Commit your future to the Lord. Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf. He will vindicate you in broad daylight, and publicly defend your just cause. Wait patiently for the Lord! Wait confidently for him!
— Psalm 37:5–7 NET
As a young pastor of a small church, I was careful not to offend those who occupied the pews. I would spend hours each week writing and editing my sermon manuscripts, dotting Is and crossing Ts, making sure to offer an encouraging portrayal of God’s word in accurate and relevant terms without being abrasive or stepping on too many toes. I suppose I was doing a pretty good job as the little church grew near capacity each week, prompting talk about a building campaign. But I soon found that maintaining a positive rapport with the people would require more than a well-worded Sunday sermon.
An older gentleman in the congregation, a minister himself, was known among local churches to be notorious at finding the things in scripture everyone else seemed to overlook, especially young preachers like me. I always gave him kudos for his faithful study habits when he would share his research with me but remained wary, ready to defend my convictions as I sensed a day when there would be disagreement between us. Sure enough, it came and ended with hurt feelings and a well-meaning, good-hearted man turning to walk away, leaving the church that day questioning his faith. Thankfully, our relationship would later be mended and restored.
Looking forward while looking back this week, I thought how good people are hurt and become disenchanted most every day, leaving the church. There is a better than good chance you either know or have met someone coping with an emotional injury suffered at the hands of other believers. Perhaps you, too, have experienced an emotionally painful moment within the church walls that left you standing at the junction of north and south, uncertain which way to go. Might you be standing there now? Treading water, trying hard to find your way past a crushing hurt or betrayal? A Christian leader you admired and looked up to has gone astray perhaps, making a critical error in judgment. Did the pastor say or do something that offended you, and you’re ready to throw the towel in on the church? On your faith? On God? Are you that unfortunate traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), left on the roadside, hurt and bleeding while the entire church walks by on the other side of the highway? I’m sorry, but please hold on to that towel a minute or two longer and be encouraged by the apostle Peter who said:
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!
— 1 Peter 4:12–16 MSG