Enduring Friction

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Is it really possible to prevent our hearts from hurting?

Being rejected is a difficult pill to swallow. In most cases, it leaves that weird sensation of having something stuck in our throat. Each time we swallow, it’s there, reminding us of the sting only rejection leaves.

Truthfully, I’m new to this whole rejection thing. Not that I haven’t had my share, but in the past I would bend over backwards to avoid offending others and would jump at the opportunity to make it right. I simply couldn’t just sit in the muck of unresolved conflict. But in the past few years, the Lord is teaching me that a little friction here and there can be healthy, although it certainly isn’t pleasant.

Thankfully, we have a Father who understands what it feels like. Isaiah 53:3 says, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. And yet, it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. (v.10) 

The rejection Jesus faced wasn’t pleasant either. I’m sure He’d much rather have been welcomed with open arms into every city He went. He would have enjoyed the Pharisees recognizing Him for the long awaited Messiah He was. It would have felt good to be accepted as King of the Jews.

But if that had been the case, how well would He relate to us? Not very much, I’m afraid. His suffering by rejection served a purpose – to empathize with the hurt we feel at times. We know He can identify with our suffering. He’s familiar with the dull ache hitting the pit of our stomach when we hear…

…you’re not good enough.

…you’re a failure.

…you’re nothing special.

He understands what it’s like to reject those lies by replacing them with the truth of God’s Word:

I am worthy. (Psalm 139:13-15)

I am valuable. (Matthew 6:26)

I am precious. (Isaiah 43:4)

Jesus silenced the critics with scripture. He knew that conflict was par for the course in His journey, and it is for ours as well. John 16:33 says, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. We can expect to experience rejection, pain, and difficulties. But we call also expect to be loved, accepted, and comforted by the God of the Universe. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

The answer to the question above is no – it’s not possible to prevent hurting hearts. Relationships will go through rough spots, harsh words will be said, and poor choices will be made. But the good news is, just like ointment relieves rug burns, God’s love is a soothing balm for the heart enduring friction.

Lord, thank you for Your Word that reminds me that I will have trouble in this world from time to time but that You have overcome it all. I can find peace in knowing You understand what it feels like to endure hardships and will give me the strength to do the same.

When You’re Just Not Feeling It

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me;
yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Luke 22:42

She gazed into her hot coffee, cupping the mug with her hands.

“I’m just not feelin’ it”, she said.

I could sense my friend’s discouragement. Years of struggling in marriage and motherhood left her disenchanted and lacking in the faith department. Once regular church-goers, she and her husband had decided to “take a break”.

“I don’t feel anything if I go to church. I don’t feel anything if I don’t go to church. I don’t feel any different in my daily life, so I don’t really see the point.”

My heart ached at her confession. I wanted to shake her shoulders and tell her to get it together; to somehow convince her that she was wrong – that having Christ in her life did make a difference. It made all the difference.

She knew why she should go to church; she had grown up in a Christian family and had walked closely with the Lord as a young adult. Somewhere along the way of marriage infidelity, multiple miscarriages, and a family member’s suicide, her head had disconnected itself from her heart. She could no longer justify doing something she felt no emotional connection to.

Because God has wired us to have an emotional relationship with Him, it is understandable how this separation occurred. I have certainly had times in my life where I knew I needed to do something I wasn’t feeling an emotional desire to do.

After leaving the coffee shop that morning, I wanted to pray for my friend. Feeling there was no way I would be able to convince her with my words, perhaps the Lord could. She needed to know how much God loved her even in the darkest of times in life. She need to know that choosing obedience is always worth it – even when we’re not feeling it.

The Lord reminded me of an example of someone who wasn’t feeling it, either. Luke 22 portrays the account of Jesus going to the Mount of Olives to pray as He did many times during His earthly stay. He had his disciples with him and He knew the end was near. This was the night He was to be betrayed, arrested, and ultimately crucified.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” v42

Can you imagine His angst about being sacrificed for the sins of all mankind? I’m guessing He wasn’t really feeling like being flogged, His flesh ripping off His bones. He probably wasn’t feeling like having nails hammered into His hands and feet. Or dying in the most torturous manner – crucifixion. Sure, He and God had agreed it was necessary to save the people, but really? Like this? Could there be any other way, He pleaded.

An angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him. He remained in anguish and prayed more earnestly. So much so that His pores sweated blood. I don’t know about you, but I have never been stressed to the point of sweating blood. Jesus was. He knew the suffering He was about to endure. He was not looking forward to it. He triple-checked with God to be absolutely sure there was no other way.

“Yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Emotion was overtaken by devotion. He chose obedience. By allowing the soldiers to arrest Him and nail Him to the cross without a fight, He honored the commitment He made to His Father. And after hours of physical suffering and emotional ridicule, he lacked the strength to inhale another breath. He gave up His Spirit to death. Christ didn’t need to feel like being obedient in order to do so. And neither do we.

Emotions come and go like the waves of the ocean; the value of salvation will never change. May thankfulness overwhelm our hearts into obedience when we go through times when we’re just not feeling it.

Lord, thank you for the amazing sacrifice Jesus made for us. May we never take for granted the strength and discipline it took for Him to give H
is life as we allow gratitude to motivate obedience.
Amen