even deeper than fear.


Few responses distort leaders more than the struggle of dismay. Dismay is not a very common term among leaders, so often we don’t realize how dominant and destructive this feeling is among us nor how deep these concerns are within us. It’s amazing how distressing this feeling is and how intensive its impact is on us.


If you think through the most common synonyms associated with this term you will rapidly see that it is one of the most harmful feelings a leader can have. Consider these words to realize how greatly we struggle with this issue.


Unnerved: the loss of confidence that impacts leaders when we feel overwhelmed by a situation we cannot overcome.


Perplexed: the uncertainty we face in a situation we cannot understand or resolve, but we still have to lead the way forward.


Disheartened: the struggle that comes when we face a circumstance in which we need courage but only find discouragement and the desire to escape.


Disappointed: the way we feel about ourselves when we lose a sense of confidence and security and our followers turn away from us.


Despair: the absence of hope that removes expectation, and robs us of motivation.


Isaiah tells us that God’s solution to dismay is to trust the great I AM, the one who meets our needs because He is the covenant making God, the promising One who constantly calls on us to lead our followers through overwhelming situations that He always overcomes through us as we trust Him. To overcome through God’s enablement we must trust Him no matter how inadequate we are.


1. We must take God at His word no matter how doubtful it is.


God tells us to obey His word when that looks foolish and even our followers doubt our leadership. Many times God’s word does not make sense, but we obey it anyway. Then He comes through, and we see that He was working all along to meet our needs, enable us to lead, and bring us to the blessing He had all along for us.


2. We must trust God even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.


In times of uncertainty as leaders we most need to trust God even though we’re not sure He will come through. We must trust Him for His enablement and communicate this confidence to our followers so they will learn to trust Him. There are times when He doesn’t make sense, and we only discover how trustworthy He is as we obey Him against all common sense. As leaders we help our followers grow confidence in God as we show them how to rely on Him when such confidence appears to be foolishness until He meets our needs as we count on Him.


3. We must obey God no matter how stressed we are.


We often feel overwhelmed by God’s call for our obedience. Sometimes He calls on us to do something we have never done before and our followers don’t see how it makes any sense to do what they see as foolishness. They criticize us, disrespect us, rebel against us, and want to turn from us. We must lead them against their own interests as we call for them to learn to trust God when it makes no sense to do that.


When God called Moses to be a leader He called him to go against Pharaoh, the most powerful man in his world. Moses spent forty years learning to live Pharaoh’s way then forty years learning to live the way Pharaoh despised. The greatest leader on earth had no respect for a shepherd, yet that powerless shepherd was far more powerful than the greatest king on earth. He did not have that power because of himself; he had that power because of the great I AM who kept His word and worked through Moses’ weakness to make him the kind of leader He wanted him to be. Moses was dismayed, but I AM was determined, and the power of the determined I AM overcame the weakness of the dismayed Moses.


So it is with you. When you learn to take God at His word, trust God despite your weakness, and obey God even when you are, you, a dismayed man, become an enabled leader through the great I AM.




Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.