Finding Belonging When God Takes Away Your Community

Out of Place – Rachel’s Story

It was the 5th Starbucks trip that finalized it for me; I was no longer part of the circle and I needed to accept it. 

The women who I had spent hours doing life together with the prior three years walked by me in the hallway of the church with their coffees in hand, laughing at some inside joke from their short time together in the car. Week after week, while our kids were in homeschool co-op classes, they left to make this coffee run. And week after week, they left me alone in the hallway with my newborn, never inviting me and never offering to grab me a coffee. What had been a slow and steady erosion of our commitment to community with each other was confirmed that morning and would be echoed throughout the other spaces we shared in the year that followed. It was not only the relationships with these women that changed that year; every aspect of my community—nonprofit work, church, homeschooling, and friendships—altered so drastically by the following fall that the same people I had included in our adoption profile under “friends” in 2016 were not there to celebrate with when the adoption finalized in 2017. 

I would like to say I immediately saw God’s hand in the removal, but honestly, my sleep-deprived eyes saw only abandonment and my tired soul felt forgotten. I was quick to point out how people’s sinful natures exacerbated the situation, and I was quick to lament to God about the infuriatingly debilitating loneliness. I didn’t want to care that others had seemingly cast aside our friendship, yet I constantly found myself fighting against bitterness layering on top of anger and jealousy with each social event I attended and social media post I saw.

He gives and takes away

In the months that followed, I spent energy often replaying moments and conversations in my mind, searching for that small box of evidence to place under my feet in the muck of reality. The search for a reason behind the disintegration of community was never successful. Because, there really wasn’t a big scandalous event, no malicious intent by any parties, and no selfish endeavor. Just people trying to understand what God was calling them to do and bumbling through the act of obedience to it. At the end of the day, I was faced with this simple truth: God had removed my community. In multiple key areas of my life, I no longer belonged. And, I didn’t understand why He would do something so cruel to me.

Then, the shot gun went off and the race of the next two years was underway. I cannot articulate the full, intense overwhelm that many days of 2018 and 2019 contained. Only that any endurance I had, any joy, any peace, was only the result of the fact that I did not have a community to support me. Because I couldn’t just pick up a phone to ask for prayer, because I couldn’t just share what was going on after church service in the foyer, because I couldn’t just avoid the difficult with a girl’s night out, I was forced to sit down in my loneliness and see the face of Jesus.

Even though there had been many beautiful moments with my community of in-the-trenches support and growth-producing pointing each other to Jesus (which is why it was so hard to see it removed), Jesus wanted me to become intimately aware of the community I existed in with Him. What I saw as a cruel displacement, He revealed as a grace-filled, love-filled lesson in the belonging I already possessed, with or without an earthly community.

What I saw as a cruel displacement, He revealed as a grace-filled, love-filled lesson in the belonging I already possessed, with or without an earthly community.

Rooted in Him

My belonging was rooted in my identity and my identity was rooted in four things: the way in which God had created me, the way in which God redeemed me, the way in which God leads me daily, and the way in which God asks me to live out His will in the social spaces He places me. This combination makes up my unique design, and that design carries with it the imprinted image of its creator. An inherent belonging. Jesus embraced me with loneliness so I could embrace knowing my intentional Creator, the one to whom I was intrinsically tied, had a place with, and who would never abandon me or forget me. He removed my community so I could more fully understand my identity as one who belongs to Jesus.

I continue to strive to understand the ways in which He has designed me and to deepen my relationship with Him through prayer, self-reflection, scripture study, and other spiritual disciplines. And Jesus, in a move that reminds me that He cares deeply about the ways in which He’s wired me, has both restored parts of the community He had removed and gifted me with new ones that not only allow me the space to continue this soul-refining work of embracing my unique design, but also challenge me to grow and cheer me on when I make progress. The abundance in which He’s met me in this way doesn’t escape my notice and I hope I never take it for granted as I engage with my community. If one day He chooses to remove the community He’s blessed me with now, I pray I recognize His hand quicker than I did five years ago and that I lean deep into the lines of belonging etched into my very essence.   

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

Thanks! I can't wait to connect with you!

Meet Rachel Fahrenbach

Rachel Fahrenbach is a storyteller embracing her unique design. She loves rhythm and routine but also has a tendency for free-spirited creativity. She currently blogs about embracing your unique design and knowing your intentional Creator while working on her fiction projects. Rachel and her husband live in the Chicagoland area with their three youngsters. You can connect with her on her website, Instagram, or Facebook.

*Feature Photo by Laura Peruchi on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

6 thoughts on “Finding Belonging When God Takes Away Your Community

  1. I can completely relate! At least in my own small way. A year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to go from my bustling teaching career to disability at home. I lost several friends who just didn’t know how to deal with cancer but gained several more- many survivors from their own cancer journey. However, when push came to shove, I quickly realized that most of my days would be spent along with God. He has shaped me more in the last year and a half then in my entire 45 years of life. He has taught me how to live the “eucharisteo” life- a life of grace, joy and thankfulness. Thank you for sharing your journey from ashes to beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow– it’s pretty uncanny how relatable this is. Thank you for your words. I think I could see this light, but in the midst of the despair and frustration, it’s been hard to hold focus. Thanks for speaking backward about the insight I have to look forward to.

    Liked by 1 person

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