the messy but beautiful call to love

Quote graphic

Most of want to be the type of person who notices those standing on the fringe, welcomes them close, and creates safe places where they can experience Christ. At least in theory. In practice, however, many of us discover how challenging and at times uncomfortable and convicting it can be to build relationships with those from hard places and an abundance of rough edges. 

Life gets messy when we invite others in; when we reach out to the wounded. Simple and seemingly benign conversation can unexpectedly grow tense, our actions, at times, misaligned, and our best intentions viewed with skepticism if not contempt. And this hurts, not just from the sting of rejection. I’m convinced our greatest discomfort stems from the ugliness these interactions reveal within us. 

At least, that’s what I find most difficult. I’d like to say, when others challenge my peace, I immediately turn to Jesus and seek His strength in my weakness. I do that on occasion, but not nearly as often as I’d like. 

And I’m forced to wrestle with the disconnect between all those feel-good slogans about loving one’s neighbor I splatter across social media and my real life behavior. The seeds of sin lurking, otherwise unnoticed, within. In that moment, I have a choice: I can withdraw and surround myself with those who believe and behave as I do, those who are relatively easy to get along with, progressively insulating myself from the very people God calls me to love. I can respond to anger with anger, distrust with distrust, and contempt with contempt, often finding numerous reasons to justify my behavior. 

Or I can courageously lean into grace, yielding to Jesus and trusting Him to grow me through every uncomfortable moment and unfiltered word I regrettably blurt. When I withdraw, I become stagnant and increasingly Pharisaical. I develop an “us-vs-them” mentality that feeds my pride and starves my love and grace. I grieve my Father’s heart and self-protect myself out of the life, the calling, He planned for me. Similarly, when I give in to my sinful reactions, although this might feel momentarily gratifying, guilt and regret always follow. When I choose to yield, however, amazing and life-giving things occur—within me, within others, and within my community. 

I wonder how many of the ancient Israelites grappled with these issues as God led them through the wilderness and toward the land He’d long promised them. Having spent their entire lives enslaved in a pagan country, they couldn’t fathom what true freedom looked like—from their physical bondage, yes, but also from the even more oppressive shackles of sin. They had heard of God. They’d seen Him do miracles in their midst, but they’d never learned to live as His beloved, chosen, and redeemed children. 

They were the epitome of babies in the faith, called by their Creator to a whole new life. That journey alone would’ve been challenging. They were traveling through a desert wilderness, with whining little ones in tow, after all. Therefore, they no experienced all the frustrations that come when imperfect people live, day in and day out, with other imperfect people. Siblings, inlaws … and all the foreigners who, upon seeing God’s power, fled Egypt with them. 

Numbers 11:4-6 state, “Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!’”

If you follow the story, you’ll see the complaining that began with these foreigners and soon infected the entire camp led to unfortunate the consequence. Some of the Hebrews might have thought, then, that these outsiders who tagged along with them through the desert were to blame for the Israelites’ poor behavior and the suffering that followed. They might even have been tempted to distance themselves from the foreigners among them. But that wasn’t what God called them to, nor what He calls us to. 

He doesn’t want us to self-protect. Instead, He invites us to strengthen ourselves through Him so that, like Jesus, we can show love to the grateful and ungrateful, the honorable and dishonorable, the pleasant and at times infuriating, alike. When we do, we learn to live more consistently connected to and dependent on our Savior, grow just a little more like Jesus, and reveal the beauty and transformative power of grace. 

Those blessings come, in abundance, when we willingly embrace discomfort to follow, with a sometimes stumbling and limping gate, the One who invites us to play a part in His redemptive mission. Although the road won’t likely be easy, I guarantee it will never lead to regret.   

3 Actions That Restore Your Joy (Psalm 42:5-6) Your Daily Bible Verse

Today’s Bible Verse: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar." – Psalm 42:5-6 Want to listen without the ads? Become a PLUS Member today:   MEET OUR HOSTS:   JENNIFER SLATTERY is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at   Follow Jennifer:    CAROL MCCRACKEN is a Christian communicator who teaches women Biblical truths through real-life application and humor to connect them to their God-given purpose. Carol has been a Bible teacher for twenty years and served on church staff and in women's ministry for three decades.   Follow Carol:   REVEREND DR. KYLE NORMAN is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada.  He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at,,, Renovare Canada, and many others.  He also maintains his own blog  He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.   Follow Rev. Kyle:   JOY A. WILLIAMS is a writer and speaker who is amazed her first name became her life’s mission. As life happens in ways that baffle us or bring us joy, she loves exploring how those moments can bring us closer to God.  She is a member of the “First 5” writing team at Proverbs 31 ministries. As a licensed minister, she serves as a teacher for the Women’s Bible Study and the Married Couples Ministry at her church.  Joy is a wife and mother and she shares encouragement on the “Joy to the Soul” blog.  Subscribe to receive the newest posts and updates at   Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest   Read Joy’s 7-day Bible reading plans: “Live Your Joy Story” and “When Easy Doesn’t Live Here: Living by Faith When Life Is Hard” on the YouVersion Bible app.   JESSICA VAN ROEKEL loves the upside-down life of following Jesus as she journeys to wholeness through brokenness. As an author, speaker, and worship leader, she uses her gifts and experiences to share God’s transformative power to rescue, restore, and renew. She is the author of Reframing Rejection: How Looking Through a Different Lens Changes Everything.   Jessica and her husband have two adult daughters spreading their wings, and two high schoolers, a son and daughter, fluttering their wings as they edge closer to the nest. Connect with her at and Discover more Christian podcasts at and inquire about advertising opportunities at
  1. 3 Actions That Restore Your Joy (Psalm 42:5-6)
  2. Ridiculous Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-22)
  3. God Rescues Us (2 Corinthians 1:10)
  4. Joy for the Devastated Heart (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
  5. At the Temple Wall (Psalm 66:19)


  1. Hi Jennifer. I needed to hear this message today. I have a friend who is not a Christian and mocks me when I talk about it. I find her irritating and it challenges our friendship. I want to leave her behind but God keeps prompting me to remain in this relationship. Now I realize why. No it is not an easy road to travel. I would very much like to run in a different direction but my purpose is to serve God’s will. May I be worthy.
    Love in Christ.

Leave a Reply