The word rejection can unlock an array of painful memories for all of us. Whether it’s divorce, layoffs, or being raised by disconnected parents, you know the damage rejection has done in your personal life. Many of us still carry the wounds from rejections that happened years ago, be it from our parents or our peers. The holidays typically involve family events, and if we are living with the wounds of rejection, Christmas time can be all the more stressful. This past Sunday, Pastor Jerry Murrell reminded us that “nearly every biblical person experienced rejection.” Even Jesus was “despised and rejected by men…” (Isaiah 53:3). So if you’ve experienced rejection in the past, or you’re currently dealing with it – you’re in good company ☺
Rejection occurs within the context of connection. Since we are designed by God for connection with Him and with humanity (“it is not good for man to be alone …” Genesis 2:18), the sting of rejection is all the more painful. Wanting something, whether it’s a job or a relationship, is vulnerable. Rejection can make us feel a deep sense of shame and embarrassment. When we feel ashamed or embarrassed, we will typically close up, try to hide, or try to numb ourselves. This is how satan uses rejection in our lives, to create disconnection in our relationships, to increase isolation from others and from God.
Rejection can also spark a variety of mental health symptoms. If you experience chronic rejection (grow up in a family with an uninvolved parent, are unsuccessful in dating, have difficulty making friends), symptoms of depression will emerge because of the constant emotional beatdown of rejection. If you experience situational rejection (being picked last for a team in gym, figuring out where to sit on the bus or at lunch, approaching your spouse with a need, etc.) you can begin to experience anxiety symptoms, which can then cause you to avoid and disconnect. Ultimately mental health symptoms increase our feelings of shame and isolation.
This holiday season, I’m inviting you to give yourself a Christmas gift and consider what would happen if you let Jesus, the ultimate rejected One, help you with your wounds. Consider what would happen if you let the Maker of the stars help you move from rejection to rejoicing? Jesus didn’t come into this world just to pave the way for salvation - although that was more than enough. He also came so that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). If you are dealing with painful emotional wounds this holiday season, give Jesus a chance to help you heal. “The rejected One is the reigning One” (Pastor Murrell).
Rejected to Restored
- Jesus was rejected by His own people; if anyone understands rejection, He does. Have you experienced rejection that has caused a part of your heart to close up? You’ll know immediately if this question applies to you because it will have popped into your head the second you read the question. Good news – our God is the God who breathes life into dead things.
- Read Ezekiel 37:1-14.
- Think of whatever it is in your life that feels dead from rejection.
- Now imagine that God is saying to you “(whatever it is that feels closed and dead in your life) dry bones hear the Word of the Lord”.
- God can redeem this area of your life, but only if you want Him to. The choice is yours.
- The rejection Joseph experienced by his family was devastating, even when he was a grown man (Genesis 43:30). But his life didn’t end with his rejection because our God is the God who uses ALL things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Can you look back over your life, like Joseph did, and see where rejection was the Hand of God at work?
- Consider this: sometimes rejection is something to be thankful for. Joseph, David, and Jesus all experienced rejection from their family of origin, and when we read the bible, we know how God was directly involved in each of their lives.
- Joseph told his brothers “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done…” (Genesis 50:20). Can you think of an example of this happening in your life? When someone meant to harm you, but God used it for good?
- “Rejection may be taking you to your destiny versus away from it” (Pastor Murrell). Take a moment to thank God for the way He used rejection in your past to help you get to where you are now. “When they were pushing you, God was pulling you” – Steven Furtick (Elevation, Have you ever been rejected?, 2020).
- Christians are currently experiencing global rejection for our beliefs. This world is becoming more and more hostile to Christians, just like the Bible told us it would (John 15:18-19). Jesus tells us clearly how to handle spiritual rejection in Matthew 10:14. If you are dealing with spiritual rejection, do as Jesus says, shake the dust from your feet, and move on.
- The truth is that some forms of rejection are a compliment. We aren’t supposed to fit into this world, so if you are noticing spiritual rejection in your life, try and reframe it.
- Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique where we take a situation and identify the thoughts and feelings associated with it. We cannot control situations but we can control our thoughts and our responses. Take some time and talk about/write about how this rejection has made you think/feel about yourself. Once you know how it makes you think/feel, challenge those thoughts.
- Example: Spiritual rejection
- Thought about myself: I’m a bad person for believing the Bible.
- Feelings about myself/situation: sad, disconnected, and angry.
- Challenge the thought: are you really a bad person for sticking to what you believe, for believing the Bible, for not bending to culture? Or are you noticing some rejection in one area of your life (from family/friends/coworkers, etc.)? Rejection is probably not happening in all areas of your life.
- Now think of a time when you felt connected spiritually. Remember how good it feels to be loved and accepted by God and by His people.
- The next time the negative thought comes up: I’m a bad person for sticking to what I believe. Stop what you’re doing and remind yourself that this person/group of people is rejecting you, but not everyone rejects you. Then intentionally think about what it feels like to be at church, or in your small group, or praying – notice the positive feeling of connection in those areas of your life.
- Rejection and the emotions attached to it (shame, anger, embarrassment, etc.) stings, so we need a salve to help with the pain.
- What do you typically turn to for comforting yourself? Food, television, alcohol, social media, attention?
- How does this activity comfort you? Ask yourself what it is about this activity that is so powerful that it helps ease the sting of difficult emotions. Did you learn it from a parent or a friend, or just stumble upon it and keep it up because it’s effective?
- Now consider, is it actually comforting you, or is it numbing you?
- Numbing is absolutely effective in easing pain, but the problem is that numbing isn’t healing, it’s stagnant.
- Ask Jesus – who does NOT reject us or condemn us, even when we utilize unhealthy coping skills – to help you find other, healthier forms of comfort.
- Rejection is…
- Rejection is sometimes a Redirection from God (Steven Furtick, 2021, Rejection is Redirection Sermon). I know I’m not alone in that I’ve purposely disobeyed God. I just go bebopping along my way, regardless of God’s instruction, and as a result of my disobedience, I have to experience rejection.
- Rejection is sometimes the result of sin in the world - John 16:33. We will have trouble in this world because it’s a fallen place.
- Rejection is something you may have to hold yourself accountable for. Pastor Murrell reminded us that sometimes rejection is our fault. Example: if you get fired from your job, but you show up late 4 out of 5 days, then the fault lies with you ☺ honest reflection is required to determine if rejection in some area of your life is an indicator that you have some things to work on.
- Rejection is not …
- Rejection is not an indicator of your self-worth- Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5.
- Rejection is not an indicator that God doesn’t love you – Jeremiah 31:3-4.
- Rejection is not an accurate prediction for the rest of your life. Ultimately there are reasons for rejection, some we will discover on this side of heaven and some we will not. Remember that rejection doesn’t have the final say!
I pray that you allow Jesus to help you turn your rejection into rejoicing this holiday season!