Have you ever felt misunderstood? I have many times. Perhaps you struggle to get your parents, or your child, or your spouse to understand where you’re coming from. Or maybe you and a co-worker have different ideas of how to accomplish the same task, and just can’t make those ideas mesh. Or you have a stained past and you feel that people can’t look past that to see what God is doing in your life right now. Maybe someone in your life has caused you pain or anguish, and they wish to avoid discussion on the matter or minimize your feelings rather than take responsibility for their actions.
Sometimes you just throw your hands up and say, “No one gets it! No one understands!” Ah, but there’s good news. God’s Word is full of stories of hope and redemption, and yes, stories of complicated relationships, probably the most complicated of which is the one between God and His people, us.
Beginning in John 6:60, right after Jesus has finished explaining that He is the Bread of Life, the disciples are confused. In verse 57-58, Jesus says, “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
I can’t say I blame the disciples for being confused at this point. After all, I bet they were thinking, “Surely He can’t really be talking about eating His flesh? What?!” Yet, let’s not forget that they’d already seen Him feed the crowd of five-thousand people by multiplying just five loaves of bread and two-fishes, and walk on water while commanding the wind and the waves to die down (and the wind and the waves listened!). They’d been around Jesus enough to know that He often spoke using parables and using phrases which alluded to the spiritual rather than just the material.
The passage continues, “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’
For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, ‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.’ From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’
But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. (John 6:60-71 NKJV).”
Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to feel misunderstood. All that time that His disciples had been with Him, listening to His teachings, witnessing all of the miracles that had been performed, and still they didn’t understand that He was the Bread and Blood of Life – the One who would pour out His flesh and blood on the cross to offer humanity the gift of salvation and atonement one and for all for their sins. Some understood and believed that He was the Messiah, but verse 66 says that many of them walked away. In verse 67, He is speaking just to the twelve – and even one of them was destined to betray Him!
As you read on in John 7:5, the Word says, “For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”
Because He knows what it’s like to feel abandoned, misunderstood, hurt, betrayed by family, friends, enemies, acquaintances, and all of the above, we can be confident that we’re not alone or unique when we feel that way. Because of who He is and because He’s walked in our shoes, He is able to provide immeasurable comfort to us during those times.
As I stated earlier, I think the most complicated relationship that the Bible speaks of (and it talks about some real doozies!) is between God and His people as a whole. It’s because even today we often fail to understand that God is good. The enemy would have us believe that God has abandoned us when we feel misunderstood, that we’re all alone, that nothing good can possibly come out of our current situation, or he would have us curse God, or walk away, just as those multitudes of disciples did.
Sometimes we even start thinking that God doesn’t understand us, but passages like this one prove that He does.
There have been times in my life where I’ve felt let down, or like I couldn’t depend on people to do what they said they would do, even those close to me. (And I know at various times in my life I’ve also been the unreliable one!). Later in Jesus’ story, while He is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that He is about to be arrested and then crucified, Jesus asked His faithful disciples to watch and pray with Him. I know those guys had the best of intentions (don’t we usually, too??), but all of them, all of them!, fell asleep. Jesus came back and said in essence, “You guys couldn’t watch with me for just one hour?”
This reminds me of times when I ask my kids to do a simple task, say, something like, “Before you leave for school, please turn on the dishwasher.” Or when I ask my husband, “Can you please take out the trash before you go to bed?” And then they forget, and I’m thinking, “Couldn’t you just do one simple thing that I asked?!”
Of course, I know they feel the same when they say things like, “Mom, can you sign this before I leave for school?” or, “Sweetie, don’t forget to _____ (pay the bill, get milk from the store, throw the laundry from the washer into the dryer, etc.) and then I turn around and forget too.
It’s comforting to know that Jesus understands. And that He offers grace even when we do forget, or mess up, or behave childishly. It’s quite an example for us to follow, and one that we can’t follow without His help. Yet, with Him and through Him all things are possible.
You see, by offering us comfort in the times where we feel misunderstood, and giving us grace, He enables (and empowers) us to extend grace and forgiveness to others. Then, when we are truly able to offer those things to others, we find peace.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace, understanding and forgiveness. I’m so glad that there is nothing I could possibly go through that You can’t understand and identify with. You not only created us, but You lived and walked this earth too, and had the same struggles we do. Help us to find comfort in knowing this, and knowing that we are always understood by You. Help us to understand Your purposes for our lives, and to rely upon Your strength and power to do Your will. Help us also to extend grace and forgiveness to others when we feel that they have misunderstood or wronged us, Lord, and show us through Your word what that looks like. I pray that we will seek to understand more about others, and that we will be emboldened to share the good news of Your salvation with them. Thank You for Your precious love – may we give You the honor and glory in our lives in all that we do. In Jesus name, Amen.”