We have all felt the pain and sting of rejection. It can inflict short-term agony, and often long-term feelings of inferiority, on the human spirit. Why?
Relationships are essential to personhood. We cannot be persons apart from our connection to others. This explains why wounds of rejection cut so deeply, particularly those wounds inflicted during our early years when our sense of personhood is being formed. Rejection strikes a blow at the root of healthy human personhood because it strikes at our connection to others. When a parent rejects a child, the child hears the parents saying, “I don’t want a relationship with you.” But as children, we desperately need to relate to our parents. Our very personhood, our sense of being, depends on it.
Unconditional acceptance and affirmation from parents are vital and necessary. Without these relational foundation stones, these ties that bind and bond us to them, a proper sense of self will not be developed. Remove them completely, and we will exist at the sub personal level of a nonbeing.
Acceptance and affirmation from others are also foundational in developing a proper self-love. As significant others accept and affirm us, we grow to affirm and accept ourselves. If they believe we are lovable and enjoyable, we can believe it too. But when we are rejected by others, we learn to reject ourselves. Frank Lake poignantly describes how babies and infants who experience severe and prolonged rejection by parents are left with a feeling of inner badness.
Which of your experiences of rejection have wounded you deeply? How have they affected your view of yourself? Have they fueled self-contempt and self-hatred? You may not have experienced deep level rejection, yet even when not as deep, rejection can cut to the core of our being and produce deadly fruit. Leanne Payne is right: “ unhealed rejections become seedbeds of diseased ‘matter’ such as bitterness, envy, rage, fear of rejection, and a sense of inferiority”.
But “What a Friend We have in Jesus”. He suffered many forms of rejection and knows the hurt it causes us. By talking to him and following his teachings, we can overcome the dark feelings caused by rejection with a better understanding of ourselves and others.
How Jesus shared and sympathizes with our feelings of rejection
The rejection of neglect.
During his last meal with the disciples Jesus’ his heart was heavy. When they left the upper room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, their disregard for Jesus’ needs was even more conspicuous. Over supper they had failed to notice that Jesus was deeply troubled. How could they miss it when he explicitly said, “I am deeply grieved, even to death”? He even pleaded, “remain here, and stay awake with me” (Matthew 26: 38). Jesus desperately needed their support, but all they could do was sleep.
The rejection of disloyalty.
For three years, Jesus had loved his disciples and poured himself into them. Despite all their failures and foolishness, he believed in them, and he was never disloyal. Of course, they too swore their loyalty. The fateful night when Jesus predicted, “ you will all become deserters, “ Peter reacted vehemently.: “even though I must die with you, I will not deny you “. The others also declared their undying loyalty. (Mark. 14: 27-31).
But within a few hours, Jesus’ prediction came true. When the. Shepherd was struck, all the sheep scattered. “Jesus, who?” exclaimed Peter twice when he servant girl insisted that he was one of Christ’s disciples. And this third time, as others chimed in with her, he took an oath.: “I swear, I have no idea who you are talking about.” (See Mark 14: 16-72).
Jesus knew the rejection that overwhelms you when those who are bound do you treat you like a stranger.
The rejection of betrayal.
Treating people to whom you are bound as if they were strangers is unforgivable, turning against them as if they were enemies is unconceivable. Jesus experienced this betrayal – perhaps the most terrible form of personal rejection. Judas, one of the trusted 12, betrayed him with a kiss, a sign of intimacy and affection, as he handed Jesus over to the soldiers who had come to arrest him.
The rejection of unfairness.
Jesus was innocent. None of his interrogators- Caiaphas, Herod, even Pilot – could find any fault with him. Indeed, they were the ones guilty of gross injustice. The Jewish law prescribed the procedure they should have followed: first trial and if the defendant was found guilty, the condemnation and punishment. As it turned out, Jesus never really had a formal trial.
The religious leaders decided beforehand that he needed to be illuminated. After his arrest they interrogated him, but all along they knew he had to die. Even if he had been guilty of blasphemy – the main charge leveled against him – the punishment should have been death by stoning, not crucifixion.
The rejection of mockery.
The gospel of Mark gives a graphic description of the mockery of Jesus at the cross:
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days,come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Mark 15:29-32)
Jesus suffered taunts like this from the moment he appeared before the high priest until the darkness finally descended. He knew the rejection of mockery.
The rejection of physical abuse.
In the final hours of his life, Christ experienced unimaginable physical abuse. He was flogged spat on, struck in the face, garland with thorns, pierced by nails in his hands and feet, forced to support the full weight of his body for six hours, exposed and, finally, stabbed in his side with a spear to ensure he was dead. The blows Jesus endured enable him to identify with all who have suffered extreme physical abuse.
Jesus was despised and rejected; he was neglected, deserted, betrayed, treated unfairly, mocked and physically abused.
Because he experienced rejection first-hand in so many and such profound ways, Jesus can fully identify with us in our rejection. Because others reject us, we find it difficult to accept ourselves. They consider us unlovable, so we consider ourselves unlovable too. At the cross, however, God’s opinion of us stands fully revealed. We are of inestimable value to God. Accepted in Jesus the Beloved, we are loved beyond all measure, even worth dying for. As Paul declares, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8). There is no better place to unload our hurts in prayer.
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Wounds That Heal: Bringing Our Hurts to the Cross by Stephen Seamands