|All of us have been rejected at one time or another. The question is what do we do with that rejection–will it destroy us; will it weaken our faith or strengthen it? Let me share my story. With my out-going and strong personality, I was a big change for this country church who’d hired me as their first paid youth pastor.
As with marriage, most jobs and especially church positions have a “getting-to-know-you-stage” where everyone offers a lot of grace. My grace-period lingered well into the spring and early summer like the fragrance of the orange blossoms surrounding our close-knit community.
Soon I settled into a routine, and I began inviting kids from the neighborhood to join us at youth group. I also sought ways to meet the needs of a few families living within eyesight of the church. I thought this was “what all good youth pastors do,” but that wasn’t what they thought. Little did I know, my honeymoon was nearly over. Innocently, I had pulled the pins on a few grenades that would later explode, rupturing a hole in my tiny piece of paradise.
That first summer was difficult. The youth were very close to their previous volunteer youth director. She was a wonderful person but had a different style from mine. I reasoned, she was a lot more lenient than I could be because she knew them, and they knew her. That’s hard when others expect you to follow in someone else’s steps instead of creating your own. Then there was the boundary testing all children and youth apply to a new authority figure. I just need to give them time to develop a relationship with me, I determined, trying not to get too discouraged about the constant tug-of-war.
Quickly, I realized what I thought were simple tests were actually war games of military precision aimed at my elimination. I began receiving calls from parents questioning my rules and what they saw as favoritism. They wondered why I was correcting ‘their child’ when ‘those children,’ referring to the street kids I brought in, who needed so much more discipline.
Around this time, the unhappy teens formed an alternative group, exclusive and closely guarded, meeting the same time as the church youth program. How can this happen at a church? I wondered as my isolation grew.
Mayberry, it turned out, was a great place for those who belonged, but I was an outsider with outsider ideas. For months the battles continued as I struggled to do what God sent me there to do—serve the youth and children of this community. Then, just when I thought the situation couldn’t get worse, Sunday mornings ushered in a new slight. This growing group of warrior teens refused to walk on the same sidewalk as I did or sit on the same side of the sanctuary.
Within sixteen months, my dream job had turned into a nightmare. Every day I went into my office at the church, sat at my desk, and cried. The rejection was intense, the abandonment real. Where was God? Why was He allowing this to happen to me?
Perhaps you’ve asked those same questions. As I sought answers in my Bible, it became clear that almost everyone in Scripture experienced rejection and asked God why. Jesus promised that “If you are of the world, the world will love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world will hate you” (John 15:19 ESV).
Years after this church mess, I was still struggling with pain from what I’d endured and I shared my story with an elder in my church. When I asked the rhetorical question of why God would allow this to happen to me, my wise counselor asked, “Why not you?”
I was stunned. He went on to point out that Jesus—God in the flesh—was “troubled in His spirit” as he foretold of Judas (John 13:21). Think about it. He had just washed the guy’s feet a few verses earlier, symbolizing the laying down of His life for him. Then Peter, who professed his love and commitment to Jesus more ardently than any other, rejected even an association with Him in a matter of hours. Sudden, total, heartbreaking rejection. So what made me think I would be spared? I had to admit, that was a fair question.
Then my wise counselor took me to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 in which Paul says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” Why? Because our Lord knows what rejection feels like. Jesus willingly put Himself in a place where His Father in Heaven “turned His face away” as He took our sin and hung on the cross. Why? Because he wanted to redeem us from eternal rejection.
Rejection is still difficult to handle, but now I know that while I’m suffering, I have Jesus who understands walking through it with me. He feels my pain, and he cradles my broken spirit. And I trust I will not be crushed, I may be struck down, but I will not be destroyed, and the same power that rose Christ from the dead is alive in me. I will be lifted up, and I am forever redeemed from eternal rejection because of God’s deep love and acceptance of me.
If you are feeling rejected, write out 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 and add your name into the verse like this: I _____ am hard pressed on every side, but ______ is not crushed; ______ is perplexed, but ______ is not in despair; ______ is persecuted, but _______ is not abandoned; _______ is struck down, but ______ is not destroyed.”
I challenge you the next time you ask the ‘Why’ question, dare to ask ‘Why not’ in return and allow God to heal your heart as He shows you how He will use your suffering for His glory.