My mother was a  big time sigh-er.  Most of us sigh with regularity, but mom was the Queen of Sighs. She never complained, and was very careful to not lay her burdens on others.  But, the sighs were a tipoff that she was feeling it.  As my family has pointed out, the genes have been  passed to her son.  When stress hits, I hear the  sighs slipping out. Psychologists say that negative emotional states, such as fear, anxiety and sadness are associated with sighing.  Sighing is the body’s way of trying to release the stress of the moment.
Jesus was a sigh-er!
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit”.   (Mark 8:11-12)
The sinless, God Man felt stress, and his body reacted with deep sighs!  Every leader will contend with leadership stress that makes him/her sigh.  I see 3 sources of “leadership sighs” in the New Testament.
  • Complications cause sighing.  In Mark 7, Jesus and his disciples were traveling in a Greek area southeast of the Sea of Galilee (Decapolis).   People brought to him a guy who was deaf and unable to speak.  In order to try and limit the public fanfare, Jesus took the man aside.  He knew that this guy and his countrymen would make a huge scene if he was healed.  He asked them not to. But, Jesus’ disbelief in their self control is revealed when we read, “And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  (7:34).  The added fame and acclaim made this one more region where Jesus was not able to focus on his priority of teaching and preaching. It complicated His ability to do ministry, and to have some alone time with His disciples.    Added angles, problems, challenges can make you sigh.
  • Contamination causes sighing.  In Mark 8, Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit” because of the dogged false messaging of the Pharisees. As He sets out in the boat with his disciples, it is still on his mind.  He warns them about the “yeast of the Pharisees” (yeast spreads and infiltrates the whole loaf of bread). The disciples were at risk of being contaminated by the teaching and attitudes of the Pharisees.   Parents sigh as they see the influence of godless friends on their kids, or the messaging of social media. Pastors sigh as people get swallowed up in emotion charged political controversies and priorities.   Teachers, employers, business owners sigh as false messages spread and you can’t clear it up. You face nit picking, griping, and criticism.   Stuff can contaminate the environment and the people you are leading.   And leaders sigh.
  • Conflict prompt sighs  Nothing wears leaders out more than conflict.  Parents fight the good fight with a willful child.  But, at cost.  Every leader will face people who are challenging to lead.  I am not talking about sincere differences of conviction, held humbly and honestly.  But, there are people in every organization, church, workplace, and most families, that seem to default to being a contrarian.  You sort of assume that you will press their button with any fresh idea or any new direction.  The author of Hebrews highlights how this can make spiritual leaders sigh.  “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning ( literally = “sighing”), for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
This is true for all leaders.  Every parent, coach, teacher, and boss knows how the contrarian(s) in your group wears you out more than other people tend to.  Yep.  Conflict makes you sigh.
If you are a leader, seeking to serve others and God, you will sigh.  There will be hard stuff, hard people at times. Quite honestly, sometimes you may be that hard person to lead. There will be conflicts, infiltrating contaminations, and complications along the road.
But, a Sovereign God allows them.  Actually He purposes to use them.  You may be having some stress produced sighing right now.  Offering them to your Father, turns them into an act of submission to Him.  Ultimately they morph into an expression of worship as you thank Him for His sovereign purposes and wait on Him for grace and wisdom to love people through it.
But, if you are leading…… you will have some sighs along the way.