One of the most challenging insecurities I have is to feel misunderstood. Or related: to not be heard. Or a variation: to be heard and understood, but disagreed with.
I’m often so convinced of my rightness that if you could just understand what I was saying, if I could have the opportunity to restate my point from 42 different angles, then everything would be fine and you would agree with me.
Many times my rightness can be in question and I’m just a stubborn cuss. But other times I actually CAN be right, and that’s when my frustration builds up even more, turning to anger and bitterness.
These situations turn out to be agonizing, what with all the energy spent trying to be heard and understood.
But recently I’ve picked up on a very distinct theme in my studies: God can see everything.
Revolutionary, I know.
As I find myself feeling certain I know True Things, as I find myself arguing with others over these True Things, as I find myself pulling out my hair over these True Things not being perceived as True as I see them, I read some interesting stories in Genesis.
I read about Hagar, the pregnant maid who ran away when mistreated by her master, Sarah. She cries out to God in her anguish: “You’re the God who sees me!”
I read about Isaac, who had to fight Abimelech’s men for fresh water in the desert. God reassures him, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.”
I read about Jacob, who was tricked and swindled on many occasions by his own father-in-law. He submitted to the mistreatment until God said, “I know what Laban’s been doing to you. I’m the God of Bethel where you consecrated a pillar and made a vow to me. Now be on your way, get out of this place, go hom to your birthplace.”
I read about Joseph, who was kidnapped by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, and thrown into jail for something he didn’t do. After his life was restored & he was reunited with his brothers, they feared his revenge. Joseph put them at ease: “‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
These are stories of men and women who experienced true oppression and injustice, who had to endure not just misunderstandings and disagreements, but lies, conflict, and abandonment.
Yet they trudged forward in obedience to their God, until God released them and took them in a new direction.
In reading these accounts, I felt great comfort that it is not always up to me to convince others of The Truth. I also felt great conviction that what The Truth actually is can often be distorted in my own mind. Submitting to these two realities removes the agonizing stress I was under – I am at peace because Jesus sees, and he knows the truth.
1 Peter 2:18-20 (The Message)
18-20You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.
Hagar was just doing what she was told by her Mistress. Isaac was following God’s directions. Jacob was trying to woo a wife and earn a living. Joseph was a good son and a hard worker. None of them necessarily deserved what happened to them, yet each of them was comforted by God and avenged or restored.
In all of this, I continue to meditate on Colossians 3:12-14, which I wrote about here. This passage ties it all together for me, because in the end I need to Love others wildly and Trust God with abandon. I need to leave behind my sense of justice or fairness – my need to fix the situation – because Jesus sees it all, and cares for me through it, and sharpens my reliance on him in the midst of it.
I’ve said it before, but it continues to ring true: my enemy is not who I think it is. My enemy is not my misunderstanding husband or my unfair employer or the friend who betrayed me. My enemy is Sin, and I am just as sinful as my perceived enemy.
These days, when I step back and look at conflict in these terms – with compassion for those who hurt me, with contentment in being unheard, with quiet strength in my soul, with even-tempered and kind responses – I am able to imagine reconciliation. I am able to feel hope and can express love unconditionally toward those who’ve hurt me.
I can, because I see a future in which Jesus restores all that remains important.