There are 5 emotional and spiritual hindrances to our hospitality efforts that we must discuss in depth and find a way to overcome.
What Stands in Your Way? Emotional & Spiritual Hindrances to Hospitality
Today we are jumping into our discussion of the hindrances that often stand in the way of our hospitality efforts. As we mapped out in the first post of this series (check it out here), we are going to address several areas over the coming weeks including financial, physical, and time based hindrances. Today, however, we are talking about spiritual/ emotional/ and mental hindrances that often stop us in our tracks.
Maybe you came to this post realizing that hospitality is important (if not, check out why it is here) but you just feel like it is impossible for you. Hospitality feels completely overwhelming and you have no idea where to start. Maybe you struggle with comparison and imagine your guests will be critiquing your efforts or perhaps fear of rejection makes it difficult to even extend the invitation.
Whatever the reason for your struggle, I want you first to know that the Gospel offers help to you and me. We are not alone in our efforts to be hospitable. From the beginning of time God has been radically displaying His hospitable nature. He created you, He is at work in your life, and He can use you in the situation you are in.
God has also commanded that we be hospitable. As with all of His commands, we can shout along with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me!” (Philippians 4:13). It is not your job to muster up the strength to be hospitable, it is your job to pour out your desire to obey God’s command (check out this post to see where this is commanded in Scripture) before Him, ask Him for the strength, and move forward in the obedience He will strengthen you for.
The Gospel is a call to radical welcome. Christ entered our world, lived perfectly, exercised perfect hospitality, died in our place, and went to prepare a place for us in Heaven so that He can put His magnificent hospitality on display for all of eternity. Romans 15:7 calls us to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us. This is not optional. This is how God plans to work through His church.
But the hindrances to our efforts in this areas are real. Christ even faced hindrances to His hospitality efforts like we talked about in this post last week.
So let’s dive in and discuss some of these hindrances that stand in our way and how we can overcome them.
“Hospitality isn’t my gift!”
Many of us have had the privilege of being around those who have the “gift” of hospitality. They have warm personalities and something about them just seems to shout “welcome!” It is a rare treat to feel that way with another person. But even if no one has ever said that you make them feel welcome or that you have a warm personality, hospitality is still commanded of you. In Scripture we see the command to be hospitable is extended to all believers (1 Peter 4:9). If you have trusted in Christ, you are commanded to welcome others. There are a lot of ways to do this and your effort doesn’t have to look the same as mine (in fact, I hope it doesn’t because it should be authentic to your life and calling) but you are commanded nonetheless.
Hospitality is a special requirement for those in church leadership (Titus 1:8) but it is to be exemplified by all believers. Whether you feel a particular gift in this area or not, you do know how it feels to be welcomed. Even if no one has ever had you over to share a meal and extend a welcome (I’m sorry if that is the case!), you still know how it feels to be welcomed because Christ has welcomed you. Extend that kind of warmth and welcome to others and I guarantee the Lord will use it.
If you don’t struggle with this, I would like to meet you. I think all of us deal with this to varying degrees and at different times. We question whether or not our house is up to the same standards as our guests, we notice every spot of dust when a guest is in our living room, and every misbehavior from our children seems like the worst thing they have ever done.
Comparison steals joy. It makes us feel like we have to exceed the standards of our guests’ ordinary lives or we really shouldn’t be hosting them. It makes us focus on our lack or our excess rather than the grace of Christ at work in the time together and what our guests need from us.
Comparison is a symptom of pride.
Pride makes us feel great about our homes and our children when they measure up better in our estimation than our guests and it makes us feel rotten and exposed when they don’t.
Pride and comparison take the focus off our guests and Christ’s glory and shine it back on us. Whether we think of our home as the best place in the world or we are ashamed to say it is ours, our focus when we allow pride and comparison to live in us is in the wrong place (Galatians 6:3).
Fear of rejection/ judgment/ and entertaining.
This is something many of us struggle with especially when hospitality is new to us. The idea of asking someone to come to our homes or go out with us only to be rejected is absolutely terrifying. Add to that the possibility that guests may judge your behaviors, lifestyle, home, or personality and we find ourselves locking the door behind us and shutting off lights so neighbors don’t know we are home. If you also add the difficulty to yourself of believing you need to entertain your guests when they are in your home, I can understand why hospitality can be challenging.
So let’s dispel some of those fears.
To begin with, most people you invite into your home will not reject you. Most will be grateful for the chance to have real relationships and make a genuine connection. Some people will probably think you are bizarre for asking. That’s ok. I have had my efforts at hospitality rejected but because I extend the invitation quite often this doesn’t strike me as a personal offense. I have had many people accept my offers and thus I’m more able to recognize it is probably fear on the part of the person receiving the invitation that stops them from coming through the door.
You do not need to add a burden to yourself. You are not commanded in Scripture to have a perfect meal or perfect environment planned (although it can be fun to be creative!). The response to your invitation and welcome is not your responsibility. Whether or not people look down on you or judge you is not in your control. In Christ you are free (Galatians 5:1). You are loved (1 John 4:19). Your identity is as an image bearer of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
There is also a common misconception that all hospitality is entertaining. But they are not the same. The goal of entertainment is a show; the goal of hospitality is a community. Check out this amazing post by Jen Wilkin for a more in-depth look at the difference.
This is a difficult area to broach because loneliness can be caused by a variety of factors. I have experienced loneliness in my own life because I have genuinely lacked community. I’ve also experienced it because, in the midst of community, I felt misunderstood and rejected. Loneliness is a genuine hurdle which must be examined closely.
Praise God that Christ is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)! He has welcomed us into His family and set up a home eternally with Him in Heaven. He is our kinsman, our friend, our brother, our Savior. He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). He is worth any sacrifice and He has an eternal plan for us which does not include loneliness in the heavenly realm.
On earth, however, loneliness draws our hearts homeward. It makes us long for a city whose maker and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). We ache to be united with Him and His people in perpetual joy and this world falls short time and time again.
Loneliness is natural. As a new mom I experienced this a lot. I was aching for community and praying for a solution. God was merciful to meet that need in my heart and surround me with brothers and sisters in Christ (more on that here).
It takes courage to step out of the fear and isolation that loneliness brings and build relationships but as we prayerfully do, God meets us. He draws near to us with His own sweet presence and often (though it may take time) surrounds us with the blessing of friendship.
Depression and the Belief that We Must Show Everyone our Best Side
Sometimes life is tremendously hard. Circumstances are gut wrenching and heart breaking and we don’t know how we are to go on. Sometimes internal imbalances cause medical depression. Sometimes sin or deep spiritual warfare rise up to throw us down. Depression is real and it is incredibly difficult.
I dealt with post-partum depression significantly when my daughter was born. I honestly believe the Lord allowed me to walk through this difficult season primarily to give me compassion and understanding. The area of New York I live in has a tremendously high rate of mental illness and before my own struggles, I never had the compassion I needed for those struggling with depression.
It is easy when sadness seems like it will overtake you to pull away from community. When it seems like a crushing weight to get out of bed and get dressed, the idea of inviting others feels like torture. But there is hope. God does know your circumstances. He cares deeply for your feelings and situation. He is compassionate and kind. And He desires that you live life in community.
But it does not mean painting a smile on your face when your heart is breaking. That is not real community. Real community starts when we choose to obey God, look outside of ourselves, and cling to Christ. We obey His commands even when they feel impossible recognizing that “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
And when we sit down at a coffee shop, feeling like we had to move heaven and earth to get there, we find healing as others bear our burdens along with us (Galatians 6:2). I am not saying this will be easy. I am saying this will be beautiful. In these situations, we should look for those further along spiritually than we are to share with. We should seek people who are doing well in their walk with Christ so that, in bearing our burden, they share with us some of their insight as well.
Face the Hindrances to Hospitality and See a Beautiful Ministry Bloom
Community can be beautiful. Hospitality is a ministry which reveals the character of our God. It is worth overcoming the hurdles we face in our daily lives to fight for. There are real spiritual, emotional and mental struggles with hospitality. Satan knows how beautiful this can be and he doesn’t want it to be easy. Fight for this ministry and be encouraged, God will use your effort, and strengthen you in the midst of it.
If you missed last week’s post, check it out here! Or if you want to start this series at the beginning, check out this post! Next week we will be talking about the physical hindrances to hospitality that we often face like lack of community and small spaces! Cant wait to see you back then!