Can God Forsake Me?

Do you ever feel like God has totally forgotten you and your problems, needs, and deepest desires? I do. Do you ever feel rejected by Him? Maybe you’re holier than I am, but I sometimes make the mistake of taking the actions of people, human beings incapable of the perfect love of our Heavenly Father, and assuming these reactions represent the attitude of God. After a summer of literally 20 rejection letters I sometimes entertain the very destructive and heretical thought that God has forgotten about me. Somehow, even after every proof of His sure and steady love, I doubt His promises. “But Kristin,” you might say, “It’s normal for an author like you to receive so many rejections… it’s part of the deal, isn’t it? Like, aren’t there lists of authors that were rejected over and over again before they finally got their big break?” Yeah, actually. And I do expect constant rejection as an author. But the thing that had me really down, and depressed if I’m being honest, is that the rejections I mentioned earlier were about missions support.

Photo by Alex Jones

You see, my husband and I also happen to be full time missionaries living in a country where it is illegal for us to work. So this summer we traveled all over the U.S. (and even to Canada) to pitch our ministry and our family to other Christians in an effort to raise our monthly support to a level that will pay for our most basic needs in addition to language school, visa fees, and ministry costs. In Christian circles we like to call this process ‘support raising.’

Not Your Job

This summer started out with a class about support raising and in it, a really cool and super knowledgable guy told us a significant truth, “You can only present the opportunity for other people to co-labor in the work you are doing to further God’s kingdom. The important thing to realize in order to guard against bitterness is that you have no control over the outcome. Your job isn’t to convince someone to support you. Do your best and leave God with the rest.” That was such a liberating idea, at first, before the rejection letters, texts, messages, phone calls, and emails piled up. I’m actually not bitter about all the rejection. But at some point in this process, and I can’t say exactly when, I started to align these rejections with God’s feelings about me. That is a very dangerous place to be. Can you relate? I hope not, but understand if you do.

Can God Forsake Me?

So, I did what I usually do when I realize my thoughts have formed into a unbiblical pattern. I made a plan of action to remind my battered spirit what the truth is. Yay for the Bible, right? I had to answer the question, “Is God even able to forsake me?” In light of the following verse we must conclude that the answer to that question is a resounding and final ‘no’ remembering that when God makes a promise He always, always, always keeps it.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” -Hebrews 13:5-6

I read ‘My Utmost For His Highest,’ a collection of teachings and writings from Oswald Chambers, every single day. I love the way Chambers talks about this verse:

What line of thinking do my thoughts take? Do I turn to what God says or to my own fears? Am I simply repeating what God says, or am I learning to truly hear Him and then to respond after I have heard what He says? “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

“I will never leave you…”— not for any reason; not my sin, selfishness, stubbornness, nor waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that He will never leave me? If I have not truly heard this assurance of God, then let me listen again.

-Excerpt taken from Utmost.org, June 4th Entry ‘The Never-forsaking God’

Hebrews 13:5-6 Break Down

Step 1: Don’t covet. (Coveting is sin, and sin is always a poor choice that leads to other bad decisions.)

Step 2: Be satisfied with what you have. (Okay, yeah this is hard, but necessary.)

Step 3: Embrace and believe in God’s promise never to leave nor forsake you.

Step 4: Remember the Lord is my helper. He will help. (We may not agree that His help is always the best approach at the time, but we need to choose to trust Him. He’s got this.)

Step 5: Don’t fear! (Another difficult choice.)

Step 6: Answer this question, “What can man do to me?” And realize that nothing a man can do to me will have eternal consequences.

Wrong Thinking On My Part

When I decide to let the behaviors and choices of men cancel out the truths that God so strongly emphasizes in His Word, I am making a grave error. I am sinning. I am giving myself over to heretical thinking. Just because man has rejected me does not mean that God will. If brothers and sisters in the faith forsake me, that does not mean that God will. The truth that I need to remember, recite, and allow to reverberate throughout my being is that God has promised NEVER to leave me nor forsake me. As Chambers points out, this is not a conditional promise, “I will never leave nor forsake you as long as…” or “I will never leave nor forsake you if you do these things…” It is not a conditional statement. It is a declarative. Then in verse 6 it gets even better because we see that God is our helper. God! The same One that created the entire universe. The same Father that sent His Son to die on the cross—such a heavy price—so that I could be with Him forever. And this verse ends with this important reminder which I clearly need, “What can man do to me?”

This humbling reminder emphasizes that if God is going to do it, man can’t undo it. Does God want to provide for the needs of my family? Yes, of course! Does God need men to accomplish that provision? No. Would it be nice and validating if people would support our mission and ministry? Yes, but I don’t need that validation as long as I am sure that our family is acting in obedience to God.

All that to say (and yes I realize it is ironic for a writer to use such a phrase) I realize that it’s my wrong thinking that gets me into trouble. Whether or not I feel rejected by people, I know that I will not be rejected by God. Because Jesus.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin N. Spencer

The Basics: I Can’t Please Everyone

This post is part of The Basics series, where we talk about the basics of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Last night I woke up after having one long, extended nightmare, full of all the difficult relationships I have been through in the last several years. It felt like in the dream, I was being pulled apart. I wanted the freedom to choose things for myself, but several people kept demanding that I do what they said I should do with my life. The dream bothered me so much because it was based on real conflict I have had, some of it recent, some not so recent. It’s embarrassing to admit that I am finally beginning to understand that I can’t please everyone. But that’s what grace is for.

can't please everyone

Compliance

I’m what you would call compliant. That was my coping mechanism for growing up in a verbally abusive environment. What does compliant mean? Let’s look it up:

compliant: adj. complying; obeying, obliging, or yielding, especially in a submissive way.

That sounds right. Compliant people often approach uncomfortable situations out of fear, because in the past their honest feelings have been met with anger or rejection. These three quotes from “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend do a great job of explaining why compliant people, like me, avoid setting healthy boundaries in their lives.

“Because of these fears, we try to have secret boundaries. We withdraw passively and quietly, instead of communicating an honest no to someone we love. We secretly resent instead of telling someone that we are angry about how they have hurt us.”

“Jesus refers to it as the ‘narrow gate.’ It is always easier to go through the ‘broad gate of destruction’ and continue to not set boundaries where we need to. But, the result is always the same: destruction. Only the honest, purposeful life leads to good fruit. Deciding to set boundaries is difficult because it requires decision making and confrontation, which, in turn, may cause pain to someone you love.”

“We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a ‘litmus test’ for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our no. They only love our yes, our compliance.”

Boundaries and Rejection

That last quote describes me exactly. I have let other people cross every boundary in my life because I didn’t want to say no. I didn’t want to risk more confrontation. I wanted to please everyone else, and left my family open to abuse because of that. A lack of setting healthy boundaries has proved to be a destructive pattern in my life that I don’t want to continue. But setting boundaries is really, really hard. Once you set the boundary, you have no control over how the other person will react. Here are two more quotes that illustrate why it is difficult to establish boundaries with others, but why it is extremely important.

“Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. The Bible clearly distinguishes between those who love truth and those who don’t. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, ‘I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.’ This person is called wise, or righteous. The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our ‘litmus test’ experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them no in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy—or learn that there was very little to begin with.”

“A common scenario is this: one spouse doesn’t have good emotional boundaries with the family he grew up in—his family of origin. Then when he has contact with them by phone or in person, he becomes depressed, argumentative, self-critical, perfectionistic, angry, combative, or withdrawn. It is as though he ‘catches’ something from his family of origin and passes it on to his immediate family. His family of origin has the power to affect his new family in a trickle-down effect. One sure sign of boundary problems is when your relationship with one person has the power to affect your relationships with others. You are giving one person way too much power in your life.”

It is depressing to find out that relationships you treasure are not as intimate as you hoped. The feelings of rejection associated with having your boundaries rejected hurts. The pain can be almost unbearable. Thankfully we have Jesus, and He can relate to us in our feelings of rejection because He also was rejected by the very people He was sent to minister to. People He loved dearly. When He went to Nazareth to share that He had come to fulfill the promises in Isaiah 61, their response was rejection.

“So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” -Luke 4:28-30

I Can’t Please Everyone

Jesus accepted the fact that He couldn’t please everyone. For me, that is a difficult thing to accept, especially if the other person is a Christian. My thought process goes something like this: Well, they read the same Bible I do, they love the same God I love, that means they will be able to respect that I am trying to please God, not them, doesn’t it? But it isn’t that simple. I have to decide right now, who am I more interested in pleasing? Is it others? Is it my own flesh? Or is it actually God? And if it’s God, then what boundaries do I need to establish in my relationships with others so that I can communicate clearly what it is that God wants me to do? That doesn’t mean I impose my convictions on others, but that I expect them not to constantly argue to change what my convictions or non-sinful choices are. If I am in sin, I want to be rebuked, but if one person in my life constantly rebukes me for every choice I make (whether those choices are sinful or not) it is very unlikely that I will actually be able to feel conviction if they are warning me about a specific sin I have committed. My friend Joy (she’s amazing!) described it to me this way, “The best thing to do whenever you are accused of something is to take it straight to the Lord and ask Him if it is true. Always respond in humility. The second thing you need to do after praying is evaluate who it is that has rebuked you. Is this person regularly involved in your life? Do they know what is going on day to day with you? Has anyone else (or several people) talked to you about the same sinful behavior? These are important things to consider when you are trying to figure out what is true when people accuse you of sin. If we start with the assumption that it is very possible we have committed that sin, and then take it to the Lord, it saves so much time and heartache.” I told you she’s amazing. God has really gifted her with helping people understand what is righteous, and what is not.

So there you go, that’s where I am right now in my journey to establishing healthy boundaries in my relationships. It’s not fun, but I know it’s necessary. And now when I encourage other people to create healthy boundaries in their own lives, I understand how difficult it is, and I can be a better support person for them. God is good, and He is so patient with me as I learn how to better glorify Him with my life.

What are some ways that you can establish healthy boundaries in your relationships? Need some ideas? Check out this book for yourself. There is a reason “Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No” is a best seller, and it’s not because it is full of unhelpful fluff that makes people feel good to read (like so many other books on the market right now). The principles in this book are life-changing because they are based on the Bible.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Your Word. Thank you for people that write books to help us understand Your Word better. Thank you that You have a plan for each of our lives, and that those plans are not dependent on us making others happy. Please help us to be righteous, and to please You above anyone else (including us). Thank You that Jesus understands us when we feel rejected, and that You always love us.

Amen.

I’m praying for you, dear reader! May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you as you seek to do His will.

Sincerely adorned,

Kristin