Following Jesus can feel like we're alone, but thankfully He promises we are never are.
Losing relationships because of your faith can be one of the hardest parts of following Jesus. Perhaps an even more difficult experience is pain inflicted by fellow believers, more commonly known as church hurt. We can often be judged most harshly by the ones who promise to love us most. Sometimes it seems that the more involved we get into Christian community, the more hurt we get by both sides.
I know what it feels like to be seen as too Christian for non-believers and not Christian enough for believers. I'm also guilty of letting this infiltrate my relationship with Jesus--to start seeing myself the way others see me, to define myself by my past sin, and to begin feeling distant from Him.
But these are lies from the enemy--attacks on the community God intends for us and the relationship He wants with us. Leave that church if you need to, but don't stop going altogether. Set boundaries in your friendships, but know that you aren't better off alone. Forgive as Jesus forgave us, and keep asking God to bless your community or lead you to the right one. And above all, keep your eyes set on Jesus.
"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such oppression from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2-3
Fortunately, we have a God who fully understands what we are enduring in this world. He was mocked by the religious and betrayed by followers--even one of his closest friends. He experienced worse treatment than we could ever imagine, so surely we can learn a lot from how he navigated his time on Earth.
"And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed." Mark 1:35
Jesus never stopped praying in private to his Father. Even when you feel that you have no one, you are not alone. Talk to God. Keep your eyes focused on Him. He is the best listener and comforter, and time spent with Him never returns void.
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. Then the tempter approached him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.' He answered, 'It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
If Jesus uses scripture to defeat the devil, shouldn't we do so too? To effectively resist temptation, we must be in the Word. Within it, we find love, peace, and truth. It is a love letter written by the one who loves us wholly, an instruction manual for life, and the strategy to fight all of your battles.
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven.'" Matthew 18:21-22
Forgiveness is your path to freedom. Whereas bitterness poisons the heart, forgiveness heals it. Freely forgive others as we have been forgiven and you will notice a drastic change in your perspective on every situation. (If you're like me and struggle with this, I highly recommend readingForgiving What You Can't Forget by Lisa Terkeurst)
"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thoughts to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:25-27
Being on the narrow path often feels lonely, but thankfully we serve a God who declares that we are not alone. Keep your eyes focused on Him. He understands. He's there for you, He cares for you, and He will never leave or forsake you.