When the Fear of Being Misunderstood Upsets Our Peace

by Brenda Bradford Ottinger December 6, 2021
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord …’” Luke 1:46 (ESV)
Pinterest Image

Through a blur of tears, I studied the message, confused by the words it contained.

I’d served in a lovely women’s group for years, and sadly, a newer member of the group had mistaken something I’d said and filed a complaint. Instantly, the angst of misunderstanding upset my peace as I realized I’d been inaccurately accused.

In hindsight, I should have recognized the potential for misunderstanding, yet I hadn’t considered how my words might come across as critical.

Feeling discouraged, I called a trusted friend, who prayed with me and listened to my heart pour out in tears. Afterward, I did my best to resolve the misunderstanding, and everyone moved on. Yet a restless tension lingered heavily in my spirit.

You see, one of my greatest fears is of being misunderstood. All my life, I’ve longed for others to assume the best of me, not the worst. And I’m painfully aware that I make my share of inaccurate assumptions, as well. 

This misunderstanding happened years ago, and I wish I could say I’m currently cured of my fear of being misunderstood. But all too often, I’m still fighting for freedom in this struggle … still laying this fear at the feet of Jesus again and again.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ mother, Mary, and how she must have felt when the angel Gabriel told her that she, a seemingly ordinary young virgin, would be the mother of the Savior. (Luke 1:26-38)

As the awe of this message sank in, I wonder what concerns Mary may have had about being misunderstood. An engaged young woman, now supernaturally pregnant?

As her community anticipated the Messiah’s arrival in unmistakable grandeur, Mary held the promise of the Savior in her womb. Despite how she might have explained her growing belly, if I were Mary the fear of being misunderstood would have made my shortlist of concerns.

Yet I’m touched by Mary’s ultimate acceptance: “I am the Lord’s servant,” she said (Luke 1:38a, NIV). Though her situation might have appeared amiss to others, Mary knew she was understood by God, and she made herself available to Him.

After receiving this news from the angel, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with a son — John the Baptist. Upon hearing Mary’s greeting, John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth, suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit, enthusiastically blessed Mary, affirming her as the mother of the Savior. (Luke 1:39-44)

What a gift it must have been for Mary to feel understood. Yet Mary’s response wasn’t to brainstorm with Elizabeth about how she might explain her situation to others. Rather, her response was one of worship: “My soul magnifies the Lord,” she declared (Luke 1:46).

Mary’s peace didn’t rest in the perceptions of others. Rather than focusing on the outward appearance of her situation, Mary focused on the inward presence of her Savior.

Oh, to follow Mary’s example — to be so focused on God that our worship of the Lord replaces our longing for understanding from the world.

Lasting peace can’t be found in the perceptions of others. Most days, we’re all just doing the best we can in this messy thing called life, and misunderstandings are a natural part of our humanity. But may this be cause for extending grace, not for purging peace.

The expense of our peace is too high a price to set up on automatic withdrawal every time we feel misunderstood.

Instead, may we quiet our souls in worship and rest in the calm of being wholly understood by God.

For true peace comes not from managing the perceptions of the world but from magnifying the presence of the Lord.

Dear God, thank You for intimately understanding me and for being my very peace in life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Our matching challenge is happening now! All donations made from November 29-December 8 will be doubled! For the days when everything feels like too much … Proverbs 31 Ministries meets you with biblical Truth and encouragement in the moments you feel most overwhelmed. When you donate to Proverbs 31 Ministries you are helping us continue to offer the biblical resources you need — like free, encouraging devotions sent straight to your email inbox — to help you through your hard moments. Donate today!




For more encouragement, connect with Brenda Bradford Ottinger on her website.


Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT)

Psalm 139:1, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (ESV)

How is the longing for understanding costing you peace today? Picture yourself placing your concerns in God’s palm. Exhale and rest in the One who knit you and knows you.

We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2021 by Brenda Bradford Ottinger. All rights reserved.

What We Believe

If your life feels too overwhelming, click here for our care and counseling resources.

Join the Conversation