I take absolutely no pleasure in the suffering of my friends—so I was brought to my knees this past week when I learned how deeply and terribly my dearest sister in Christ was being hurt, not by unbelievers, but by Christians. Christians in her own church. Her own church leaders for whom she has faithfully prayed and submitted to (with joy) for years and years!
How is it possible that you, “a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God”(Psalm 55) could speak so ill of my friend behind her back? Malign and attack her character while giving her no opportunity to be heard? Betray her confidence? Judge her weaknesses and hold out not one word of encouragement or grace or the “covenant love” their church’s membership vows specifically reference?
It made me mad. It made me sick. It drove me to pray—so that’s one good thing. Plus! I’m getting to email more with my friend, which I love. Although the topics are still making me pretty sick to my stomach, even just typing this quick blog post.
But her words today were so rich with biblical truth—
So PERFECTLY combatting of devilish lies—
SO beautifully what I WISH she were hearing from her church leaders and (so called) “friends” in her church—
… that I asked her for permission to share them with you and she said, “Of course! Anything to encourage anyone!”
(That’s the kind of person she is—even in her suffering, she is always thinking of others—even the very people doing her harm. Amazing!)
Plus, she referenced one of our mutually-favorite books: Ed Welch’s Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection. And I wanted to be sure to draw your attention to that, too. (I have a number of blog posts in my “perfectionism and shame” category that might also be a tiny blessing to you if you can’t access the book right away.)
So here are my friend’s words. I pray that they will be a balm to you as they have been a balm to me this very day:
“One thing that has been so helpful to me has been slowly walking again through the last couple days of Christ, as Dr. Welch recounts them in Shame Interrupted. I simply could not read those words without being reminded of all of the shame that Christ absorbed for us.
- Christ was devalued by his friends. (So when we are devalued by people we thought were our friends, Jesus knows our suffering. All of it. He understands what we are feeling. Listen to that, Tara! Hear it as though you are hearing it for the first time! Jesus absorbed shame so that we would never have to live in the shadow of shame. Never.)
- Christ was persecuted by “the good people” and “the religious leaders.” (‘Nuff said.)
- Christ reached out for help—he asked his (committed, Christian, close) friends to be there for him in his hour of need … and they could not even be bothered to stay awake. (More or less send a text. Leave a voicemail. Even the old-fashioned snail-mail-with-stamp or just stop by in person HUG. Nope. Nothing. Nada.)
- A procession of accusers attributed lies to him. (The One Truth)
- The good and loving things that he did were called wicked and mean.
- People who took VOWS that they would NEVER abandon him—disowned him and walked away.
- In summary? The people with all the power (those people are always the SHAMERS) treated the King of Glory, the Second Person of the Trinity Incarnate, as USELESS and DESPISED. They shamed Jesus.
So what do we do, Tara, when similar things happen to us in our Christian relationships?
I think we only have one choice: start again from ground zero. Camp out in Christianity 101 and never move on to 102.
- Jesus loves me. Jesus chose me. Jesus wanted me and wants me and will forever want me.
- People grow tired of me. People misunderstand me, misjudge me, attack me, don’t even care about me at all. But I am the apple of God’s eye. (He doesn’t just tolerate me, he delights to be my Father!) And I am FULLY PROTECTED underneath his wing (Psalm 17:8).
- No harm can befall me, even harm in the church, apart from the sovereignty and perfection of my loving Father. (Redeeming Church Conflicts has it right! Tara? We are going to be women who redeem these conflicts because we will intentionally depend on the humbling and heart-changing grace of Christ’s Holy Spirit and turn these (TERRIBLE! HORRIBLE! HEART-BREAKING!) relational crises into compassionate care by taking every thought captive to Him.)
- We are righteous in Christ. We are safe. We are loved. Nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8!). Not even this terrible, no-good, very bad, awful month we are both having, dear friend.
Though father and mother and spiritual father and spiritual mother reject me—God will never reject me; God holds me close (Psalm 27:10) even at, especially at, the very moment when people all around me are pushing me away.
This is where I’m camping out, Tara. This is how I am trying to (prayerfully!) WILL my heart to believe TRUTH again, rather than the lies that seem so easy to believe (that I am unlovable because certain people “should” love me have labeled me “unlovable” / “worthy only of rejection”).
I can move forward in love for others and not be so devastated by others’ (de)valuation of me because of Christ.
All of that is what has helped me and so I wanted to pass it on to you. I love you. I am praying for you. I’m so sorry for your suffering! I wish I could make it all go away. But God knows best, I know.
You are never alone! Call/Text/Email/Knock on my Door 24/7 and I am here for you.
I love you, my friend. G’nite. I love you!
(I love you, too, my friend.)
And I’m sending prayers for every single one of you who has written me such beautiful but heart-wrenching emails and comments on FaceBook and even texts, too, for my local buds.
In Christ our Only Hope,
[A re-post from 2012]