January 19, 2018

They Just Don’t Understand

Gary Thomas — 

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Matthew 5:11

Melissa has to leave her home every Tuesday and Friday at 3:00 p.m. to take Christy to a physical therapy session on the other side of Chicago. Because she wants to leave Christy in school for as long as possible, the late-afternoon trips put them in the thick of commuter traffic, and they don’t return home until 7:00 p.m.

Christy hates these therapy sessions, but they’re doing wonders for her ability to walk with a normal gait. As Melissa welcomed Christy into the car one Tuesday afternoon, Christy hissed at her: “I’ll never forgive you for doing this to me.”

Melissa wanted to ask Christy what she wouldn’t forgive: the four-hour trips twice a week through heavy traffic, all to help Christy walk better? The vacations she and her husband, Greg, had given up so they could have the roughly $1,200 a month to spend on special services, education, and therapies to help Christy learn how to cope? The many nights Melissa spent on the Internet, trying to find the best services and support materials to help Christy overcome her challenges? Melissa has given just about every ounce of strength she has to help Christy deal with her disabilities—and for that, Christy will never forgive her?

It’s one thing to sacrifice for your child; it’s another thing to have that child look at your sacrifice and act as though it were child abuse—but Melissa already felt tired. The other kids didn’t feel well that day, so she had done some of their chores. She was afraid to speak a word, because she knew that once she started, she might never be able to stop. And who knows what she would say if her mouth ran on?

To be a parent is to be misunderstood. To be a mom or dad is to have your kids, extended family members, friends, and even strangers second-guess you, question your motives, and pass judgment on your decisions. And to have our good motives questioned is certainly one of the most frustrating human experiences we face.

But would you like to know the secret blessing behind this pain? Every effective Christian worker will eventually be misunderstood, at least on occasion. When God allows us to confront this process as parents, he is preparing us to handle a fact of life with regard to working on behalf of his kingdom: To minister is to be attacked, questioned, and maligned.

In fact, during the time Jesus walked this earth, he was almost universally misunderstood. At times, even Jesus’ own family considered him crazy (Mark 3:20–21). The religious leaders misunderstood Jesus’ ministry, accusing him of being in league with the devil (Mark 3:22). Civic authorities thought Jesus’ actions made absolutely no sense (Matthew 27:14). Even Jesus’ own disciples had trouble understanding him (Mark 8:31–33).

Jesus came to us as God and was accused of being the Devil. He spoke the truth and yet was called a liar. He willingly went to the cross out of obedience to his Father and yet was labeled a blasphemer. He embodied our only hope, yet died as a criminal. If anybody was continually misunderstood, it was Jesus. No one’s intentions, abilities, and motives got distorted and challenged more often than Jesus’.

When God allows others to think less of you, to judge you, to challenge you, to malign you, he is bringing you into rare but intimate country—the sufferings of Christ. This is where the valley of misunderstanding stretches far and wide and where seemingly few places of rest exist. Though you’ve no doubt wanted to leave this valley many times, God’s severe mercy keeps you there. You get to experience a side of him that others will never know. And God may be preparing you for a ministry somewhere down the road that will bring additional misunderstandings.

I want Christ’s power. I want Christ’s love. I want Christ’s wisdom. Who doesn’t? But Paul invites us to an even more intimate relationship—Christ’s sufferings: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10, emphasis added). A child who brings multiple misunderstandings may be your surest passport to that holy place.

This week, reflect on how difficult it is to do what you know must be done with your children, even though others (including your children) question your motives. Ask God to strengthen you to live in accordance with his will, not for the world’s pleasure or applause. Seek to become a spiritually stronger parent who, when freed from the need to be understood, appreciated, or affirmed, can join Jesus Christ in preaching a message the world has never thought made much sense.

Lord Jesus, how it must have grieved your soul to act solely out of love and to be accused of hate. Draw us close to you and give us your strength when we seek to do what is best for our children yet are questioned, maligned and resented. Help us always to act with pure motives. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

This week’s blog post is an excerpt from my book Devotions for Sacred Parenting. If you need a short pick-me-up every now and then to remind yourself about the sacred side of parenting, you might enjoy this collection of 52 devotions.

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9 responses to They Just Don’t Understand

  1. In raising 5 children my husband and I encountered very ungrateful children for the many sacrifices we made for them. It is hurtful but we did what God wanted us to. As adults, some of them are resentful and ungrateful but we have a clear conscience before God. I feel for parents today who struggle against the world’s philosophy in order to raise Godly children. Social media makes it that much harder.

  2. Donald R. Pilon January 20, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Sincere thanks for your excellent work Gary. This really hits at home.

    The more I learn about Jesus the more astonished I am at who He is and what He did. In a way it’s kind of like waking up brain cells that I never knew I had.. Similar to using muscles sometimes that I never knew I had! God is beyond amazing in ways that I can barely comprehend.

    Sadly, He is still terribly misunderstood. One day, however, we will see him face to face 🙂 and I hope that by our life and our testimony, many other people will also be able to meet Jesus face to face and really come to understand Him.

    Again, sincere thank you.

    • Donald, I find the same thing to be true in my relationship with Jesus. The more you get to know Him, the better it gets, the more wonderful He seems. And like you, I look forward to that day when he will be misunderstood no more and everyone will see Him in his rightful glory. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

  3. How about a grown child, does this apply. I feel like im being used financially

    • Pat, “being misunderstood” and “being used” are two different things. You might want to check out Cloud and Townsend’s “Boundaries”

  4. My husband and I do not have children, thus cannot truly know with clarity the 24/7 highs and lows of parenting. Your message today, however, took me back to my own teenage years and the periodic challenges I posed to my parents. Today’s message and scripture are applicable on many levels. Please keep writing.

  5. Another wonderful blog and I am thankful!!
    –Mother of Four young adults

  6. Thank you with the perfect timing of this. I have three who recently left the nest and I’ve found myself often second-guessing myself, wondering if anything I did was worthwhile or appreciated. I’m doing a study of Romans and it clearly states that we will suffer as Christ suffered–so this helps put it in perspective.