He was despised and rejected by men,
       a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
       Like one from whom men hide their faces
       he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 

 Surely he took up our infirmities
       and carried our sorrows,
       yet we considered him stricken by God,
       smitten by him, and afflicted. 

 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
       and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
       each of us has turned to his own way;
       and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:3-6

I am mourning. Would you like to join me? When I was a new Christian in 1985, I was zealous for the gospel. I was saved from what I perceived was already hell on earth and loved Jesus for that salvation. I had a t-shirt that quoted Isaiah 53:6 and I wore it proudly. I remember that time with joy. Many years later, I have become more “sophisticated” and I mourn the fact that the gospel is not more prominently displayed in my life, and in the lives of the folks I hang out with at church. It seems we don’t know how to apply it to everyday life. Oh, we go to church, we have friendly fellowship, we discuss the sermon, and debate finer points of doctrine, but have we forgotten the gospel in our daily lives? We seem like sheep gone astray. Let me explain.

I am odd—ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you. I tend to be open about my struggles and rather dramatic in the way I express them. I think it makes some folks uncomfortable. I wonder why. Once during a question and answer period at evening service, it hit me—THE PEOPLE I KNOW DON’T OPENLY SHARE PERSONAL STRUGGLES. On this particular evening, the Pastor was talking about how our lives can be bound up with idol worship through what we serve. In other words, where is our time and money spent? The discussion, as usual, was intellectual, doctrinal, theoretical, and impersonal. Being myself, I shared how my husband and I were raised (with the television at the center of our daily lives) and how difficult it is to find other things to serve besides entertainment. I said, “When we don’t watch television, play games, or otherwise be entertained, we just wander around the house. What does a prosperous American do?” I got choked up about how little I believe I truly love God. I bared my soul to these folks.

The group looked at me (as if I had grown a second head, actually) and passed over my comments.  I went home feeling insecure and discouraged.  Am I the only one who doesn’t know how to live the Christian life?  Am I the only sheep that has gone astray?  I remember other times when sharing in evening service had left me with a vague sense of inadequacy.  What I call “loser syndrome.” It seemed when I shared personally I received no feedback from my church family. Did they appreciate or relate to my struggles?  No one acknowledged my comments with a hearty, “Amen!”  They didn’t say, “Thanks for voicing what I was thinking.”  Or “I agree with Cindy. We have the same trouble.”  Consequently, though the Pastor said he appreciated the discussion, the encouragement was not directed at me and no one asked if they could pray for me or followed up to check on me. 

I felt rejected and sorrowful; as though they were turning their faces from me. Where is the Christian love—why did I receive little comfort, encouragement, or even acknowledgment? During this time of sorrow, I revisited the passage above and saw them in a new way. I noticed that when people saw that Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering then He was despised…wow…people turned their faces from him. Did they hide behind pious religiosity? He was naked, broken, ashamed (literally and figuratively), and human beings rejected Him. Why do I think that human beings will not reject me when I am naked, broken, and ashamed? Yes, it saddens me that people in my own church didn’t come alongside and pray Christ’s blood over my brokenness; that they seemed to reject me for my apparent immaturity. This prompts me to mourn the state of Christian life…but, I also feel privileged that on some level I can relate to my precious LORD and Savior. When He was afflicted (in a much more brutal way), mocked, rejected, and spit on, people were embarrassed by Him…they turned their heads away. When I am rejected, I mourn that some Christians don’t know how to love those who are afflicted, but—I can also rejoice that as Romans chapter eight says I get to “share in His sufferings.” Thank you LORD for this opportunity!

As you encounter rejection in your life, remember Christ said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourn, but don’t forget to thank Him for His willingness to endure the rejection of men so that you might also participate in His sufferings. It is a great privilege when we see this truth in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we never become so sophisticated, intellectual, or doctrinal that we forget our need for The Savior.