Yeah, But Relationships Hurt…

Mark "Moose" Bright - Director | Relational Discipleship Network |

I had been betrayed. I do not mean this as hyperbole. If you want to be in ministry, you will have scars; The longer we are in, the more scars we will have, that is, as long as we are really in. There are those among us who figure out how to have a kind of faux ministry. There are tactics of isolation that allow some to find distance and a disingenuous engagement in relationship. Usually, those tactics include an almost unassailable power structure and an unhealthy preoccupation with loyalty.

I am going to keep things vague from here on. This is not about the person who caused me harm but rather about the incredibly offensive things Jesus said to me once I finally shared my pain with Him.

I found myself in the deepest hole in my life in my 30s, and that library of pain includes my dad dying when I was a teenager. For 15 years, I lived out ministry and had an idea of how things should be. Proverbs was my main text for understanding how the Kingdom should work. There is nothing wrong with the book of Proverbs, and at times, the largest portion of my spiritual life, it was my favorite book. Full of wit, insight, humor, and sometimes sarcasm. Its episodic and predictable nature gave me comfort. Like the TV show Law and Order, there was a crime, an investigation, and a conviction… Or so I read into the text.

After this moment of Tsunami disillusionment, my theological and functional understanding of the Kingdom lies scattered on the beach of my mind. I could barely stand, much less get one piece to fit with the other. I did not know which way was up. I was devastated and disoriented, and the reliable compass of my personal theology lay shattered at my feet. Proverbs had become a byword to me. Its principles mocked me as those who harmed me seemed to elude the prosecutorial phase of my Law-and-Order episode.

However, I had deep roots in Jesus. There were too many things that I had seen and too many ways in which He had changed me to give up. But I also knew that I could not go on. As I sat mentally slumped on the beach of my life, piles of verses and broken concepts sitting all around me, I was on the verge of giving up. At that moment, I thought of a pastor who had been through deeper challenges and was still taking ground in the Kingdom.

I wanted to talk to this pastor to see what resolve carried him beyond his own tragedy, so I reached out to a mutual friend and arranged to meet the pastor. I packed up my office and left a note for the one who had wounded me. It said I am not sure where I am going from here, but I am going to find answers and don’t know if I will return.

It was an 11-hour drive through the Pacific Northwest in late winter. The high peaks were concealed in the cloud, and the horizon was drawn low like my heavy eyelids. My body was tuned to my spirit, broken, slouched over, and lethargic. I didn’t know what I was going to find, and there was no mental cajoling I could do to make sense of what had happened to me.

The church had an on-campus cabin I would stay in for a few days before meeting with the pastor. At night I waked the empty campus, tortured by my replaying of events. “How could they?” “How did I not see this coming?” “How could you allow this God?” Jesus never interrupted or intruded into my thoughts. It was not until I gave actual voice to my grievance that I heard a response. When I say actual voice, I mean (actual yelling at the heavens) voice. Even more exhausted by the process, my spirit finally gave up, and I became quiet. It was at that moment that the answer came.

“Mark, how many times have you prayed for Me to make you like Me?”

Many times, Lord. “How many relationships did I enter into knowing I would be hurt, betrayed, and abandoned?” All of them. “Then I have answered your prayers”. I sat stunned and dumbfounded by this inescapable truth.

“Now I am going to ask you to reenter into relationships knowing that this is what will happen. You can withdraw and isolate or quit, but you will not be like Me”.

The words cut me to the core. As Peter did, I think I was committed to death, but when adversity arose, I quit? I hated the answers, but there was also no way for me to escape them. I met with the pastor a few days later, having already gotten the answers I did not want. He was encouraging and insightful. It helped to see someone in person who had gotten back up from their tragedy and continued.

Brothers and sisters, we will be betrayed, maligned, harassed, wounded, and harmed. Do not find it a strange thing when this happens. I want to pick and choose the Christlikeness I desire, but Jesus will provide us with no such accommodation. What He will do is cry out on our behalf as a faithful High Priest all too acquainted with suffering. There is no place we will walk that He has not already been. No wound we will suffer that He cannot relate to. We are instructed to enter these spaces with boldness knowing we will be met with loving confrontation as Job was. Job was rebuked and corrected, true enough, but do not forget that he SAW GOD!!!!! Is that not the cry of all our hearts?

Call out to Jesus and give him the fullness of your pain and disillusionment. David was a man after God’s own heart, not because he walked in perfection but because he did not withhold any of himself, including his deep pain and disappointment, from the God he loved.

Take the risk once again and call out to Jesus. He will answer in just the right way and at just the right time if you give Him the fullness of who you are. Do not withdraw! Suffer the pain of relationships. Get back up, push back in, and live life with your eyes open. I have no fairytale to tell you, just a story of a God who will be with us in all of it.

No Stones. No Compromise.


Mark “Moose” Bright
Relational Discipleship Network