A November to Remember: When Their Words Have Stung You

November 3, 2014 | 23 comments

Today’s Scripture — 11.3.2014

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
~ Matthew 5:11


When Their Words Have Stung You

I was already in my nightgown when the phone rang.

I recognized the name on the Caller ID, but I couldn’t imagine why that person would be calling so late.

My own “hello” had barely coasted out of me, when the sulfuric sound of anger from the other end swallowed me.

“I’ve never seen such poor ministry leadership in all my life, as I have with you and your husband,” said the voice, frothy and shaking.

I held my breath during a torrent of accusations.

The call came several years ago, and I’ve tried to un-remember what the person said. But I can’t. The words split me open. These are the words that sliced deepest: “And you two call yourselves Christians?”

I fell to my knees, unsteadied by the shock of this phone call. The voice continued, and it felt like five minutes of forever.

I didn’t know what to say. My voice box locked itself up, and all I could manage was: “I’m sorry you feel that way. We clearly see things differently. That wasn’t our intention.”

But mostly, I sat quietly, remembering what a wise friend told me once: “Only God vindicates. You do not need to defend yourself.”

But I wanted to defend. I wanted to tell the voice about the countless hours that my husband and I had spent in prayer over that ministry. I wanted to tell the voice all the innumerable details that would have justified our actions. I wanted to argue. I wanted to slam the phone down.

But I didn’t. I just listened, and when I hung up the phone, I couldn’t stop crying.

I had been treated like half a person, ripped up on the inside.

Our leadership position suddenly felt like a burden, rather than a blessing.

I wanted to quit. I wanted to tell the person that the job was all theirs. I wanted to defend myself to all of our mutual friends.

But none of that felt right.

What does a person do when she’s been sliced open by the words of another?

Maybe you know what it feels like, to be dropped to your knees by criticism or false accusations. Maybe you know how deeply the wound hurts when your worst critic is someone who was on the same team, as a fellow worker in the Kingdom.

One of the most painful parts of ministry has been saying “yes” to roles where you know you are going to be misunderstood or judged, even when you feel you’ve done what God has called you to do.

What does a person do when that happens?

I know what I wanted to do — I wanted to quit, run, defend, argue.

But I also know what Jesus says.

His Word calls the insulted ones “blessed.”

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” ~ Matthew 5:11

In the Greek, that word — blessed — can also be translated as happy.

It seems absurd, that I could feel “happy” or “blessed” after a phone call like that.

But when I remember what Jesus said, I start to get turned around on the inside.

Here’s why: The words of Christ will always matter more than the words of our critics.

Every day, we face the potential for being evaluated or unapproved. Every day, we face the possibility of being misunderstood by someone in the carpool lane, on the committee, in the church sanctuary.

And every day, we get to choose:

Will we respond with more hurt, or will we respond with more Jesus? Do we want to live “unapproved” or PreApproved?

That night, I gave myself permission to cry. I didn’t wall off the pain. But my husband and I chose not to respond by lashing out, or defending our decisions, or bad-mouthing the caller to our mutual friends. We also knew that the phone call was an opportunity to look back on our decision, to see whether we had been mistaken.

We still feel like we made the best decision, and we came to realize that the caller was responding out of a place of hurt.

I still don’t know that if I’d be able to consider myself “happy” if a call like that happened this week. But I do know this:

1- God continues to call each of us into roles where we may face scrutiny and possible criticism.

2 – God left His Church in the hands of sinners, so conflict is bound to happen.

3- We will inadvertently hurt one another.

But that doesn’t give us an excuse to quit. We are each called to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Wherever. And wherever that place is for me, I want to go there with Jesus. I want to follow Him close enough that He can feel my breath on his back. I want to walk close enough so I can hear His heartbeat — the blessed, happy sound of Christ, the only sound that can drown out the voice of man.

This post is part of our month-long series, “A November to Remember: Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes.”



I’m inviting you to spend the next 30 mornings with me, as we listen to what God says about us, before we listen to what Facebook says to us. We’re after “More Soul; Less Scroll.” #MoreSoulLessScroll

How You Can Be a Part of This Movement:

1 – Print out the Scripture sheets. (Click here for printable versions.) Each of the 30 daily Scriptures are quoted in Love Idol, and each one ties back in some way to our identity in Christ. (You don’t have to read the book to participate in this study. But of course, you’re welcome to! 🙂 )

2 – Find the passage assigned for today’s date.

3 – Ask God to speak to you through His Word, and read the verses assigned.

4 – Consider how God is speaking to you. How does the verse help you remember who you really are, outside of all the cultural noise?

5 – Visit us on the blog, or the Love Idol movement page on Facebook, to share what the verse means to you.

6 – Share your insights on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or your blog, to add more soul to your scroll. 🙂 Tag me, so I can find you. (Or feel free to follow along silently! No social-media presence required.)

I’ll post my own response here on the blog every morning at 5 a.m. Sometimes, you’ll find a story, maybe a few short words, maybe a series of photos. That will happen every day, for all of November, God-willing.

Studies show that the best way to form a habit, is to NOT break the chain. Habits form if you keep at it, one day after the next after the next. After our 30 days, we may have created a new habit of Scripture before Scrolling — a habit that can take us into the Christmas season, and beyond.


Follow Along

If you want to follow along, visit us here every day. Consider subscribing to my blog by clicking here to get these reflections in your email inbox.

The Printables
(Download for printing from Google Drive)

November 1-15

November 16-30

A helper sheet for how to do “Pin God 1st” and what it means to pray the scripture (Lectio Divina)

Let this be the November that we remember who we really are: Loved. Preapproved. His.



Find all the posts in the November to Remember series by clicking here.  

by | November 3, 2014 | 23 comments


  1. Cheryl Smith

    I once heard a minister say that “a minister is a target to be shot at”. it automatically comes with the territory. Once we accepted that fact in our own ministry, we sort of expected the criticism and all it entailed, and it has made it seem more “normal” to us. But, no matter how much we accept that fact or how much we hide this Scripture in our hearts, at the end of the day, we are still human, and we are still going to hurt. I think the most precious result that comes from willing ourselves to see it through God’s lens is the intimate communion and fellowship with Jesus and His suffering that automatically follows. The glory outweighs the trial when we think that He trod this way before us, and it happened to HIM, too….on a much greater level than any of us will ever have to endure. We are in the best of company!

    • dukeslee

      I love what you’ve added to the discussion, Cheryl. Yes, Jesus is well acquainted with what we’re feeling when we are insulted and criticized and misunderstood. Even Jesus’ own family thought he was “off.”

      “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.'” – Mark 3:21

  2. Jillie

    Your recounting this ‘incident’, along with Cheryl’s comments, is truly food for the soul. Probably every follower of Jesus has had this happen at one time or another, IF we’re doing this faith walk properly. Misunderstanding is probably at the top of the list when we consider today’s verse. And one of the toughest aspects to walk through. I admire you, Jennifer, for absolutely refusing to get all caught up in the situation, and taking your own vengeance. I can honestly say that those I admire most are the ones who keep offences to themselves, don’t try to immediately defend and vindicate their reputations; they just rest in the knowledge that they did what was asked of them by the Master.
    In today’s verse, I am again reminded that there can be no divided heart in me. I’m either in or I’m out–no lukewarmness. Being prepared to lose ‘friends’ and admirers. Being prepared for ridicule, misunderstanding, even cruelty from others. The ones who are completely sold-out for God WILL encounter hostility. It’s just a fact. Jesus said so.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Jillie. I really struggled with that call, and even with those post. I have to admit that the words still sting if I sit too long in that moment, with the phone cradled against my cheek. God’s Word helps pull me back around, helps me fix my eyes and heart on the right things, versus the internal heart. I’m still learning, but grateful that I can process it here with you all — hopefully in a way that is helpful to others and in a way that gives glory to God.

    • dukeslee

      Headed right over to read, Lucille. And you can share your blog posts in my comments any time. It adds to the richness of conversation. Always grateful for your words….

    • Trudy Den Hoed

      Thanks for your 10 things to do, Lucille!

  3. Nancy

    I believe that so often those who are in ministry are misunderstood by the people they are hoping to minister to. The “ministers” have felt called by God to share what they have learned through their reading of scriptures and other studies. The people listen but when they don’t understand they attack the “minister”. As scripture says, if we will just turn the other cheek and love the people anyway we are following God’s love. Isn’t that what it is all about? Love. Hard as it may be, just love your neighbor or family member or those who do not understand God’s words to them,
    Thank you Jennifer for your love of scripture and sharing with us that love.

    • dukeslee


      I really appreciate your thoughtful response to today’s Scripture. It’s sometimes hard to chose love over retaliation, but God’s Word is pretty clear about the proper response.

  4. Rebekah M. Hallberg

    Not necessarily in ministry, but in life, something similar happened. Some friends openly questioned and tried to “encourage” out of their story – which is not my story, rather than support what was becoming my story. I know God calls us to different paths – all of us. I think sometimes I consider those who aren’t supportive, and want them to see that I’m doing the right thing (wanting to feel justified in their eyes) rather than staying close to Jesus, knowing His opinion is the only one that truly matters. Thank you for sharing this hard, painful story with us – encouragement for today.

    • dukeslee

      I understand what you’re saying, Rebekah. I hope you have some people in your life who will stand with you as your story grows into its fullness. Thanks for your comment.

      • Rebekah M. Hallberg

        I do, and I am so blessed. My life isn’t what I had envisioned, but God is making it amazing. I’m finding healing through so much of what I’m reading as others are brave to share their stories. Thank you!

  5. Sharon O

    yes I will join in this ‘journey’…

    • dukeslee

      Hi Sharon! So happy to have you with us.

  6. Ann Kroeker

    What a story! And how can anyone know you and see that your heart, while human, has pure motives. Whatever was bothering that person, I’m certain you and he or she could have discussed it openly, honestly. Your response is mature and honest. And the tears, yes, I would have responded immediately afterwards with torrents of tears.

    • dukeslee

      I hope that all these years later, the story might help someone else who has undergone intense, hurtful criticism. We learned much from our experience, but I must admit, writing about it was hard. It brought up a lot of those awful feelings.

  7. joni

    I am blessed when i am persecuted for Jesus sake; others thoughts against me. This drives me to perform/please for others to like me. It may not be my issue but theirs…… When i make it my issue…. I am not listening to God and His plan for my life.

    • dukeslee

      So true, Joni. Thanks.

  8. Trudy Den Hoed

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, Jennifer. I’m glad you and your husband didn’t quit because of it. Perhaps the convictions in your heart even grew stronger through it? I think sometimes those critical voices from the past not only tempt us to quit but also hold us back from doing what God wants us to do. Thank you so much for sharing this and reminding me to cling to God’s truth, not to the critical voices.

    • dukeslee

      I do believe we grew stronger, though it hurt us deeply at the time. But we learned a lot about how to deal with conflict, and how to stand by good decisions, even if they were unpopular with some. Thanks, Trudy.

  9. ro elliott

    Sad to say…most people have had this experience…especially woman… I think the freedom that comes from not defending ourselves… Of finding the space like Christ… “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” ..And the path of love and forgiveness …. Love your enemies…bless those who curse you …maybe brings more freedom than any other virtue we can practice … These are not harsh commands of God… But ways for us to walk in freedom from ourselves and from others… I have been walking through a painful path for the last 6 yrs…. Spiritual in nature… But has brought a painful separation between our family and my sister’s… I can give testimony that God can bring healing and peace even when there has not been reconciliation … And my heart is tested much… Because we are family I have to be in their presence a lot… And this helps”force” me to keep going deeper in love and forgiveness… I don’t think this is ever God’s heart… But He will redeem everything…and I am now thankful …not for the separation… But for all the ways He has met me and changed me!!!!!

  10. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for sharing your hurtful experience, Jennifer. In your story we see how God strengthened you to press on, empowered you to avoid pay-back and defensiveness, and taught you wisdom to pass on to us. I, too, want my ears trained on “the blessed, happy sound of Christ, the only sound that can drown out the voice of man.” May God’s blessing upon you continue to grow, as you follow him closely and minister to others sacrificially.

  11. Jen

    I’m just so thankful to read these words today. May they take root deep in our hearts!



  1. Because ~ We’ve Been Falsely Accused | Being Confident of This - […] And if you enjoyed what is written above, you’ll certainly enjoy this perspective from Jennifer Dukes Lee. […]

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