A college-aged friend once asked me how it helped to know who God says you are if you feel rejected by humans. She struggled to understand what difference it made if Jesus loved and accepted her if her relationships often failed. When she asked me this I wasn’t in any relational valleys, but for the past six months I have been. Feeling emotionally beaten down and spiritually exhausted has left me wondering about her questions more deeply and compassionately.

How does it tangibly help to “know Jesus” when we feel alienated and hurt by the people closest to us? How do we experience God’s love in way that helps our real pain? How does prayer and reading God’s Word meet us when we just want to be held, affirmed, and encouraged?

What I’ve been learning about this lately is that although I’ve prayed about my relational pain for the last six months, I wasn’t feeling Christ’s affection and presence deeply because I wasn’t seeking Him, but people. I wanted those who’d hurt me to show me they wouldn’t hurt me again. I hoped the humans closest to me would meet my emotional needs and although they tried, I was often left hurting and disappointed. Out of desperation I even got a puppy. But as much as I love Dexter, I still found myself craving fleeting human acceptance. Why? Because I was looking for love in all the wrong places.

What difference does Jesus’ love make when we’re hurting? I’m finding that when I patiently listen for Christ’s grace as I read a Psalm or listen to a sermon instead of looking to people to validate and determine my worth, Jesus tends to my soul in deep and inexplainable ways. When I continue to look for God’s love and acceptance in Scripture and prayer, His nearness, though as difficult to describe as the beauty of a glorious sunset or starlit night, is real and meaningful, and reminds me that He sees and understands me,

Deeply and compassionately.