For when you feel misunderstood

My chest aches. Tears blur the words of the page and my throat feels like I’m being strangled.

I wonder what they think of me. Do they think I am weeping for my own suffering? Do they wonder what is going wrong or do they have their own guesses? What would they think if they knew that the primary reason I was weeping at church this morning was not for me, but for someone else?

I think most believers agree that weeping with those who weep is a good and beautiful concept; but what about when you are the friend of the friend of the person weeping? What about when your friend seems drug into the depths of despair by a grief that you know is not theirs? Would it make any sense to you?

I have been the friend; the one weeping. Stuck between the well meaning friends who just want me to be happy, and the friends that I can never put out of mind as they walk through the depths of suffering. I cannot “change the subject”. I cannot simply refuse to think about it and move on. I am all there sometimes with those that are walking through the valleys of deepest darkness. It’s a gift. But sometimes it looks like a curse.

Sometimes I find myself angry, because I feel like I shouldn’t be feeling the way I am feeling. Sometimes I find myself wanting to involve myself more and more with those suffering; partly because I want to help and minister to them, and partly because I feel like then I’ll have an excuse for the way that their hardships are affecting me emotionally. But why do I feel I need an excuse?

Do I need to make excuses for the God who made me this way? So sensitive there is hardly a TV show I can watch that isn’t a comedy. So in tune with the way that others are feeling that I can tell they are upset even when they insist that they are not. So empathetic that I weep often into the dishes of my kitchen sink for children that are not my own, belonging to people that I’ve never even met.

It doesn’t make much sense. Even to me it often feels confusing and frustrating. But I’m done wishing away the gift. It is this very same vulnerability, this intensity of feeling, that has led me here. To writing these words on this page. Because it’s the least I can do.

I wish for the world that I could understand it all; that I could tell you the future and assure you that it’s all going to work out just beautifully in every way you hope and dream; but I can’t. And I’ve learned that’s not my job. My job is to kneel down next to you in the dirt.

You—yes, you. You living in the barren landscape. You—staring down giants and dragons and shadows and death. You—looking around at the wasteland and thinking it’s so familiar, it must be home. You—too despairing—too afraid—you’ve seen too much, perhaps, to hope.

But hope, real hope, as my pastor reminded me today, is more than a passing fancy. Hope is the firm belief that what has been promised to you will come to pass; and if you believe in the God of the Bible. In the Great I Am, who sent His own son Jesus Christ to die on the cross that we might be reconciled to him; then oh brother…oh sister—there is much that has been promised to you.

Romans 8:28 met me like the tiniest seed, planted in the soil of my own childhood suffering. An abuse perpetrated against me that was so damaging, I couldn’t even begin to understand it’s impact on my life. Mustard seeds start small too, then grow into the largest garden plants. So large that they make home for birds; they provide food and shelter and shade.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Romans 8:28-30- ESV

I don’t know all of God’s purposes for my life, no more than I know all of His purposes for yours. But I believe this verse is for us. God works all for good, and our ultimate good, is to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Maybe somehow that makes it not only okay, but important, that sometimes I feel misunderstood. Christ, the creator himself wrapped in flesh, was rarely understood by anyone. He was misunderstood even (and sometimes especially) by his closest friends. And no matter how many times he said it, or tried to explain it, they still never really understood what he was there to do.

Even once he did it.

It’s a good thing that his selfless service of us had no condition; he wasn’t looking around at the crowd that day on the road to Jerusalem thinking, “Hmmm. These people really want me to be an earthly king. I guess I’ll change plans and do that instead.”

Thank heavens, He knew what He was doing. He was about His Father’s business, and He didn’t let misperceptions or misunderstandings, even seemingly honorable ones, get in the way of His doing what He was there to do. Maybe that’s it, maybe that is the key to the courage I need right there. To do my Father’s business. To not worry about being misunderstood in it, but being fully known and understood by the Father, carrying out the mission that He has put in front of me. Daring boldly to do all that He has asked me to do.

I want to be so singular minded as that. I hope some day I will be. Until then, I hope I can keep in mind that the refiners fire rarely feels good, but the reward is worth the endurance it takes to produce.

“…though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 1:6-7

Maybe no one understands you, or what you are going through. Maybe you feel isolated and often alone. Being misunderstood is only painful because I think in our deepest hearts, we are all desperately longing to be seen and truly known.

The suffering I endure is one thing. It’s not that I only weep for others, no. I have shed more than a few tears for myself this week as well. But I think for me it comes down to that additional fear; that additional pain. The fear of being misunderstood. The reality is that my longing to be deeply known in this life may only be met by the God who made me the way that I am. But if becoming more like Him is the point, then even this is good.

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Dearest Reader, if you need someone to kneel in the dirt with you—to help you hope in a season that seems more wilderness than promised land, more winter than spring, CLICK HERE to sign up and get my FREE E-BOOK DEVOTIONAL Scattered: a seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering. [If you are already a subscriber, be sure to check your email, it should already be in your inbox. If not, be sure to check your junk mail folder!]

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