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Making Tough Decisions Effectively: Lessons from Jesus Weeping


We all have to make difficult decisions. Choices that not only affect us but those around us. Maybe its having to fire someone on your staff, not selecting someone to be apart of a group or team, or just confronting a friend on an unhealthy habit. Our decisions can cause others pain and grief. But being willing to make the tough choice is what sets apart difference-makers from those that don’t. Leaders must have excellent decision-making skills. How do we make a tough choice but still honor the person being affected by our decision?

A few years ago, I was wrestling with that question. I was in the middle of hiring my leadership team for the Pine Cove Timbers and had about 4 phone conversations in a row with different staff that were difficult. As I sat in my office drinking some hot tea and reflecting on those talks, my heart was grieved. Each of those conversations started off with the staffer telling me about their dream to be on the leadership team and ended with me explaining why I felt like it wasn’t best for them. I knew it was the right decision, but I couldn’t help but have empathy. Those staff are quality and I would love to have them back on my camp team, but they are just not quite ready to step up into leadership. I knew that as I explained my rationale to them that my decision was crushing their dream.

As I debriefed those conversations with myself to see if there is anything I could do to be more effective in those decisions, I was reminded of a story where Jesus made an extremely difficult choice. In John 11, the author begins by explaining that Jesus is informed that one of his really good friends becomes ill. Instead of rushing to Lazarus’ side, Jesus decides to wait. Ultimately this choice led to Lazarus’ death. Fast forward a few days and Jesus arrives at the burial site. One of Lazarus’ siblings confronts Jesus and expresses her frustration in Him not coming sooner. Then something interesting happens. As Jesus sees the family and friends of Lazarus mourning, He begins to weep. After regaining His composure, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Here are a few lessons on tough decisions that I see from this story…

Effective Decisions Can Still Cause Pain

Since Jesus knows everything, He understands that the decision to not heal Lazarus’ sickness will cause many people to suffer and experience grief. However, He doesn’t let their emotions stop Him from making the right decision.

For some, we can be so crippled by our people-pleasing tendencies that any decision that could cause another person pain we will run from. Those that struggle with this need to remind themselves that if you really love and care about someone, then you have to be willing at times to speak hard truth in love.

Effective Decisions Are Often Misunderstood

When Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ tomb, one of his sisters confronts Jesus and says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32) She doesn’t understand that Jesus is about doing something even greater than healing a sick person. But Jesus doesn’t defend himself. He keeps focused on the mission.

Being a difference-maker is not a popularity contest. There will be times when our decisions are misunderstood. We definitely need to check our motives to make sure we are making the best decision and be willing to hear outside feedback. But we also need to be prepared for backlash and fight the urge to prove to others that our decision was right. This doesn’t mean we don’t explain our rationale to the people that our choice directly affects, but it also means that we don’t have to defend ourselves in the “public arena.”

Effective Decisions Require Compassion

I’ve always wondered why Jesus wept. He knows what is about to happen. He is going to amaze everyone and bring Lazarus back. So why the tear fest? I think the reason is that even though His decision to let Lazarus die was right, He had enough empathy to understand the effects that choice had on others. Jesus felt compassion, not remorse, for the pain and grief He caused them. He doesn’t regret the decision, but understands its impact.

Earlier, I mentioned that some will struggle with making tough decisions because of their people-pleasing tendencies. This is the other side of the coin. There are some people, like myself, who are perfectly willing to make the difficult choice, but do a poor job of showing compassion and letting the people who are affected by the decision know that we care about them. Leaders have to see people as human beings with souls and emotions and not mere pawns on a chessboard.

Effective Decisions Have a Long Term Reward

Jesus had a bigger plan in mind when He chose not to heal Lazarus’ sickness. He knew that raising Lazarus from the dead would best show God’s glory. Jesus was willing to make the unpopular decision, which caused both others and Himself grief.

Those who want to make a difference need to see the big picture when making decisions that directly affect the people around them. They need to be willing at times to make a choice that might cause short-term pain but will reap long-term benefits.

I had a former staffer who I had to confront on a poor choice that he made. At the time, he didn’t understand why it was such a big deal and was quite frustrated with me. However, about a year later, he called me up, apologized for how he responded to the confrontation, and thanked me for being willing to speak hard truth into his life. He said that he was a more mature man as a result of that conversation.

Tweetable Lesson: Leaders have to see people as human beings with souls and emotions and not merely as pawns on their chessboard of success.


About the Author:

I have a passion to equip or prepare young leaders for maximum impact in their spheres of influence. Former Pine Cove camp director and currently a general manager for Hawaiian Falls. I am originally from South Louisiana but now live in East Texas with my beautiful wife, Robyn.

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