"We'd love to help you look elsewhere."
I felt rejected like Vivianne in Pretty Woman. Remember the scene where she tries to go shopping and is asked to leave from a shop on Rodeo Drive? In Christ I feel so richly blessed. I have a purse full of grace and wonder at the way Christ is transforming me. In Him I am ready for action and fix my eyes on the wonderful fulfillment of his grace in full measure (1 Peter 1:13). Yet at times I've felt like the body of believers and life situations want to throw me back out on the street.
Why is it that at times other Christians, and even God himself, seem to reject us? We feel cast out rather than welcomed in. We feel lonely rather than surrounded by a community. We feel naked and hungry instead of fulfilled. In these broken moments, the mountain of missed expectations and hurt constantly knock on the door of the heart.
Knock-knock-knock. "Hello, my name is. . .Oh my! You poor thing. Those clothes just aren't fitting for a woman like you. You deserve something better. I have a catalog of distractions here that will make you feel so good about yourself. Let's take a look, shall we?"
Knock-knock. "Good afternoon. I'm selling a wonderful set of self-justification. Yes! They have rejected you, haven't they. Did you know that not everyone is deserving of grace? You have every right to. . ."
Beware of the peddlers. They prey on emotion and sidestep the gospel.
First Peter 2:21-25 offers Christ as an example of how to conduct one's mind and actions in the midst of suffering or trial. Christ affixes his valuation of himself and his situation on the Father. Do you see how evil intent surrounded Him as He hung dying? His circumstances did not reflect His position before God nor did people treat Him with such dignity.
PAUSE If you find yourself struggling today, or have a place of hardness in your heart from being hurt, find a moment to identify with the Lord in suffering. Tell Him how you are feeling. Unload the layers of emotion and thought, but withhold from placing blame. Acknowledge that He understands the place of suffering, though He was sinless and you are not. The mind can become a playground when we don't acknowledge that God sees our hearts and mind. Learn to stop playing "Tag" and placing blame in this moment. Be a broken sinner and talk to Him about it.
The passage says that Jesus, while reviled, did not revile in return. He did not retaliate because they missed His expectations. He didn't gasp and complain when he was brought to a cross rather than a throne. He expected those around Him to be sinners and to miss the significance of a holy moment.
Can you imagine Jesus being like us?
"You forgot my birthday, AGAIN! I am Jesus, and you forgot my birthday. I hate you!" (Feet stomp off. Door slams. Mary and Joseph stand watching aloof.)
My expectations sometimes place people into positions that God doesn't intend. It's easy to have a bank full of expectations waiting to be fulfilled by God and others, isn't it? For example, last week I mentioned that during my first year of marriage I realized my lust for a title and a position in ministry. This is not a bad desire when ministering to the body of believers matches my passion and gifting. But God and others are not bound by my desire or goals. My desire turned sinful when I required a position to do what only God could. I lusted after a role and not God to affirm me. Feeling rejected from ministry and volunteer opportunities this past year was hard. I never thought I'd be sitting at home so much after spending so many years pouring into my church family.
Yet, I have no right to a particular station in life. And God never intended a station in life to affirm who I am through Christ. Like Christ, I should not demand that others reflect my value and fulfill my expectations. That is business between God and myself. After all, my expectations might look good on the outside, but be motivated by sin--envy, pride, or selfish ambition. This year through missed expectations, I was forced to unpack my heart to understand why I felt rejected from ministry positions and volunteer opportunities, and why I wavered in my emotional control.
PAUSE Our expectations of others can form a legalistic structure of giving and earning love. Can you see any expectations that are ruling your mind? How do you feel like others or God have failed you? Is your right to these things promised in scripture? Have you sinned against someone by withholding grace? Have you disrespected God by approaching Him with a demanding attitude? Now is a great time for reflection and confession. These ways are contrary to the gospel. We must learn to consume the gospel like babies needing milk. Jesus' work on the cross for us attained peace with God. Are you at peace? Jesus' resurrection from the dead attained for us a new life ordered by grace. Are you giving and receiving grace today?
Friends, we are so fortunate to believe in a God we've never seen. We are richly blessed to have a Savior who walked this earth and reordered all things back to God through Himself. We are privileged to come before God and realize the person we were created to be. We have so much freedom to pursue our hearts' desires through grace. Read the passage once again and watch what Jesus does between Himself and his Father.
Jesus entrusts himself to God. He does not avoid recognizing the sin of those around Him. He knew it and moved forward with grace. You, too, will be affected by others' sin as well as being sinful yourself. Face it. Confess. Forgive. And then entrust yourself to God's good pleasure. He sees our situation. He meets us at the place of difficulty. He trains our eyes to look directly at Him in the midst of His sovereignty that allows difficulty.
My turning point this past year happened during prayer. I finally broke and let faith be the only avenue of seeking a future plan. I cried to God for faith. I wanted faith in Him to guide my steps and to stop looking for a position to affirm that I was still chosen to minister the gospel of peace to others. I stopped trying control the safe box in which ministry would happen. He would be my guide of stepping to the right or to the left. He would guide me to the door I should knock on. And He did.
As an act of celebrating God's grace through Jesus, prayerfully entrust yourself to the hand of God in your moment--this place where you find yourself yearning for God and struggling with the flesh. It is a beautiful place!
(c) 2013 by Kendra Higgins
For the next two weeks, we will have two lovely women sharing about their own consumption of the gospel in the midst of life's challenging situations. I'm so excited for you to hear from women who are faithful to Christ and honest about themselves. Please pray for them as they prepare to share!