Being Seen by Others
From a young age, we desire to be seen, heard, and appreciated. We chase after admiration from others, or maybe it is only a sense of belonging. In school, maybe it was longing to be a part of the “cool crowd.” In our careers, maybe it was trying to be the best performer and getting favor from a boss or coworkers. However, this often falls short.
However, as we go through life, many of us experience heartache, betrayal, abandonment, and rejection. The desire to be seen and heard remains, but the way in which we do seek it out sometimes changes. We might seek it out in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others. We may become hopeless in our pursuit of being seen or heard, and even abandon the idea of having solid relationships altogether, settling for shame, fear, and isolation.
I never had a strong desire to “fit in” or to be a part of the “cool crowd.” My drive was to achieve, to be set apart from others, and to excel in what I did. I wanted others to see me in a different way, as an example. I wanted to excel in academics and grades more than be popular. However, that was my way of being “seen.” I didn’t want my achievements to go unnoticed. This can lead to a pretty disordered life just as falling into peer pressure can lead to a disordered life in a different way. The key is to have the appropriate motivation and to know that you are seen by the one that matters most, God.
How many of us feel like our efforts go unnoticed, whether it is with our parents, our spouses, or our friends? How often do we feel like we are working our tails off for no reason?
Scarcity of Empathy
Many people would say to me, “Well, you look fine,” and would minimize or blow off any significant issues I was facing. It isn’t because people are malicious and want to tear others down, they just don’t understand.
Another way of feeling like we are not seen is when we don’t experience empathy from those that we love or care about. When we go through situations and people around us judge us or don’t understand, it can be extremely isolating and defeating. Unseen wounds are difficult for people to understand because they aren’t visible and tangible. They can come in the form of experiencing post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries, migraines, vertigo, or many other chronic illnesses.
I suffered from a traumatic brain injury and as a result of that, severe migraines. I also experienced post-traumatic stress, and with that came depression, insomnia, and hyper-vigilance. I was medically retired from the military due to the TBI, migraines, and PTSD, and was out of any type of work for 3 years. Many people would say to me, “Well, you look fine,” and would minimize or blow off any significant issues I was facing. When I was sent to the hospital for treatment of my traumatic brain injury, I even had a nurse at a hospital tell me I shouldn’t be there because I didn’t lose a limb. When I was suffering from depression, people would accuse me of being unmotivated. When I tried to pace myself so I wouldn’t get another migraine, I would be accused of being lazy and not doing my best. These are all examples of judgment without empathy. It isn’t because people are malicious and want to tear others down, they just don’t understand.
Suffering of Sin
I have suffered from my fair share of temptations and falling into sin. I have never struggled with alcohol or drugs, but I have struggled with jealousy, pride, and hypocrisy. Those who have significant struggles with addiction and patterns of sin that are almost impossible to overcome, desire to be seen in those struggles as truly trying. God knows our efforts and is there to pick us up when we fall every time.
Products of Suffering
Had I not gone through the TBI, depression, isolation, migraines, chronic pain, and the judgment of others, I wouldn’t be able to have the same empathy for others that God has given me. One benefit of suffering is growing in character, wisdom, and understanding. Another benefit that can come from suffering is developing more intimacy with God. When no one else sees us in our struggle and our pain, God does. A third benefit is having an abundant inheritance when we see Jesus face to face and receive our redeemed bodies. The intimacy and partnership we can have with our Savior in eternity is worth every moment of suffering.
1 Peter 1:6-9 (NKJV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
Through suffering, we can choose to follow in the footsteps of Job’s wife who told Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9), we can choose to just deal with it on our own, or we can choose to cling to God through it and follow in the footsteps of Jesus and His example as the Suffering Servant. If we choose to cling to God through it and don’t give up, we will experience the “salvation of our souls.” This is not referring to eternal salvation, but the fulfillment in the life God has given us that culminates in a refined faith, an inheritance, honor, and glory in the life to come, and an intimacy with God in this life. You can think of this as the difference between simply “getting through life” and thriving and “living your best life.”
Jehovah el Roi
Jehovah el Roi means the God Who Sees and was first introduced to us in the Bible with the story of Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian servant of Sarah, the wife of the Patriarch Abraham. Sarah didn’t think she could provide the promised heir to Abraham and took matters into her own hands offering Hagar to be the bearer of God’s promised child to Abraham. However, when Hagar had Ishmael, Hagar ended up despising Sarah and Sarah had her and her unborn child sent out into the wilderness. Hagar was rejected and abandoned, and in the midst of this situation, Jesus, preincarnate, came to her to give her hope and to let her know that He sees her and will take care of her.
Genesis 16:13 (NKJV) Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”
In her despair, Jesus Himself came to comfort her. He does the same for us.
Another story where we see a woman desiring water and abandoned and rejected by her people is the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus, Himself comes to her specifically to tell her that He is the Messiah and can quench the thirst she has been trying to quench in her pursuit to find a man who truly sees her.
The one who finally saw her for her worth and value was the God of the universe in the flesh…Jesus Himself.
This story speaks volumes about God’s character, love, and desire to let everyone know that they are seen, heard, and valued. Jesus saw her in her struggle to be valued in men’s eyes, He met her in her shame, isolation, and abandonment. He didn’t judge her but offered eternal life to her if she would just believe in Him as the Messiah. The only one who can promise eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.
This is our God. He sees every day we can’t get out of bed because we are depleted, depressed, or feel hopeless. He meets us in our pain. He loves us when we feel unlovable. He is with us when we are feeling the temptation yet again of sin. No work or righteous deed goes unnoticed, even when we are wrongfully accused, or people in our life say our work isn’t good enough.
There is a Great Reward in Suffering.
We are promised that our suffering will be vindicated one day. The whole creation groans, awaiting the day when God will restore all things. I know my body has done its fair share of groaning. However, if I choose to follow Jesus through the pain, temptations, and trials, I know that one day I will be able to share in His glory for eternity.
Romans 8:18 (NKJV) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:23-24 (NKJV) For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NKJV) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
This life is a vapor compared to eternity. The most important thing is that you know where you are going when you die. We can all be sure that if we believe in Jesus for eternal life, we are promised that we will be in heaven with Him for eternity (John 3:16). It cannot be lost nor earned (Ephesians 2:8-9). The second most important decision is to become His disciple. This is a rough road, but worth it. Part of the process is persevering through trials, suffering, persecution, and shame, and not giving up. It is worth it.