Twice in my life I’ve felt rejected by God and both times it had to do with His people.
The first time I was young and idealistic. I had fallen in love with my best friend of ten years but was too foolish to realize it. It took me getting engaged to a different guy and making it all the way until two weeks before the wedding to finally wake up from my stupor. The next day, I ended my engagement. Then I waited for God to make the next move.
And I waited.
I got tired of waiting, so I took matters into my own hands. I sat down with the man I thought was my soul mate and admitted my feelings to him. I assumed he’d gotten the same memo from God, but tragically, something had shifted in his heart. He was no longer interested.
Still, I believed God for his promises and kept on waiting. A year later, God still hadn’t shown up for me in the way I wanted him to. I moved to a new city and started my Pediatric Emergency Medicine training because I didn’t have a better plan. I hoped that starting out in a new city where I knew no one would help heal my pain.
It didn’t. My best friend never came chasing after me. It hurt. Sometimes it still hurts.
FRACTURED FAITH: THE SECOND HEARTBREAK
Then six years ago I left my church and all hell broke loose. I guess you could say the scab was unroofed and the bleeding was worse than I thought it would be.
By that point I was convinced that God had a calling on my life to teach the Bible. While I still practiced medicine in the pediatric ER, my life had become centered on the church. My community was the church. My friends were the church. When I left my church, my entire social structure was uprooted from me. In one fell swoop I’d lost my pastor, my close circle of friends, my Bible teaching ministry which was so intricately tied into the life of my church, and my foreseeable future. I was devastated.
I then made the same mistake I made ten years earlier: I assumed God would fix my problem right then and there. Once again, the signs of God’s presence were not as obvious as I wanted them to be. I became disillusioned with God, but I also reached a dangerous conclusion about God’s people: Christians are not to be trusted. No matter how godly they seem to be, they will eventually hurt you.
FINDING FAITH: THOUGH CHRISTIANS HURT EACH OTHER
I wish I could tell you that my two sorry tales were the only times I’ve been wounded by other Christians. They’re not. Humans have an incredible capacity to hurt each other. The capacity to hurt one another does not automatically evaporate the moment one becomes a Christian. One of the hardest questions to answer when you’ve been hurt by God’s people is why God doesn’t step in and do something about it? We might never know the exact reason why Christians hurt each other, but here’s what I do know: this kind of pain is deep and some never recover from it. I’m also convinced that God’s purpose is to use these painful experiences with rejection and pain to redirect our calling.
We’re all tempted to reach the wrong conclusions when we’re living under the weight of our pain. But perhaps we judge God too soon. God’s word promises that in due time every wrong will be set right. In Ephesians 5:13 God promises us that “when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible.” In 2 Cor 5:10 Paul wrote that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” It’s in the waiting that we must remember who God really is. It’s in the gap that our faith is tested. God surprised me in the waiting. Because I was no longer heavily involved in my local church, I was available to start a medical ministry to Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Today, my organization helps thousands of Syrian refugees and Lebanese people living in a disaster zone. We have started a Nurses aid school that now eductates almost 75 women a year.
God is committed to reminding us of his goodness when we’re hurting. He’s committed to proving to us over and over again just how much we mean to Him. It is God’s sovereign goodness that calls us out of our painful places. It is His justice that steps in and vindicates us even after we’ve mentally assumed our story is over. And it is the power of God that allows us to step back into our own life and calling even after we’ve counted ourselves out.
Our wounds have a way of causing us to become more focused on what’s happening to us than what God is trying to accomplish in us. But when you least expect it, God steps in and faithfully points the way forward. As he has pointed the way forward for me, all He asked of me is to say yes. I’ve wondered how my story would have ended had I refused to simply say yes.
I wonder how your story will end if you simply keep on saying yes to God’s invitation to trust him.
This is the way of faith.