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Almost all of us have experienced rejection at one time or another, but many of us have not understood its nature or its effects. The rejection may have been something relatively minor, or it may have been so devastating that it affected your whole life and all your relationships. Here are some common examples: you were not chosen to play on a school sports team; your first boyfriend failed to show up for an important date and never gave you a reason; you were not accepted at the college of your choice; you were laid off from your job for no good reason, they said you were redundant. Far worse than these examples is the pain that comes because you never felt love from your father, because you sensed your mother didn’t want you, or because your marriage ended in divorce. Experiences such as these leave permanent wounds, whether you are aware of them or not. But I have good news for you! God can heal you from the wounds that come from rejection, help you to accept yourself, and enable you to show His love to others. However, before you can receive His help, you must recognize the nature of your problem. Rejection can be defined as the sense of being unwanted. You desire people to love you, and yet you believe that they do not. You want to be part of a group, but you feel excluded. Somehow you are always on the outside looking in. Closely related to rejection are the wounds of betrayal and shame. All produce similar responses in the wounded person, the feeling of not being wanted or accepted. Sometimes rejection is so wounding and painful that the mind refuses to focus on it. Nevertheless, you know something is there, even though it is deeper than the mind, deeper than the reason, deeper than the memory. It is in your spirit. The book of Proverbs describes this:
13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:13)
The writer also tells how a crushed spirit will affect a person: 14 A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)
A vibrant spirit helps a person through great difficulties, but a crushed spirit has a crippling effect in all areas of life. Our society today is suffering from a progressive breakdown of interpersonal relationships. Quite possibly you have been caught in the crossfire, and the result has been a wound of rejection. Let me suggest, however, that you should look for a silver lining to that dark cloud. I believe the Devil has some foreknowledge. He knows God wants to use you, and he has struck his blow first. In a way it is a kind of twisted compliment. It means that Satan is afraid of what you can become in Christ. So, do not be discouraged. In my experience I have found that the people who have been the lowest often end up the highest. The Scriptures tell us, He who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:14). There is a verse in Matthew that I believe describes how Jesus feels toward you:
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them?(Matthew 9:36a NKJV)
The Greek word translated compassion is amazingly powerful. It implies a forceful, physical reaction in a person’s body in the abdominal area. It is a reaction so strong that it demands a response. A person who is moved with compassion cannot stand by and observe. He must do something. Why was Jesus so moved?
36 because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
(Matthew 9:36b NKJV) That is just how you may feel: weary, harried, frustrated, perplexed, fearful, anxious, burdened down. Jesus sees you, just as He saw the multitudes. He has compassion for you. He is longing to heal you where you hurt the most. First, we must understand the true nature of rejection. How does rejection occur? What causes the wounding? When we answer these questions, then we can ask, How can wounds of rejection be treated? About 1964 I often found myself ministering to people who were bound by addictions to substances such as nicotine or alcohol. Very quickly, however, I discovered that addictions such as these are merely twigs that have sprouted from a branch. Normally, the branch that supports them is some form of frustration. Therefore, the practical solution is to deal with the branch. When the branch of frustration is cut off, dealing with the twigs of addiction is relatively easy. As I continued to wrestle with people’s personal problems, I gradually worked my way down the trunk of the tree until I came to the part of the tree that lies below the surface, that is, the roots. It is here that God seeks to work in our lives.
10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:10 NKJV)
From where is the tree cut down? From the roots. When I got down below the surface, I made a discovery that surprised me at first. One of the most common roots of all personal problems is rejection. I reached this conclusion, not as a sociologist or as a psychologist, but as a preacher and a Bible teacher. Have you ever seen a small child in his father’s arms? One little hand clutches the lapel of his father’s jacket while his head is pressed against that strong, protective chest. Pressures and tensions may be all around, but the child is not threatened. His face registers total security. He is where he belongs, in his Daddy’s arms. God designed human nature so that every baby born into the world would crave this kind of security. A child can never truly be satisfied, fulfilled, or secure without parental love, particularly love from a father. Any person who has been deprived of this kind of love is inevitably exposed to the wound of rejection. Almost an entire generation of American fathers have failed their children. Thus, we have a generation of young people whose deepest, most basic problem is rejection. To this picture of broken relationships between parents and children, we must add the statistics for failed marriages. Today, that covers about half of all marriages. Almost always, one or both parties emerge with a wound of rejection. Very often, there is the added pain of betrayed trust. When we consider the pressures of today’s society, particularly the breakup of family life, my conviction is that at least half of the people in the United States suffer from some form of rejection. No doubt God foresaw this special end-time crisis of broken relationships when He gave this promise in Malachi:
5 See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5, 6)
The final outcome of rejection caused by broken relationships is a curse. However, for those who will turn to God through Jesus, He has provided healing from this curse. What form will this healing take? What is the opposite of rejection? Acceptance, of course. This is precisely what God offers you when you come to Him through Jesus. He has made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV), that is, in Jesus. The original Greek word that is translated here as accepted is very powerful. It is much stronger than mere approval. In the New King James Version of Luke 1:28, the same Greek word is translated highly favored one. When you come to God through Jesus, you are as accepted and as highly favored as Jesus Himself is. Amazing as it may seem, God loves you in just the same way He loves Jesus. You become a member of His own family. The first step in overcoming rejection is to recognize the problem. Once you recognize it, you can deal with it. You are not alone in this; God will help you recognize it. Let me give you a practical illustration. During World War II, when I was a medical orderly in the desert in North Africa, I was working with a man who was a brilliant doctor. A bomb fell from an enemy plane and exploded somewhere near us. One of our soldiers was struck with a piece of shrapnel. He came into the medical station with this tiny, black puncture mark in his shoulder. As a result, I was very busy attending to him, cleaning his wound, and trying to do the right thing, when I asked the doctor, Shall I get out a dressing? The doctor said, No, give me the probe. So, I handed him the little silver stick, and he put it in the wound and moved it around. Nothing happened for a few moments. Suddenly, the probe touched the little piece of shrapnel inside, and the patient let out a yelp. The doctor knew he had found the problem. When I again asked if I should bring the dressing, the doctor replied, No, bring me the forceps. He put the forceps in and removed the piece of shrapnel. Only then did he want to apply the dressing. You may be putting a little dressing of religion over a wound that cannot heal because there is something inside that is causing it to fester. However, if you will open your heart to the Holy Spirit, He will reveal the source of the problem. If the Holy Spirit’s probe touches a piece of shrapnel, yelp if you must, but don’t resist! Ask Him to use His forceps to remove the problem. Then God can apply something that will really heal it. As you read on, you will discover how you can move from rejection to acceptance. Along the way, you will also learn how to deal with betrayal and shame. After that, I will show you how to let God’s divine love flow through you to other people. I have dealt with many, many people who have successfully recognized and recovered from the wounds of rejection. You can be one of those people through God’s grace.