Rejection…we’ve all been there. At some point in life, we’ve all felt it. Rejection can take on so many different forms; it can happen on so many different levels. It can be as simple as looking back & remembering how you were always the last kid picked for a game of kickball at recess. Maybe it was when you caught your “best friend” bashing you behind your back. Or when the person you thought was the love of your life unexpectedly broke up with you in high school or college. It can come in the form of getting laid off from a job, or interviewing for several positions & always getting passed over for another candidate. It can happen on a much deeper level…siblings you never hear from. Parents removing themselves from your life or refusing to have a relationship with you. Children that act like they want nothing to do with you as their parent. Little or no attention from your spouse on a daily basis – or maybe they decided to just leave altogether.
No matter what “level” of rejection we have experienced in life, the result is always the same: Pain. Scars. Memories. An erosion of any kind of self-confidence. An increased skepticism to continue trusting those closest to us in life anymore. And even if the rejection we experienced was just a one-time act, it seems like that feeling is the one that tends to hit us in the face so many mornings when we wake up. It seems like that‘s the alarm clock Satan often chooses to wake us up with – “You weren’t good enough.”
Why is the pain of rejection so deep? Why does it linger so long? I believe that it’s in our very nature as humans to want to be “accepted.” Think about it – we go through life searching for & desiring to belong – to someone, to something. Some find their acceptance within their family. Others find it within sports. There are all kinds of places where people find their acceptance – in the military or any given career, in a marriage relationship, in a church, a band, a book club – the list is almost endless. Is this wrong? What do we find in Genesis during the days of creation? God created Adam…then He decided it was not good for man to be alone, so He gave him Eve. They found their “acceptance” in each other (along with their fellowship with God in the garden). And an even more compelling argument is to look at God Himself – who exists in a triune Godhead – 3 distinguishable persons, yet indivisible in nature. 1 God, 3 persons in perfect harmony & fellowship with each other (or with Himself, I guess) – a “community” existing within the person of God, if you will. And since we were created in the image of God, it was in the design of creation to enjoy community with each other; with other people. And this is why, I believe, rejection brings so much pain: it’s in our nature to desire acceptance…and it hurts when someone throws it back in our face.
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had seasons in life where we’ve struggled with rejection. One recent act of rejection can trigger your mind to go back through & remember every other form & level of “rejection” you’ve ever faced, and it can drag you into a pit. And it’s in those lowest moments that we feel like nobody understands – for some reason we tell ourselves that nobody really knows what this feels like, and we wonder if anyone even cares. But someone does care… and there is 1 verse that can break this stranglehold of rejection.
This is a very common, familiar verse & we have all probably read it (or even quoted it) many times. The verse says that Jesus can “sympathize” with us because, “in every respect (He) has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” But don’t misunderstand Jesus’ sympathy with the sympathy portrayed in a Hallmark greeting card. The Greek word used here (Sumpatheo) literally means, “to be affected with the same feeling as another.” It implies experience. It means Jesus understands. He’s been there. So how does this relate to rejection? Well…when you start to think about it…it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?
Isaiah 53:3 – “He was despised and rejected by men…”
John 1:11 – “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.”
Matthew 27:46 – “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“
If anyone knows what rejection feels like, it’s Jesus. If anyone can truly sympathize with feelings of rejection, it’s Him. And not only was He rejected by the religious leaders of His day & those who crucified Him…but He is still rejected by millions of people every single day. Nobody has faced more rejection than Jesus Christ.
But here’s the best part. Jesus didn’t choose to come to earth & face rejection just so that He could “sympathize” with me. He didn’t willingly bear my sin & experience the Father turning His back on Him just so that I can be “comforted” that He “knows how I feel.” No, instead it comes around full circle. Jesus Christ chose to be despised & rejected by men, so that He could offer acceptance to the same people that once rejected Him. And that’s me. That’s you.
John 1:12-13 – “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…”
Not only can we go confidently to our great High Priest to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)…but when we’re facing those feelings of rejection, we can fulfill our ultimate desire of “acceptance” in Him! The One who took my place, who suffered the death I deserved, who still faces the rejection of the very people He came to save…in order to redeem me from my spiritual death and give me His righteousness.
Jesus Christ faced ultimate rejection, so that He could offer divine acceptance.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (ESV)