Have you ever felt misunderstood? We all have moments in life where we have felt misunderstood. It may be that we said something in a tone of voice or a way we didn’t mean to. It may be because someone heard something about us that was untrue or misconstrued. It can happen very easily for a lot of different reasons. But have you ever felt misunderstood entirely in a consistent way? More than the odd moment here and there, but perpetually misunderstood by someone or a group of people or perhaps by most people? At risk of sounding like the cliched therapist looking at you over the top of the spectacles, ‘How does that make you feel?’
I can hazard a guess. Being misunderstood, particularly on a continual basis, can make one feel unloved, unheard, unwanted, and rejected, leading to frustration, a sense of injustice, hopelessness at changing a situation, anger, and resentment. A lot of deep-rooted and unpleasant emotions can stem from that one issue – being misunderstood. I will use the word ‘rejection’ a lot, going forward, because being misunderstood means your true self has not been recognised or is being misconstrued under a false perception. When this is ongoing, it leads to one feeling rejected, as they feel unheard and powerless to change the minds of others – the mind, or perception of who they are, is made up, so to speak.
Sadly I think there are lots of people who go through this sort of rejection, often privately. This is the sort of rejection that causes more harm and damage, the closer the people are who are doing the ‘misunderstanding’. I recently wrote a blog entitled, 39. KNOWN. LOVED. From the Inside Out. In this blog I discussed my own way of coping with people’s prejudices by having strong identity in Christ. It is easier to discount people’s opinions when they do not really know you or are strangers. It is much harder to not take things personally when misunderstandings come from non-strangers – friends, family, our communities.
If you are feeling misunderstood, unloved, unheard, or rejected, I want to really encourage you today.
Did you know that Jesus, the actual son of GOD, spent most of His life of earth going through this kind of suffering?
Jesus was rejected time and time again. People completely misunderstood Him – often because it would not suit their lifestyles to hear, understand, and live out what He was saying. That’s an angle you have to consider. Sometimes it does not suit someone to understand you. That is nothing to do with who you are and everything to do with someone else’s choices or a way of life they are used to.
I have been curious to explore how Jesus dealt with this. First of all, how exactly was Jesus misunderstood? He was misunderstood in many ways, and He still is today. But with regards to His earthly life, I am just going to make reference to a few:
The Pharisees constantly questioned Him, ridiculed Him, sought to bring Him down and end His ministry. It did not suit them to understand Him or His positioning. To do so would be to admit, that as the religious leaders of the time, their approach to the law and their pious attitudes and superior status, would have to be humbled. They sought to do everything in their power to undermine Him, ridicule Him, trick Him, prove Him wrong and force Him to stay quiet. They were constantly on His back – ‘Nope Jesus, that’s wrong.’ ‘Nope Jesus, wrong again – we can’t accept that’. ‘No Jesus…. this man is raving mad… Jesus – you’re going to have to realise you’re wrong… and that doesn’t suit us or how we’ve done things for the last ‘forever’. So if you wouldn’t mind letting the crowd here know, who the real experts are in this? We are the religious leaders after all…’
What did Jesus do? He kept on going. He remained steadfast in His cause and in doing His Father’s work. He surely felt misunderstood and highly irritated, even acutely aware of the danger He was in at times. But He pressed on. He did not entertain them. He answered their questions shrewdly and then moved on and carried on. He still felt those deep wounded emotions though – He understands the hurt and the pain.
‘Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Some of them [Pharisees] were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone”. Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.’ Mark 3:1-6
Jesus was misunderstood and rejected by His own people. Arguably the most hurtful rejection Jesus received was by His own family and people. Of course, there are always two sides. And I’m sure despite being pre-warned that she was going to birth the Son of God, Mary did not quite understand the practicalities of that. Her son would be a rebel of the time, an outsider, a ‘trouble-maker’, and altogether possibly difficult to understand or to identify with. They loved each other dearly, as we see in other circumstances in the New Testament, but this was not a relationship without its share of conflict.
We read of the locals in Jesus’ hometown being very skeptical as they listened to His teaching. Sure, they knew Him since He was a boy – surely Jesus couldn’t have all this knowledge and wisdom? This was only Jesus – the carpenter’s son! Who did He think He was?
‘”Where did this man get these things?”, they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.‘ Mark 6:2b-3
We hear of how Jesus’ family were actually ashamed of Him and in a vote of complete rejection, and likely frustration at the attention He was drawing to Himself, rendered Him mad. His teaching, His very purpose, misunderstood. It did not suit them or their lifestyles to accept Him as He was.
‘Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples were not even able to eat. When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind”. And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons He is driving out demons.”‘… Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him. A crowd was sitting round Him, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.”‘ Mark 3:21-22, 31
Imagine how Jesus felt? His own family had declared Him mad and had come to publicly hinder His ministry. They truly felt they knew best. How lonely He must have felt – His whole life really. The sense of frustration, anger, injustice and feeling of being utterly misunderstood and unloved must have been strong. If you take the time to read on in that biblical passage, you will see that His response reflected His anger. Interestingly, it was in His hometown that Jesus did very few miracles compared to elsewhere. Not because He couldn’t. But His spirit was dampened most amongst His own. He knew there was no point in trying to change un-changing minds and perceptions. He moved on to where His ministry could be fruitful. Again, He remained steadfast against the battering, His irritation at times was clear, but He did not entertain it unproductively. He moved on.
‘Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith’. Mark 6:4-6
What a shame that the fullness of His glory and goodness could not be seen by His own people, because they could not humble themselves to see that this man they had seen grow up from childhood, was the Son of God and could transform their lives entirely. They could not see past themselves and their own wants and insecurities, to be able to witness and experience all the blessings He had to offer.
Jesus’ own disciples misunderstood and rejected Him at times. His best friends. While the storm raged all around them at sea, they woke Him up to say, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38) Due to fear, his friends questioned and raised doubt in the man they had seen perform countless miracles at this stage, the man who they knew on a personal level. They knew His character, they knew His heart, yet they still doubted Him.
How did Jesus cope with so much suffering in this way? How can we follow His leading in this?
1. Make sure you are right with God
In whatever situation you find yourself in where you are misunderstood and there is no compassion for your position, ask yourself if you are doing the right thing by God. First and foremost, you must not have anything on your conscience. If you do, repent and fix it. If your conscience is clear, wonderful. In Jesus’ case He was clear in what underpinned His ministry, and therefore the reason He pressed on despite the suffering – “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” Matthew 11:27
2. Shake the dust off your feet and move on
He left and moved on where possible, when He was not wanted or perpetually misunderstood. Jesus advised His disciples to leave unproductive situations. He understood that often people will misunderstand you and will not want to put time or compassion into letting you show your truth. In circumstances like that, rather than getting discouraged and wallowing in hurt or a sense of injustice, walk away. Find somewhere where you can be yourself and accepted and respected, and be productive and fruitful there. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet”… “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another” – Matthew 10:14, 23a
I am a strong advocate for walking away from relationships that are not healthy for us. If you cannot thrive healthily, if you cannot lead your life the way you see to be appropriate and right for you, if you are fighting a constant battle and suffering as a result, leave. That goes for relationships of all kinds. When appropriate, if unhealthy, shake the dust off your feet and move on. Get out of there!
3. Draw strength through prayer
We can all encounter situations where it is not appropriate to leave and where we must endure. I believe this is the hardest situation as to endure means to go through being hurt over and over again. How did Jesus endure relentless suffering with regards to rejection and being misunderstood by many around Him? We know He suffered, as we read in the book of Mark, ‘He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again’ (Mark 8:31)
He empathised with us saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-29.
When facing the ultimate rejection on the cross, He was in great emotional turmoil while in the Garden of Gethsemane – ‘He took Peter, James and John along with Him and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, He said to them. “Stay here and keep watch”. Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. “Abba, Father”, He said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will”.’ Mark 14:33-36.
If anyone understands how you feel, it is Jesus. He has walked through immeasurable rejection from all angles. He has suffered to the point of death. He endured, with prayer. So many times during His ministry, Jesus left the crowds to pray. He often went to a secluded place to be by Himself. He built up His strength, due to prayer. He was able to keep on keeping on, due to prayer. He endured, because of prayer. ‘But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ Luke 5:16
Forgiveness. The hardest thing. Particularly when an issue isn’t solved or vindicated, so forgiveness has to take place over and over. Despite it all, as the crowds (who only a few days prior were praising Him as their hero when He rode through Jerusalem) mercilessly mocked and ridiculed Him, calling for Him to be crucified, Jesus pleaded for their forgiveness, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a). He was able to show compassion as He endured the worst of rejections.
Look to Jesus in your suffering. He knows exactly how you feel, He has walked through everything you have walked through. Take comfort in Him and draw on His peace. He knows you. He loves you. He sees your heart. Call out to Him and He will help. Draw near to Him. He won’t ever forsake or reject you. He sees you and He will guide you through days of suffering.
‘Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord’ Psalm 31:24 🙂