At the beginning of this year, I was excited to meet my aggressive finance, ministry and operation goals for my restaurant business, sure that I would meet and exceed each of them. But as President Eisenhower once said, planning is essential, but plans are useless.
We had no idea that 2020 was going to be—well, 2020. Like many, I was caught entirely off guard by the unprecedented effects of this virus. My family made an offer on a house, and within a week, I was calling a bankruptcy attorney to get advice in the contingency that I may need to file. On top of that, one of my restaurants that I had to close due to COVID-19 temporarily was permanently shut down later, forcing us to lay off 300 employees. Meanwhile, the sales at our restaurants that were still in operation plummeted by nearly 65%.
To say that 2020 did not go according to plan would be a crude understatement. But this was not my first experience of having to pivot unexpectedly.
A while back, my wife and I were thrilled to launch a new restaurant location, into which we had invested so much time, love and energy. When it quickly crashed, and I watched one of our biggest dreams dismantle before us, I broke down.
It was while crying on the floor uncontrollably when God, in His grace and mercy, led me to Philippians 4:6, which states, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God."
This year's events reminded me of that vulnerable moment of crying on the floor in a very real way. When our expectations are crushed, when our hopes are dashed, we have a choice about how we will receive that situation. We can crumble on the floor, crying, like I did, giving into fear, or trust God to carry us through the situation.
Throughout my experiences of victories and failures as an entrepreneur and restaurant owner, I can firmly attest that extending the faith it takes to trust God is far better than allowing ourselves to be overcome by what we can't control. Because of what God has taught me previously, I was able to get through the perils of 2020 better than I think most people would expect for someone in my situation.
I was able to take what I learned through my previous painful experiences about God and His faithfulness to identify six critical steps for navigating a crisis from which I believe any business leader could benefit from:
1. God is your manager. Everything we have on this earth is only ours temporarily. It has been entrusted to us by God to take care of. From the clothes on our back to the savings in our bank account, all our assets are ultimately passing things God has called us to manage for Him. It is not these things we manage from which our worth comes, but from our identities as children of God. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, we do not have to despair. When we fail to take care of our assets, we can ultimately lean on our manager to take care of us.
2. God chose you. We serve a sovereign Lord who knows exactly what He is doing. He put you on this earth, at this time and with the talents and interests you have, for a purpose. He chose you for such a time as this. Although you will at some point face more than you can handle, that does not mean you aren't equipped for the task—only that you can't get through it without leaning on the Lord.
3. Fear comes from pride. To cast our cares on God, we have to be willing to relinquish control. When we are afraid of what could happen from letting go and giving it to God, that's pride holding us back. If you find yourself feeling constantly afraid, ask the Lord to help you with Your pride: the results may surprise you.
4. Look to Jesus. Jesus calls us to be watchful and sober-minded but anxious about nothing. For most of us, that can be a difficult balance to strike when we first begin. If you find yourself struggling with that, I encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus in whatever way that looks for you.
5. Take each failure at face value. When one obstacle comes your way or when a big disappointment rocks you, it's tempting to start anticipating more failures or slip into the mindset that nothing good could come from it. But the truth is that there is a valuable lesson laden in every failure. I know that, for my family, had our restaurant not failed a while back, there were so many blessings we are now enjoying as a direct result of it that would have never come to pass.
6. Spend time with God. None of these steps are easily accomplished if we don't spend time with our creator. As busy as you may be, there is always time in the day for prayer and Scripture reading. You could get up early in the day to spend an hour in quiet time, but it doesn't have to be that extensive. Setting aside even fifteen minutes on your lunch break or after you get home from work to read a Psalm or Proverb can create a huge impact. However it looks for you, prioritize time with God.
Although the crises induced by 2020 may be unparalleled, they will not be the last obstacles we as business leaders face. The truth is that it isn't a matter of if a crisis will occur, but when. Will you respond to the difficulties of life with fear or trust? As someone who has experimented with both, I strongly encourage you to start practicing these six steps today to cement your relationship with God and help you trust in Him.
Adapted from Afraid to Trust by restaurateur, president and CEO of Demos' Brands and Demos Family Kitchen and leadership source expert Peter Demos.
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