This article was written by Darby Strickland and published by CCEF
Rejection—it’s so personal. It sticks to our souls. It does not respond to reason, and is not easily dislodged from our hearts. We can try to talk ourselves out of the indictment that comes with it, but the words we use are mostly ineffective, reinforcing our shame.
I have experienced all sorts of rejection. I still feel the sting of certain family members not ever returning my phone calls and good friendships that are no more. I have heard things like, “you are not a good fit for our small group” or “since you homeschool, we didn’t think you’d fit in with us.” These words pierce. There is a finality about them. They do not leave room for further conversations.
Perhaps you, too, have heard words like these,
“I don’t love you anymore.”
“We have all the helpers we need.”
“I cannot stand you.”
“I’ve decided to room with Lynn at the retreat instead of you.”
“I know you have led our Bible Study group for many years, but we are looking for a fresh face. You understand, don’t you?”
“We play hard, I didn’t think you could keep up with us.”
“We want younger people on our outreach committee.”
“I don’t care to understand you—or your politics.”
Or maybe you were rejected but words were never used. You were simply not invited to the dinner party or to the weekend away with your extended family. You were excluded, but didn’t know it. Sometimes you only learned of it because of what was posted on social media.
No matter how it happens, rejection is hard to overcome. And the closer the relationship, the deeper the anguish. The pain can be so intense that sometimes our bodies even feel the ache of it. I do not know about you, but when the feelings are fresh, they can deprive me of peace. I search through the rubble of the relationship and wonder, was it something I said? Did? Or didn’t do? Why don’t they engage me anymore? What about me makes me unlikable? And if I am not careful, I can listen more intently to my fears and assumptions about why I was rejected than what the Lord says about me.
What then might be a better way through rejection? Consider these words from Peter.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house…” (1 Peter 2:4–5b)
These words have given so much hope to my heart when I have felt rejected.
Here are three of the ways.
First, Jesus was rejected, too, and not just by his own people but also by his closest friends—those he loved deeply. They left him alone in his final hours when he needed them the most.
Second, I take comfort in knowing that the one who experienced the pain of rejection first-hand did not close his heart. He still wants me to come to him. Jesus never rejects; he always welcomes me (John 6:37). He wants me near him even when I am weak, burdened, troubled, distressed, and feeling a mess (Matt 11:28). His love is not fickle; it is faithful. I can count on him even when I am unlovable or deemed unworthy by others.
Third, although I can feel like other people have no use for me, the Lord does. He is making me into part of his spiritual house. He could have chosen to use the finest building materials to replace his temple here on earth. But with all of creation at his disposal, he uses me and you to be the place where he dwells among his people. Reading a little further in the passage, we are told we are chosen for this purpose. That we are a royal priesthood. God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9).
These simple reminders from Peter help me take my pain to a savior who understands my heart, who has promised not to turn away from me but to shape me for his glory and my good. This means that I do not have to turn against myself when I am rejected. I can simply turn to him. With him, I am secure and loved. And while lingering pain can remain from the rejection of other people, his love removes the sting and the shame. I can rest in him and rejoice in knowing that he will always delight in me.