One of the greatest monsters that I wrestle with in my leadership is being confident in the calling and gifting God has for me. I battle the usual suspects of insecurity, fear and playing the comparison game.
Last month at our Cultivate Her event in Nashville, I shared the story of Deborah and the confidence she displayed in her calling. Deborah is one of my favorite leaders from scripture and I’m continuing to unpack layers of her leadership that fascinate me.
If you need a refresher on the story, hop over to Judges chapters 4 & 5.
Here are some key things I find in this story:
- Deborah is Judge of Israel during a time when Israel is being cruelly oppressed by the Canaanites
- We know she’s married and that she holds court under a palm trim on a hill (sounds like a nice office)
- She gets a command from God for Barak to rally 10,000 men and face the Canaanite army
- Barak refuses to go unless Deborah goes with him
- You never see Deborah waiver; she continually reminds Barak that God promised he would give Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army, into his hands.
- Chapter 5 is their victory song
I wish the writer of Judges had been a bit more descriptive about the relational and emotional dynamics going on behind the scenes in this story. The writer tells us what happens and the decisions that Deborah makes, but doesn’t give us a ton of insight into how she felt or what she was processing through each decision.
It’s at this point that I start trying to place myself in the story. How would I have felt? What would I have been afraid of?
Here’s what I observe to be the keys to Deborah’s confidence:
1) She had EARNED INFLUENCE.
Deborah was a prophetess and judge of Israel at a time when it was highly unusual for a woman to serve in such positions of leadership. It makes me think she must have had some significant influence to have been appointed to these positions to begin in. She also must have displayed consistency of character, love for people, sound judgment, etc in her role as Judge. Barak and the 10,000 leaders were willing to follow her lead and trusted what she said was God’s command.
2) She displayed INCREDIBLE STRENGTH
I can’t imagine living in the times that she lived in. Israel was weak, defenseless and far from God. I suspect moral was low and hope was barely a flicker. But Deborah had hope and a vision from God and out of this she summoned the strength to still the voices of doubt and timidity, and as one author describes, “called the people to battle, leading them out of idolatry and restoring their dignity as God’s chosen ones”.
3) She showed CONSISTENT HUMILITY.
It seems like it would have been easy in her shoes to try to take the credit. God gave her the command, so she could have easily told Barak, “God told me and you to lead the army”, but she didn’t. She told Barak that God had called him to lead the army. At that point, she probably had no idea what her role would be. She was turning the power and the potential glory over to him.
I also love that in Judges 5:7, Deborah doesn’t refer to herself as judge, prophetess or leader. She describes herself as “a mother in Israel.” She didn’t need to prove herself or remind others of her positional power.
4) She was FAITHFULLY OBEDIENT.
Deborah drew her confidence from her relationship with God. God gave her the directive for the battle with Sisera and she didn’t lose sight of this even in the heat of it. Judges 4:14 says “Then Deobrah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?'” After the battle was finished she and Barak sang a victory song in which they repeatedly thank God.
Deborah’s story is such a key reminder to me of God’s faithfulness through our obedience. I’m sure she didn’t sign up for all that her leadership would demand, but her confidence was in God’s power, not her own. She was pursuing His glory, not hers and as a result the people she led experienced freedom for 40 years. That’s remarkable influence!
What challenges do you face in being confident in your calling as a leader?