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When You Feel Misunderstood

February 17, 2017

Moses heard God’s voice. He stepped closer, onto holy ground. From what he saw, he hid his face. God spoke, telling Moses he had seen the suffering of his people, and God commissioned Moses to deliver them from Pharaoh.

Moses humbly responded, “Who am I?” Who was he to have authority to spearhead this deliverance?

God spoke, “Certainly, I will be with you.”

Moses knew he was speaking with the God who had shown himself—even in this brief interaction—to be holy, compassionate, and promising of his presence. Yet, Moses’ steps forward in this mission would appear highly ambitious, to say the least. So his second inclination was to humbly ask about how to speak of God. Who would he say sent him?

God spoke: “I AM WHO I AM.”

Moses had little hope of being well-received by Pharaoh. I presume Moses knew that, since he’d return to remove the entire slave labor force of Pharaoh’s economy—not to mention, Moses would be returning to the place where he had killed an Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-15).

God’s Attributes for the Misunderstood

We too can anticipate not being well-received, feeling the pressure of being misunderstood. Yet, viewing our feelings through Moses’ story can be helpful toward pursuing a humility that brings freedom and perspective.

I AM: Worthy of Reverence

Moses would return to Egypt ill-received, but to have right perspective, he first needed to receive God well. When we feel misunderstood, we can also start there. We abandon our rights to be fully understood by others because, surely, we have misunderstood God; surely we can benefit from renewing our submission, removing our sandals, and praying that we can approach him with a heart to better understand who he is.

When is the last time we considered our rightful place in view of a holy, just, fearful, and majestic God?

I AM: The Giver of Compassion

With a heart rightly positioned before him, we can then humbly receive his compassion. The God worthy of all reverence and honor is also a God whose character is to listen to his people.

God has compassion toward our hearts’ cries when we have been misunderstood, when we sigh under the heavy pressure, and when we cry from the burden. We may feel that people don’t see what is honorable in our hearts; we may feel that certain characteristics or personality traits are under-valued, though God-given. But he hears these refrains of the heart. And he shows us his care and understanding through who he is.

God must understand our feelings because he is misunderstood. Some examples are not difficult to find:

  • God’s character is misunderstood throughout the book of Job.
  • Jesus was misunderstood by his disciples.
  • The Son of God was crucified, a grave misunderstanding of who Jesus is.
  • God’s judgment, wrath, and holiness are degraded by those who redefine his love outside the bounds of Scripture.

If anyone understands what it is to be misunderstood, it is our God. Turning our eyes to him puts our pain in perspective, shows us his capacity for compassion, and lets us ache with gratitude that he would endure this for us.

When the Israelites, Moses’ people of heritage, sighed and cried out about their bondage (Exodus 2:23), God heard, saw, and was aware. God wanted Moses to know his compassion as background for his mission (Exodus 3:7).

I AM: Our Source of Present Strength

God’s understanding and compassion don’t mean that Moses would be without further difficulty. While God meets us in the longing places of our hearts and lives, his calling remains— to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey what God has commanded (Matthew 28:19). To Moses, God said, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12).

Similarly, God promises us: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

God is present. This is what enables us, like Moses, to engage with God’s mission amidst the pressures of being misunderstood. It helps us turn toward our task when it would be far easier to withdraw from due to feeling diminished. His presence is our strength, and he calls us forward.

Trade I AM for I Am

When we feel misunderstood, it’s essential to know how to proceed so that we are not crippled. Moses’ example has taught me an active, heartfelt response to God’s goodness through his question in Exodus 3:13. He humbly wanted to know how to represent God to others on his mission.

Consider your feelings and thoughts that surround being misunderstood. How will others see and understand who I am? Consider the uncertainties you have about being with people who make you feel fragile or haven’t acknowledged what’s good in your heart. Then consider Moses’ extreme example, that his taking the life of an Egyptian guard obstructed others from seeing his concern for the Israelites (Exodus 2:11). Along the lines of Moses, who was in this deeper than us, transfer your concerns to a new question: “What am I contributing to how other people think of Christ in this situation?”

Jesus says directly before commissioning us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). He is worthy of highest reverence and regard without any need of our affirmation. He has all authority—including over what is rightly thought of each of us. Even more importantly, backing who we are and what we are called to do—the Person who we say sent us—is him.

So will others understand who I am? Perhaps, perhaps not. But swapping this question about “who I am,” for “How will others understand I AM?” brings humility that frees me to Christ’ authority and commission.

The Author
Lianna Davis

Lianna (@liannadavis) is wed to Tyler and mother of two dear daughters, one who lives in heaven and one who lives on earth. She is author of Made for a Different Land: Eternal Hope for Baby Loss and Keeping the Faith: A Study in Jude. More of her writing can be found at her website.

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