[I've written this column as a sequel to this one.]
"Okay," the thirty-five year old woman told me. She said this after I'd explained to her why I thought God allowed both God and us to live with the risk of rejection.
Without the risk of being told "No" by those who might spurn our love, their decision to live in loving relationships with us--to say "Yes" to us--would be meaningless.
"I get it, Mark. I really do," she told me. "I'm ready to accept that it's not God's fault that my parents treat me like dirt. Or that they claim to love me while belittling me with passive-aggressive questions and never calling me. But how do I deal with it? How do I live in the wake of that rejection?"
I had to admire this young woman's healthy attitude. A committed Christian, she wanted to honor her father and mother, but knew that their narcissism would likely not allow a functional relationship with them. Her parents would see her only when it was convenient for them or when the events in the woman's life afforded them an opportunity to bask in her reflected glory. Given those likely perameters, she wondered, how was she to live.
I suggested a few things for dealing with rejection and I suggest them to you now.
First: Prayerfully place the person who has rejected you into God's hands. We human beings are prone to suffer from delusions of grandeur, thinking that if we work at it hard enough, or say the right things, or have the right conversation, we can "fix" other people.
Other people aren't mannequins in our puppet shows, though. Even George Lucas, arguably the most successful director and producer in motion picture history, who created a whole universe with his Star Wars franchise, speaks wistfully of the failure of his marriage.
We can't make others do what we think they should do. But we can prayerfully place them in their Creator's hands, asking God to guide them, help them, soften their hearts, and give them insight. Not even God will force change on the unwilling. God though, is far more persuasive than we are. And the advice and promptings God will give to people through the doorway of our prayers will be vastly superior to any convincing words we might try to muster in personal conversation with them.
Second: Realize that the God Who has gone through the worst rejection anyone has ever endured, is willing to be with you, support you, and encourage you. Jesus promises all who follow Him that He will be near. (Matthew 28:20) When we invite Jesus to be near us, you'll often be amazed at how He sends people or orchestrates circumstances to provide you with the support you need.
Finally: Only God is perfect. We're not. That means that when others reject us, even if 99% of the responsibility for the decimation of our relationship belongs to the other party, we still bear at least 1% of the blame. Healthy people don't make excuses. They go to God and say, "I'm sorry for my part in this break-up. Help me to get healthier, to love more like You love, Lord."
God helps people willing to admit they need His help and are open to taking responsibility for their wrongs. "The sacrifice acceptable to God," Psalm 51 says, "is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
Praying for the ones who reject us, taking Jesus up on His promise to be with us, and confessing our own sins. These three steps will contribute mightily to our being able to cope with relational rejection when it comes our way.
[Mark Daniels is pastor of Friendship Church.]