How Forgiveness Helped Bring Unity in My Marriage

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“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ ” (Matthew 18:21, 22).

Years ago, when I married I thought I would have a match made in heaven. I was a divorcée at the time, so I came with an extensive list of do’s and don’ts that I thought led to success and failure in a marriage. I soon discovered that forgiveness was not on my list of do’s.

In the first year of our marriage, we walked hand-in-hand enjoying our new relationship, but then disagreements began to surface. I questioned if I had made a mistake in marrying again. Marriage was not looking so good, and I began to battle thoughts that I would fail again in this new marriage. When I prayed, I asked God to fix my husband to make him into the man I desired. I certainly didn’t understand Colossians 3:13, which says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Even though I was a Christian when I married, I held onto wordly ideas about marriage and hadn’t learned to surrender to God’s plan for my marriage. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I believed that I could be independent and make my own choices, yet I didn’t realize that when I stepped away from the principles God had given me in His Word for making a marriage relationship work, such as forgiveness, those choices would only lead to strife.

Depending on God in the Marriage Relationship

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees in the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God warned them that they must eat only from the tree of life, but Satan came along and challenged God’s statement with a lie, “‘Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’ ” (Genesis 3:1)

God’s plan for them as individuals and in marriage was to stay attached to Him and depend on Him in their relationship. However, Satan tempted Eve with a different path — one in which she could do what she pleased. And we still face that temptation. What Eve didn’t know is that the choice she made would not be without consequences. She did eat the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil with her husband, and because of the choice, she and her husband were banished from the garden.

Humanity no longer lives in the Garden of Eden, but rather in a world full of sin because of Adam and Eve’s sin. However, God gave us a way to be restored and live how He originally intended us to live with one another. We have a tree of life in Jesus that we must choose daily. As the tree of life stood in the middle of the garden, so we must position Jesus — our “tree of life” in the center of our marriage, as He holds the knowledge of how we should do life within His Word.

In particular, as I mentioned, forgiveness, as well as some of the other commands in God’s Word, weren’t on my list of “do’s.” Yet, slowly, when I began to learn the importance of choosing not to “eat” from the wrong tree, but instead choose the tree of life in my marriage, I began to change my list of do’s — and forgiveness, as well as other biblical principles, became a priority. Doing so helped me change my perspective of my marriage and kept me connected to my spouse.

How I Learned to Forgive in My Marriage

In particular, in regards to forgiveness, I can recall a situation when I needed to ask for and receive forgiveness from God and my spouse. In this situation, I spent too much on an outfit for myself. Lured to purchase something that I knew was too expensive, I quietly put it in my closet, knowing I didn’t need it. My husband and I had agreed on our family budget, but instead of honoring our agreement, I spent more than I should have.

The day the bill arrived, my purchase was disclosed and my husband confronted me. I defended myself with words of justification, and he returned heated comments.

In my purchase of the item and attempts to justify my purchase, I broke the boundaries my husband and I had both agreed on for our finances. My husband was hurt because he trusted me to be faithful to the guidelines we had established. When he voiced his displeasure to me over my actions, I stormed off from the conversation, so filled with my justification of wrongdoing, that I refused to accept responsibility and admit my mistake.

I was restless all day after our argument. I knew I had to clean up my relationship by asking for forgiveness from my Heavenly Father in the marriage, and I needed to ask my husband to forgive me for my unkind words and reckless spending. It says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): “ If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”

It was not an easy choice to go to God to confess, but when I asked God to forgive me, I discovered my anger was gone. I began to see how my behavior was wrong and my words were hurtful. After going to God, I knew I had to approach my husband and not just say the words “I am sorry,” but ask him to forgive me. I needed to be specific, telling him how I realized I had broken our agreement and tried to hide it, plus defended my actions with hurtful words.

Just as God was faithful to forgive me when I confessed my wrong, my husband was faithful to forgive me. But like Adam and Eve had to walk out steps of repentance and confession, I had to do the same. Adam and Eve initially tried to hide from God because they felt ashamed of their choices and even tried to fix the situation by covering themselves with fig leaves.

But God went after them and initiated the repentance process. He asked them what they had done not because He didn’t know, but so that they could confess openly and be healed. When they confessed their wrong, He made a way for them to be cleansed of their sin by making the first animal sacrifice (Genesis 3:21).

Now, on the other side of the cross, we no longer have to make sacrifices for sin as Adam and Eve did. We have Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Jesus makes it possible for us to come to Him without sacrifices and be forgiven of our sin, but we still have to repent and confess when we wrong others (including our spouse) to make things right in our relationship with God and others (1 John 1:9; James 5:16).

Choosing to Put God at the Center of Our Marriage

Practicing forgiveness in marriage is not only that which brings healing and restoration to our relationship, our action is one that helps to put God at the center of our marriage because it glorifies God rather than ourselves. In our day-to-day living, our decisions and responses to life cannot be based on our desires, but on how we can glorify God in a situation. When I made the purchase, I made it out of my selfish desires, knowing I was going against our agreement. My spending decisions led me down the wrong path, which later erupted into fights filled with words and frustration that didn’t bring God glory in our home.

However, forgiveness restored the unity between us and helped us move past the incident. In our marriages, no matter the conflict, we have to seek God’s guidance on how to deal with it. Just like the first married couple post-Eden, we will have moments of marital bliss and we will have unhappy moments. But to have a match made in heaven, we have to understand and live out the principles God gives us in His Word for making relationships work — including confession of sin when we’re wrong and forgiveness of our spouse.

In choosing God’s way, we choose the tree of life, rather than our own way. Now that’s giving God the glory!

*This article was written in collaboration with Carol Whitaker.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why It’s Hard to Forgive

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I love a good hero or heroine, don’t you? One of my favorite heroines of all time would have to be Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She is relatable, completely human, yet smart and charismatic. While Elizabeth shares the spotlight with her sister Jane in the book, as the two have parallel romances, it is arguably Elizabeth who captures the hearts of readers.

However much we love heroines like Elizabeth in a story, though, the other characters (even if more minor) help bring interest to the story and are still crucial to its development. Much can be learned if we focus not only on the protagonist, but if we also shift our gaze to the less-mentioned characters in a story.

This is certainly true in the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, most of us are most familiar with the youngest son. Although I am not sure we would call him a hero (at least at the beginning of the story), we can all relate to the rebellion of this presumptuous lad, the poor choices, the change of heart, and the return home. Even if we haven’t had a major “run” from God in our walk with Him, chances are we can all point to seasons where we strayed or were unfaithful and experienced His grace and forgiveness.

However, if we turn our focus for a moment not on the younger brother in the story but on the older brother, we can learn much from his reactions to his father’s lavish forgiveness of his younger brother. Rather than rejoice when his brother returned, the older brother grew angry and resentful. Notice the exchange between the father and the older brother in Luke 15:25-32:

Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of his servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

2 Lessons About Forgiveness We Can Learn From the Older Brother

1. Forgiveness costs us.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily for any of us. We find it difficult to forgive. Why? Forgiveness costs us. This is a parable, so the story is one Jesus made up to illustrate a point. However, let’s say for a moment the events actually transpired.

The older brother might have had to console his distraught father after the younger son left — repeatedly. Maybe the older brother had to take on added responsibilities after the younger son was of out of the picture. Perhaps the older brother had to continually answer pointed question from neighbors and friends about the antics of his irresponsible brother.

Therefore, when he came in from the field and saw that a celebration was taking place for this same brother that had caused so much hurt to the family, no wonder he couldn’t get past these memories and inconveniences caused by his brother’s sin.

And we’re the same way. Maybe a person’s continued sin in our lives is that which has caused us terrible pain and heartache. While I am not suggesting that we put up with abuse or condone wrong actions, we are asked to forgive those in our lives that hurt us and at times bear with their grievances — whether they are repentant or not.

Forgiveness doesn’t give them a free pass to mistreat us and it doesn’t mean that we don’t put up healthy boundaries at times to protect ourselves, but it does ask us to release into God’s hands our desire to have the person pay for the wrong done to us. It also requires us to override our gut impulses and bless someone who doesn’t deserve our blessing. And that, friends, is a tall order!

2. We may be self-righteous.

The other reason it’s tough to forgive is that like the older brother, we might be offended by the idea of a person who has hurt us receiving grace and forgiveness. I heard a pastor once say that we like to receive God’s grace — but want God’s judgment for others. How true those words are!

Having worked faithfully the entire time the brother was gone, the older brother could not believe his father was throwing a celebration for his younger brother. He pointed out that he had “slaved away” and yet had not even been given a goat to eat with his friends (v. 29). Yet, his brother — or “this son of yours,” as he labels him — was given a fattened calf after he had been out spending the father’s wealth on prostitutes (v. 30). The other brother is so angry here, he won’t even use the word “brother,” but instead uses the phrase “this son of yours.”

However, the father responds, saying, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (v. 31). In other words, the father points out that the older brother would have nothing if not for the generosity of the father. Because of the wealth of the father, both sons could receive — but it is clear by the older son’s reaction that he felt himself more deserving of the father’s lavish love because of his works. But the father corrected him and let him know that neither brother could benefit were it not for the father.

Similarly, we may feel that we are more deserving of our Father’s forgiveness than a disobedient brother or sister in Christ. But the story reminds us that we would all be destitute if not for the Father’s generosity to us. Our adoption as sons and daughters has nothing to do with our merit, but because of the love of our Heavenly Father (Eph. 2:8, 9). As the story illustrates, we can offer forgiveness to others because of what the Father has freely given us.

Conclusion:

Why did Jesus tell the story of the prodigal son? While we can view the story from the lens of forgiveness given by the father and received by a wayward son, we also see that the story is also about how we as believers must model the love of a Heavenly Father and forgive those who don’t deserve it. Rather than take on the pharisaical attitude of the older brother, we can remember our Father’s forgiveness of us in those moments when it’s tough to forgive an offender  — and do the same.

As the Bible reminds us, even sinners treat their friends well, but it is our task as Christ-followers to show love and mercy not just to the people we like, but also those who we might consider our enemies (Luke 6:27-32). When we do, we release ourselves from resentment and bitterness. Though initially harder to do, forgiveness costs us less than unforgiveness in the end.

Related Resources:

With Father’s Day coming up, perhaps you are reminded of past issues you have had in your relationship with your father. Read about Jamie Wills’ story of forgiving her father.

Today’s post is part of a month long series on forgiveness. Check out last week’s article on forgiving from the heart, by Rachel Howard.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Reacting to Rejection in a Healthy Way

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“Why is she sitting here?”

The question came hurling across the table like a comet at full-force from a boy with Ken Barbie-like blond locks. He had been in my fifth grade class, and we had exchanged notes during math lessons. But suddenly, just two years later, he pretended like he didn’t know me.

He was asking the question about me.

Our middle school had a strict eight-person-to-a-table rule, and he made it clear that I was taking up valuable space.

My best friend shrugged off his question while I sat frozen in shame. She had risen to the top of the junior high social stratosphere in the first few weeks of school, while I remained somewhere near the bottom. I munched my sandwich in silence the rest of the period, and when lunch mercifully came to a close, I never returned back to that table.

Obviously, that was middle school, but as I mention in a previous article, the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, how should we react when we are rejected? I’ve listed three truths to keep in mind when processing through a painful rejection:

1. What we believe about ourselves makes all the difference.

Here at Beulah Girl, we preach that what we believe about ourselves is important because our actions flow out of our beliefs. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) tells us that as a man thinks in his heart so is he. If we are being told in a situation that we are [fill-in-the-blank], we may believe it and act accordingly. Has the rejection you experienced or are experiencing making you believe that you have no value? A mistake? Someone who always ruins relationships?

Particularly, when we are rejected, we might take a person’s negative words spoken over us and adopt those as truth. Or, we may take our anger we feel when others are unkind to us and funnel it inward with negative thoughts such as, “I always mess up relationships. I knew I shouldn’t have said that comment. If I was just [fill-in-the-blank], this wouldn’t have happened. No one could ever love me.”

Instead of reacting in unhealthy ways in our anger when we experience rejection, we need to refuse to embrace lies about our identity. We need to replace the wrong statements others have said with truth from God’s Word: He loves us. He has plans for us. He wants to use our unique gifts and abilities to minister to others. He chose us to be His sons and daughters! Rejection from others doesn’t have to cause us to reject ourselves. But we have to be more aware when we are rejected about the thoughts we are allowing to play in our heads — as the enemy would like to use our pain to turn us against ourselves and God.

2. Know that sometimes our actions are contributing to rejection.

Clearly, as I mentioned, when we are rejected, we shouldn’t adopt the malicious words spoken over us or channel anger inward when situations don’t go our way. Many times, rejection just comes out of the blue — and we did nothing wrong. A person or group just doesn’t like us or simply chooses another person for a position or promotion.

However, there are situations when the fault isn’t entirely the other person’s and we contributed to the fallout or loss of opportunity. Often, if we have been rejected multiple times, we may be trapped in a cycle of rejection and not even know it! We may be so angry and hurt by the rejections and abuses that have happened to us that we have developed unhealthy coping behaviors to protect us — and these may be causing us to experience more rejection.

While we shouldn’t walk around in self-condemnation every time we are rejected assuming perceived deficiencies about ourselves that don’t exist (or blame ourselves for situations that were not within our control), we need to allow God to give us His perspective on what happened. If we receive an accusation or are rejected in a relationship, is there truth to what the other person is saying about us? Is there a way that we behaved that caused the other person to lose confidence in us?

If we truly want to come to a place of healing in a place of hurt left by rejection or break out of an unhealthy cycle of rejection, we must be willing to surrender our anger and offense over to Jesus. We need to approach the circumstance not just by looking at what the other person did to hurt us, but by asking: “Lord, is there an offensive way in me?”(Psalm 139:4).

God will help us to clearly see if we acted in a way that needs to change and how we should proceed forward in a relationship. We can know that God doesn’t point out our failure to condemn us. Our wrong choices come out of our sin nature and are not who we are in Christ. He points our wrong so that we can confess our wrong to Him (and others in some cases) and get the closure and healing we need (James 5:16; 1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19).

3. Know that some relationships and opportunities are not meant to be.

Rejection is painful and is that which has negative connotations for all of us. When we are left out or aren’t chosen for an opportunity, we obsess about how we could have acted differently, what we could done to make events go the way we wanted — but the truth is that some situations and relationships are not meant to be. The Bible tells us that we make our plans, but it is the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9).

In the case of my middle school table incident I described earlier, I desperately wanted acceptance from this group. But in looking back at that situation from an adult perspective, I am glad that I wasn’t welcomed by these kids. They were a popular group that wasn’t always nice to others and were not kids that would challenge me in my walk with God. The rejection that felt so painful at the time was God’s protective hand steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

Similarly, in your place of rejection, is it possible that God is not allowing an opportunity or friendship to work out because it won’t be good for you in the long run? While it’s not always easy to make those assessments in the moment, we need to trust in those painful relationship fallouts and opportunity losses that God is sovereign and may not be allowing what we want because He’s got something better for us down the road.

Conclusion:

No matter how many times we’ve been rejected, we don’t have to become crippled by our pain. Even if we have been horribly treated in multiple situations, God can use even those situations where we were mistreated for good in our lives.

By processing through our rejections with the Lord and opening ourselves up to His honest assessment of our actions, we can receive the healing we need to move on from our rejections, as well as embrace new relationships and opportunities as they come.

While we won’t always be welcomed to the table by others, we can know that there is One who always invites us in.

Related Resources:

This is the final article in a 3-part series on rejection. Check out the first two articles in the series on how we get trapped in a cycle of rejection and getting out of a cycle of rejection.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why Do I Keep Getting Rejected? Learning to Break Out of a Cycle of Rejection

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Some time ago, a story of a girl who helped her boyfriend commit suicide via text shocked the nation. In this sad case, the girl was aware of the boy’s intentions to end his life, and texted and talked with him on the phone when he was in the process of poisoning himself with carbon monoxide.

In the trial, the prosecutor noted that a motive she had when she persuaded him to commit suicide was attention. According to an article from US News and World Report, she thought by having a boyfriend who had committed suicide she could garner attention and sympathy as the “grieving girlfriend.”

Clearly, this girl’s need to have social acceptance was great enough that she was willing to encourage another human being to kill himself.

As her actions show us, social acceptance is a need that we all have. Often, though, we don’t feel accepted or loved, and in that place of rejection we can make terrible decisions that only make us experience more rejection. For this young woman, her decision brought more rejection by the community and her boyfriend’s family — and also a 15-month jail sentence.

While most of us won’t go to these lengths for acceptance, we may make poor choices in our desire for acceptance. However, even when we make bad decisions because of our desire for acceptance or attempt to hurt others who have rejected us, we can break out of those bad decisions and not be caught in a cycle of rejection. To look a little closer at how we do this, we can look at a story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.

Zacchaeus: A Man Caught in a Cycle of Rejection?

Zacchaeus was a guy no one liked. He was a tax collector and collected beyond what was due. People hated him because he stole from them. Yet, Jesus had a different reaction to him. Jesus sought him out. In fact, Jesus knew exactly where to find him — in a sycamore-fig tree — and called him down from the tree and invited himself over for dinner.

Jesus didn’t act disgusted by Zacchaeus or give him a religious speech about how he needed to clean himself up. Jesus just loved Zacchaeus. He was willing to get close and personal in this man’s life. Though Zacchaeus was guilty of sin, he was searching. He was lonely. He was in need. Jesus knew that. Jesus knew what Zacchaeus needed to break out of his rut.

Zacchaeus was caught up in a sin cycle of stealing from others, but we also might say that it was possible that Zacchaeus was caught up in a cycle of rejection. What does that look like exactly?

I am basing this “cycle of rejection” definition on what Pastor Mike Riches defines as an offense cycle in Living Free. Basically, people who have been rejected have been sinned against. People have laughed at them or have been unkind to them or have mistreated them. In response, the person has acted in sinful ways in their anger.

Unfortunately, this sin response has plunged them into further rejection because their actions/sin gave a foothold, or place of access, to the enemy. Because they’ve given access to the enemy, behaviors that are undesirable have resulted: uncontrollable anger, bitterness, etc. This, in turn, has made the person experience more rejection because of their undesirable behaviors — and the cycle continues.

Could it be that Zacchaeus was caught in a cycle of rejection? We don’t know for sure, but it’s possible, according to one study, that as he cheated people out of money and became hated, he fought back by taking more money. Or maybe he was laughed at for his small stature. Maybe he had “short man syndrome,” and he attained an important job to show everyone how important he really was — only to find himself isolated in a big house, shunned by everyone in town.

Whether he was cheating others because of their rejection of him or just to get rich, Jesus’ love for him helped Zacchaeus break out of his sinful pattern of stealing. Zacchaeus broke out of his sin cycle by repenting and seeking restitution, choosing to do right to the people he had wronged. And, if indeed Zacchaeus was caught up in a cycle or rejection, Jesus helped Zacchaeus not only with his habit of stealing, but with the roots of his rejection as well.

We Can Choose How We React to Rejection

So what does this have to do with you? While we most of the time don’t have any control over the mistreatment or rejection that comes our way, we can choose how we respond. Chances are if we have been rejected, we may have turned to a sinful behavior as a way to cope or lashed out at the people who have hurt us.

However, doing so only gets us caught up in sinful cycle that puts us in bondage. With God’s help, we can break free. Like Zacchaeus, by utilizing forgiveness and taking steps of restitution, we can make right areas that we have wronged others. The following are steps based on those outlined in Riches’ book:

What We Should Do If We’ve Been Rejected or Are Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

1. Ask God to help you identify your wounds of rejection.

We may be able to point to an event or situation that caused our feelings of rejection. However, in some cases, we may have no idea how our wounds entered in or what the root cause of our pain is. Ask God to reveal to you what your wounds are so you can find healing.

I once had a series of dreams where God showed me people from my life that had wounded me. Though the people and wounds were real, the scenarios in my dream were not. They were fictitious, but each one illustrated the wound I was hurt by in each relationship.

After God revealed my wounds to me, I prayed that God would help me forgive each of the people who had hurt me. And, after that experience, I began to see the people and situations differently. In fact, the illustrations in my dreams were sort of funny. After processing through the pain with God, I began to laugh at some of the situations. What had been so hurtful ceased to hurt me any longer.

2. Forgive the people who hurt you.

Once you’ve pressed through the wounding events and are able to identify the wounds, ask God to help you forgive the people. Be specific: “God, so-and-so hurt me when they [fill-in-the-blank]. Help me forgive them for [fill-in-the-blank].” Give it over to God. If the memory pops up at a later time, refuse to give place to the thoughts. Shut reoccurring thoughts of anger down immediately so the wounds cannot take a hold of you once more.

3. Ask God to reveal your own sinful reactions to others’ sin.

This is a hard step. I am not going to minimize that, but ask God to reveal to you ways that you have wrongly reacted to the rejections and injustices done to you. Ask God to reveal to you steps of restitution that need to take place with other people. In your place of hurt, were there ways that you lashed out at others? Were there ways that you retaliated?

It may be awkward to approach the other person and apologize. The person may have difficulty accepting your apology. However, know that you are not responsible for their response — only yours. Give the other person time to come to terms with your wrongdoing and understand that the person may not wish to forgive you or have anything to do with you. However, know that when you apologize, you’re free because you took the right steps despite the other person’s reaction.

4. Stay close to God in the process.

Keep connected with God during and after this process of forgiveness. Satan will attempt to re-insert thoughts and memories about ways this person has hurt you if you let him. Even after you are healed from a wound, there will be the temptation at a later time to hold unforgiveness against a person. Continually make the choice to live free of emotional wounds and forgive others so that you don’t get caught up in a cycle of rejection.

If you are angry at a person in a current situation, remember that the devil is looking for a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Ephesians warns us not to sin in our anger for good cause! Any time you feel mad, take time to vent to God (not others!) and process through your pain. Every time thoughts of your offense surface, as Riches advocates, work vigilantly to ward off those thoughts rather than nurture them. Pray about ways you can actively bless the people acting as enemies in your life (Luke 6:27, 28).

Conclusion:

Like Zacchaeus, you have the chance to break free from a cycle of rejection. Jesus’ love is enough to heal you of any and all wounds. As Riches outlines, you can adopt a new pattern of reacting to rejection in your life.

Rather than exist in a cycle of rejection or unforgiveness, you can adopt a new forgiveness cycle, as he says, that includes identifying and naming the hurt, confessing thoughts of anger, repenting and resisting sin responses and coping mechanisms, and blessing and releasing your offender.

Related Resources:

This is an article in a 3-part series on rejection. Check out the first article in the series to find out more about dealing with rejection in a healthy manner. Also, check out the related links below the author bio.

To learn more about what restitution looks like, check out my journey to emotional healing that involved going back to several people from my past.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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As a Mom, Why You Don’t Have to Have all the Answers

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As a blogger, I love to dive deep into the why’s of human nature: Why do I act in a certain way in a scenario? Why do I feel this particular emotion in a situation? I read many articles from psychology and health sites to help inform me when I write articles. And yet, there are times when my research has not been able to provide me the answers I needed at crucial moments in my life, particularly in motherhood. At times, I have no idea why I act the way I do or what to do in a particular situation with my kids.

Some time ago, I was plagued by a nagging question that I couldn’t answer: Why do I get so angry with my oldest daughter? She is such an easy-going, smart kid. She is always eager to please and a great helper around the house. When I correct her, she immediately attempts to remedy what I point out. And she is super responsible with her own homework and schoolwork. And yet, I often fuss at her over miniscule things like leaving her wet towels on the floor or not putting the vacuum cleaner away. I feel irritation when she comes downstairs in a mismatched outfit or says a comment that might raise an eyebrow. Then I overreact, feel bad, and do it all over again.

God Answers My Question

After her younger brother was born, my daughter went through a phase where she asked me repeatedly if I loved her as much as her brother. I couldn’t understand why she would even ask me this question until I watched a video of myself around her and her then infant brother. In the video, I sat on the floor holding my son. My daughter, a 3-year-old at the time, hopped around me trying to get my attention. But each time I looked at her, I had a scowl on my face. The way I looked at my son and the way I looked at her was different and evident to me even in the video.

I know I love her, so why the difference in how I treat them? I prayed about the situation and discussed it with friends at my mom group. Some time went by and I didn’t get an answer to my question. And then, as I was reading an article on worth, God’s answer came to me and hit me like a tidal wave: You are deeply afraid your daughter will be unwanted.

Say what? My fear for her was causing me to get angry? I sat in that moment, reeling from the truth of that statement. I read once that anger is a secondary emotion. Often, anger can mask another emotion such as fear. As clinical psychologist Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, explains, we may get angry when another person cuts us off in traffic, but that anger is actually masking an underlying fear we have that we will be hurt in a car accident.

As only God could, He revealed with unnerving accuracy what my irritability was concealing all along. I feared my daughter wouldn’t grow up knowing how much she was worth or feel like she was wanted. Expecting perfect behavior from her and becoming angry when her “performance” faltered was me attempting to mold her into someone who wouldn’t be rejected. But as I have done many times before, I was attempting to “help” and control a situation that I needed to put in God’s hands. I needed to trust God that He had designed her to be the way He wanted her to be and that there would be friends for her in His provision.

God Confides His Secrets to Us When We Walk With Him

Certainly, my daughter needs my guidance and correction, but the kind I was giving her was beyond what was needed. God giving me that nugget of information helped me understand my own emotions and make a change in becoming more patient with her. A verse that has become a life verse for me is Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and He will make your paths straight.”

The verse cautions us to lean on God rather than our own wisdom. However, this default to our flesh — this drift to fix and handle every situation according to our own wisdom, when it comes to our kids or otherwise, is a constant temptation. I can’t control all the circumstances of my daughter’s life so she won’t face rejection or receive challenges to her worth, although I have certainly tried. I can be a support to her, teach her the lessons I have learned, and guide her using biblical principles and God’s wisdom — but I can’t ensure by being a vigilant mom that she will avoid every heartbreak or only have only good things happen to her.

But I needed God’s wisdom to know how to improve our interactions. How awesome that God used an ordinary experience of reading an article to reveal the deep places of my heart to me. Psalm 25:14 tells us, “The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” The King James words it like this: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”

While many of us view God as distant and stern, the psalm tells us of a God who wants to be our friend. As the NIV puts it, He “confides” in those who walk with Him. Or, as the KJV says, His “secrets” are with those who fear Him. Both words are translated from a word in Hebrew that means “couch.” If you can believe it, God converses with us much like a friend with another friend on a couch! Each revelation of His is like a specially wrapped gift He presents to us. And He counsels us so that we might know how to better know Him and ourselves — and adjust our behavior so that we can allow our paths to be aligned with His.

We Don’t Have to Know Everything as Moms

A few years ago when we moved, I discovered a surprise behind our new house. One day when I was out in the yard, I caught a glimpse of blue between the trees. As I peered to look closer, I noticed a lake — or in actuality, a small pond. Though such a discovery might not be a big deal to someone else, I grew up on the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. One of the hardest things for me as a young wife in moving to Georgia was leaving behind the soothing blue of water that I saw daily in my hometown. This little pond was like a hidden treasure!

I couldn’t help but think when I came upon it how the treasures God reveals to us in our walk with Him are like that sparkle of blue I saw behind my house. His secrets are those we don’t always expect to find but are those that delight us as they give us knowledge that make our way clear — and help us to make sense of the problems and dilemmas we have no answer for in motherhood and otherwise.

Often as moms we sometimes forget that we’re not alone. Though we may feel overwhelmed at times, God is not far off and is waiting to tell His secrets to those who will choose to trust Him in the journey. We don’t have to know all the answers as mothers; we just need to stay connected to Him as we move through our days. Though He won’t always answer a question we have or immediately respond, He will guide us in the way we should go when we make it our aim to fully know Him and rely on Him.

Related Resources:

As a parent, do you find it difficult to trust when it comes to your kids? Former blog member Jamie Wills shares a hilarious story about her daughter’s antics one day before church — and how what started as a really bad day turned into a really good one.

Sometimes, we struggle to help our kids with their own self-image because ours is so poor. The following resources offer help for boosting feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth: “Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection,” “Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself,” “Self-Worth: How to Feel Better About Yourself.”

*Updated May 15, 2018.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How We Get Trapped in a Cycle of Rejection

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Rejection is perhaps the deepest pain we can feel as humans. Years ago, before there were limitations on the kind of studies you do, they tested babies and the importance of human contact. In the study, one group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but also held and nurtured. Another group of babies was fed and their basic needs attended to, but not held or nurtured with human touch. As the study continued, the group of babies that had the benefit of human touch thrived, whereas the babies that were deprived of human contact died.

Clearly, you can see why these types of studies are not allowed any longer! But the results of the study show us how our Creator intended for us to be loved and be in community with other people. When we feel rejected or unwanted by others, such rejection can have a serious impact on our physical and emotional health — and these impacts reach beyond the infant years.

In fact, if you take a look at the details of many of the high school shooters who have turned against their own classmates, you see a common theme: rejection. These individuals sought retaliation against others who had laughed at them or belittled them. So great was the sting of others’ rejection, they sought revenge with gunfire. The bizarre and violent retaliatory tactics utilized by those who have been rejected or feel unwanted aren’t limited to the high school shooting category. If you choose to investigate other crimes, you will see that in many cases, horrific acts of murder or harm against another person started with a rejection of some kind.

Clearly, then, its important that we take a look at rejection and how to react when we are rejected — because otherwise, we can fall into a cycle of unhealthy behavior that can have negative impacts on our physical or emotional well-being.

Individuals in the Bible Who Suffered Rejection

There is no better place we can turn to than the Bible for vivid examples of individuals who experienced rejection. Leah was someone who wasn’t wanted by her husband. In fact, her husband, Jacob, was tricked into marrying her by Leah’s own father. Jacob actually desired her sister and had been promised her sister, Rachel. So, after the wedding night when Jacob discovered that he hadn’t been given Rachel, but rather Leah, he demanded the sister that he had worked for. He did get Rachel as his second wife, but he never loved both of his wives equally.

Leah spent much of her marriage trying to earn the affections of her disinterested husband. In fact, she didn’t have much leverage in the relationship, so she clung to the one thing that would get her some measure of attention: she bore children. She birthed son after son in an attempt to win her husband’s heart, saying things like, “Surely my husband will love me now” (Genesis 29:32), and, “At last my husband will become attached to me” (Genesis 29:34). But her husband just loved her sister, Rachel, despite Leah’s attempts to gain his attention. At last, we see a reprieve in Leah’s striving when she says after the birth of her fourth son, “This time I will praise the Lord” (Genesis 29:35). Here, she looks to God as her Source, rather than her husband. However, her rivalry with her sister didn’t end, and she did continue to have more children in an effort to “out-do” her sister.

Similarly, we see in the story of Zacchaeus a man who was rejected by his community. His rejection was due to the fact that he was a tax collector and cheated those he collected from, getting rich from the extra profits. However, although it doesn’t tell us this expressly in the story, maybe Zacchaeus’ rejection started long before he became a tax collector. Maybe Zacchaeus always felt like the odd man out because he was so short. Maybe he relished his power over others in his role as tax collector and liked being able to tax those who had rejected him in the past. Or maybe, as advocated in a study I read on rejection, each time Zacchaeus cheated someone, he was rejected — and with each rejection, he took money from the individuals who rejected him. Again, this is just speculation, but it is possible.

What both of these individuals show us is that rejection is painful, but people who are rejected aren’t without sin of their own. In the case of Leah, she got caught in a cycle of approval-seeking and people-pleasing, as each time she had a child she presented the child to her husband with hope that he would love her. She finally broke that cycle when she began looking to God for approval. Similarly, although we’re not expressly told this, Zacchaeus’ rejection by the community may have been that which contributed or even started his pattern of cheating others.

Getting Caught in a Cycle of Rejection

As I mentioned in my last post, in Mike Riches’ book Living Free, he talks about the idea that often in our rejection, we give the enemy access in our lives because in our anger over the rejection, we turn to ungodly reactions or fleshly coping mechanisms to deal with our pain. As the Bible tells us, we are not to anger in our sin and give a foothold [topos] to Satan (Ephesians 4:26, 27). As Riches explains, when we allow our anger to fester over a rejection and don’t resolve it, we may allow that anger to cause us to react in wrong ways to our rejection. In doing so, we give territory to the enemy.

In our wrong responses to others, which might include lashing out in anger, gossiping, talking maliciously about the person, etc., we may open our lives to the enemy and then continue to give him space to operate by developing patterns of thinking and behavior that become strongholds in our lives. These strongholds serve as obstacles in our Christian walk and must be demolished in order for us to walk in freedom (2 Corinthians 10:4). Not only that, but our ungodly responses can help us get caught in a cycle of rejection. I am basing this term on what Riches calls an offense cycle, but basically what the cycle looks like is this:

  1. We experience a rejection or hurt.
  2. In our anger, we react in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions.
  3. By acting in wrong ways in our anger, we give topos to the enemy — a place of access for him to influence our thoughts and behavior.
  4. Our ungodly behavior — whether it be bitterness, anger, resentment, negative thoughts about ourselves, etc. — causes more rejection.
  5. When we are rejected again, we react again in ungodly ways in our thoughts and actions, and the cycle continues.

For those of us caught in such a cycle, we may wonder why we are constantly rejected and wonder what we can do to stop being rejected. However, as Riches says, most of us won’t be able to see the role we are playing in the rejection, and we’ll simply blame others for the rejections and take on a victim mentality. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if we are willing to come to Him and allow Him to pierce through our defense mechanisms and open ourselves up to His help and healing, we can break out of the cycle of rejection that we are caught in. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever be rejected again, but it does mean that we aren’t inviting those rejections with our own behavior, and we’ll be able to handle rejection in a healthy way when it comes around again.

I’ll be discussing the particulars of how to break out of a rejection cycle in my next post, but to touch on it briefly, we can begin to break out of the cycle when we forgive those who have hurt us in our past and ask forgiveness of those we’ve hurt. In addition, when new hurts and offenses come up, we refuse to retaliate or turn to fleshly coping mechanisms, but instead turn to God for healing and choose to forgive those who hurt us — and even bless and do good to our enemies. Luke 6:27 says: “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

I’m not saying that there is never a time that we don’t confront someone or call someone out on their behavior. We need the counsel of the Holy Spirit for that, but we do so in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), and we do so in love (Ephesians 4:15). Blessing others and seeking not to retaliate against our enemies will help us avoid falling into a cycle of rejection. And, if we have already been caught in a cycle of rejection, we can find an out by choosing to take part in the steps of forgiveness I outlined above.

Living Lives Free of Offense

God wants us to live lives that are free (John 10:10). He does not want us to succumb to heavy chains of unforgiveness. The Bible tells us that “Satan prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We can resist his schemes by refusing to get trapped in a cycle of rejection and instead taking the biblical response to offense. Although harder initially, this refusal to retaliate against our enemies and insistence on blessing and forgiving them keeps our mind and bodies at peace, and out of torment and distress.

Related Resources:

Not only can we get caught in an unhealthy rejection cycle when rejected, we might also attempt to strive for others’ approval in an unhealthy way. Check out the following resources on giving over our relationships and stresses about our performance at work to God: “Learning to Depend on God” and “Spiritual Rest: Letting go of Trying so Hard in Our Work and Relationships.”

Want to hear more from co-host Suzy Lolley from the Beulah Girl Podcast? Check out her blog and Facebook page to read her work and connect with her.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection

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My husband teaches high school health, and in looking at a textbook of his, I came across the statement that people who suffer from low self-esteem should focus on the things they are good at and things that they like about themselves in order to boost their self-worth. Obviously, such a practice is positive in that it helps students focus on what they like about themselves, when so many high school students are caught up in negative self-talk and self-hatred.

However, such an exercise is limited in that it encourages students to think about their worth in terms of what they look like and what they do. While both our appearance and abilities contribute to our overall make-up, we feel better about ourselves not when we merely focus on ourselves — our external qualities — or even by looking internally as an end to itself. We feel better about ourselves when we understand that our worth doesn’t come from ourselves but from God. And we can have a better self-image when we understand who God has made us to be and how much He loves us.

To Feel Better About Ourselves, We Have to Know Who We Are

A year ago, as I was writing a project on self-worth and looking up some passages in Genesis, I came across an idea in this same vein in the commentary I read: To know ourselves we must know God. This idea may seem illogical at first glance. But the truth is that we come to know and love ourselves more when we seek God. This happens because as we come to know Him — we, in turn, become more aware of who we are and how much value we have. This happens for the reason that as we grow to know Him, we better understand how loved we are. And believing we are loved or un-loved is at the heart of our worth issues.

Pastor Mike Riches says in Living Free that we are made to love and be loved by a God of love. As he says, people thrive in an environment of love and respect. Such experiences set in each person value, worth, significance, and security.

Conversely, according to Riches, those who do not live in such an environment will lack a sense of value and will live with feelings of insignificance and insecurity. Understandably, a person who has experienced “malicious rejection, injustices, or abuses” will be “severely damaged at the very core of his or her being.”

You may be reading this and be able to recall in your own life specific experiences that hurt you so badly that you questioned your worth as a result. And perhaps you have struggled with those feelings of unworthiness ever since. Or perhaps you are facing a painful rejection right now. Maybe an important relationship in your life has ended or there is a situation at work where you have being mistreated.

As Riches argues, these rejections or abuses can create in us wounds of “love-deprivation.” These are places that can become open doors for Satan to gain access into our lives, if we are not careful. From the time we are young, according to Riches, Satan attempts to get us to believe lies of rejection, abandonment, and fear. If he can do that, he can get a foothold, or territory, in our lives. If we believe we are unloved and unimportant, this absence of love creates the perfect environment for the enemy’s schemes.

You may wonder how it is that the enemy can gain territory in your life if you belong to Christ. While Satan cannot possess a believer who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit, he can certainly oppress a believer, if given access. Ephesians 4:26 says, “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Satan can gain a foothold in our lives through our wrong responses to the injustices and wounds that occur to us. If he can get us bogged down in wrong thinking and sinful responses to the injustices done to us, he can make us ineffective Christians tormented by wrong thoughts and sinful behavior patterns — and possibly even get us to turn our back on God.

What are some wrong thoughts and responses? They can vary, according to Riches, but they can include bitterness, resentment, and negative thoughts about ourselves and others. Perhaps if we experience rejection in a relationship, we begin to allow an unhealthy script to play in our head such as, “No one could ever love me. I am different than everyone else. I will just have to be alone for the rest of my life.” Or the script could read, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen. He must hate me.” These are all lies that directly contradict what it says in the Bible about our worth and how much God loves us.

In addition, these feelings can lead to a desire for revenge or retaliation against the person who has hurt us. As Ephesians declares, we are not to sin in our anger. Anger in and of itself is not sinful, but anger that is left unchecked that we nurse and allow to grow can turn into not only wrong thinking, but wrong behavior toward a person. In our anger, we might gossip about a person that has hurt us or attempt to make the person look bad in front of others or lash out at the person. All of these are unbiblical responses that can give Satan a foothold in our lives — and may even, as I discuss further in my next section, be a place where we develop a stronghold in our thoughts or behavior.

Why It’s Important That We Understand How Much Worth We Have

Clearly, as Riches notes, it’s “a biblical and valid concern for us to address the need for human beings to realize their significance, worth, and value” so that we can understand how to react correctly to rejection and abuse and not allow the enemy to gain territory in our lives. However, even if we have reacted wrongly to injustices, we can recover what the enemy has stolen from us and embrace how much God loves us.

The truth is that many of us don’t understand how our wrong responses to the rejection in our lives have put us in bondage. As Riches says, we go through life thinking that we are victims without taking responsibility for how we have reacted wrongly to the rejections. In addition, not only do we, in many cases, respond the wrong way to the rejection and abuses we face, we may also look to replace our feelings of unworthiness with a substitution that can’t give what only God can. As Riches observes, most people don’t even know they have issues with love-deprivation and employ coping mechanisms to compensate. They might become workaholics. Or they might turn to relationships or a substance to attempt to feel better about themselves. Whatever the case, these continued wrong responses and fleshly coping mechanisms become strongholds in the life of a believer.

What are strongholds? Strongholds are patterns in our thinking or actions that become refuges for us apart from God. According to Beth Moore in Breaking Free, strongholds in ancient times were high places near a city that governors could flee to when a city was under attack. The stronghold was high and heavily fortified so that it would be difficult for an enemy to penetrate. In a similar way, strongholds in our spiritual life are fortresses we erect, particularly in times of insecurity, to help us feel protected and safe. However, these strongholds that provide us so much comfort initially cannot save us and will become obstacles in our spiritual life.

As the Bible warns, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). When we rely on something else to feel better or base our worth on — whether that be a job, relationship, or talent, we will be disappointed when that thing crumbles. And we will crumble, too. Unfortunately, at times we will fail despite our best efforts. We might get fired. Other people will leave or disappoint us.

The Bible tells us that a wise man builds his house on a rock and the foolish man on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). A wise person builds his identity and sense of worth on that which can never be taken away: God and His love. Understanding that God loves us not because of anything we have done but because of who He is and understanding He chose us to be here and live out a special purpose gives us worth. As Riches emphasizes, when we understand God’s great love, we are made complete in our spiritual walk (Ephesians 3:18-20).

We can’t attain this love or God-given worth from a stellar education, high-paying job, prominent position, large social media following, attractive physical appearance, or romantic relationship. In addition, however ugly it sounds, fixing our attention on something other than God to be our refuge or salvation is idolatry. We begin looking to the job, relationship, material item, or hobby to fill us in a way only God can.

Former NFL player Tim Tebow had to learn this the hard way. For most of his life, he wanted to be a starting quarterback. He lived that dream all through college, but once he got in the NFL, his dreams shattered when he was told by his team that his services weren’t needed anymore. When his NFL team let him go, he struggled because so much of what he had considered part of his identity was gone.

He had to embrace the idea that his worth wasn’t found in a quarterback position or in his athletic ability — his worth was found in Jesus Christ alone. Note what he says in a devotional he wrote about the experience:

When life throws us curve balls or shatters into tiny bits before our eyes, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, God’s plan, even God Himself. But when we’re hurt, disappointed or frustrated by the negative side of thwarted plans, crushed dreams and painful losses, we can still hold on to God’s truth.

We can set the Lord continually before us. We can choose over and over to trust God and believe He’s still got a plan for our lives, even when we don’t have a clue what that is. We may feel shaken by emotions and circumstances, but we’ll always have Someone to hold on to. Someone who will never let us go.

Basing Our Identity on Christ Helps Us Get Through Life’s Injustices

As Christians we need to know that identity and worth come from God. We can find healing for our feelings of low-self-worth and wounds of rejection when we choose to believe what it says in Scripture about who we are in Christ and how much God loves us.

We are told in Genesis that we are made in the image of God and that He made us as the climax of His creation (Genesis 1:27, 28). No mistake on our part can take away the worth that has been bestowed on us by our Creator (Romans 8:38, 39). As followers of Jesus, we are adopted sons and daughters in the family of God (Galatians 3:26-29), co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), considered saints (1 Corinthians 1:2), forgiven and considered holy (Hebrews 10:10), and chosen to do God’s good works (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12, 13).

Therefore, when bad things happen, we have truths we can speak over ourselves to remind us of our position as Christ followers. However, if we have allowed certain rejections or injustices to give Satan a foothold in our life and establish a stronghold, we have the power through Jesus Christ to break those areas of control we have given Him and find freedom. We can repent of the ways we’ve raised up strongholds in our lives to “fix” our feelings of unworthiness and demolish those fortified places by replacing the lies we are believing with truth. We can also forgive others for the ways they have hurt us and ask them to forgive us for our wrong responses to their rejections and abuses.

Throughout the month, I’ll be talking more about healing from past rejections and the steps to break from a cycle of rejection. To learn more about how to heal from feelings of low self-worth and past rejections, check out my next few articles, and I will explain more in detail about how to see yourself as God sees you and heal from your rejections and injustices.

*Updated May 4, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Embracing Your Child’s Differences

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Earlier this year, my older daughter was working on a submission for a PTA Reflections Contest at her school. Each year, the PTA holds a contest for different grade levels and encourages students to submit artwork, photography, and writing. My daughter, a budding artist at age 9, gets excited each year about the new piece she will submit.

This year, she came up with a cat reaching for balloons concept to meet the requirements of the “Aim Upward” theme. And, just as happened last year, we got into a tussle about her submission.

“Oh sweetie,” I said coming up behind her as she sketched out her cat and balloons, “make the cat bigger.”

I watched her face crumple as she erased and changed her picture to incorporate my suggestion. I left and came back to check on her progress. I could see that she wasn’t happy by the frown on her face.

“I just don’t like the cat that big,” she complained, putting her pencil down in frustration.

I could see where this was going. I leaned in and said, “Draw it like you want then. It’s your project.”

She happily got to work on a fresh sheet of paper and began filling her paper with not only a miniscule cat but miniscule balloons. Each night before bed, she colored a few more balloons, and I caught her humming happily in the midst of her work.

Though I had serious doubts about the winnability of her picture because of the too-small (in my estimation) proportions of her cat and balloons, I chose to hold my tongue because it was her project. When she submitted her piece, she waited an agonizing two months to hear back on the winning submissions. Unfortunately, her piece wasn’t selected as a winner, and I watched her face fall during the ceremony when another girl from her class won the art division prize. Would she have won had she changed up her picture? Possibly. But the more important lesson I felt was that she learn to make her own decisions and be allowed to express her vision in her picture.

Allowing Our Children to Be Who God Made Them to Be

The situation was just one of several I’ve struggled with over the years (in varying forms with all of my children): relinquishing my tendency to form them into the people I think they should be and letting them be who they are.

Because though my daughter grew in my womb and has been entrusted to me as a daughter — she belongs to God and needs to flourish into what He always intended her to be. Because that person, frankly, is going to be far better and do far more than what either of us could imagine.

Jeremiah 1:5 tells us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God spoke those words to Jeremiah about the ministry he would have as a prophet, telling him that he had selected him for this task before he even created him. Just as God knew Jeremiah before He made him, God knew our children before they were even on our radar.

David says a similar idea in Psalm 139:13-16:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

When David speaks of being “woven together,” the words are translated from the Hebrew word “raquam,” which means “weaver” or “embroiderer.” David identifies God as the ultimate Weaver — One who bent lovingly over the work of forming him. In the same way, God knit together our children in the secret places of the womb with careful care as to the length of their days, what they will accomplish on earth, and their temperament and gifts (which, by the way, are the perfect ones needed to carry out His call on their lives).

When I approach parenting with the knowledge that my children were intimately formed and loved by God before I knew and loved them, I realize I am, in the words of Matthew Henry, an “instrument” — an instrument in the hands of God to raise this oh-so-valuable little person to both know God (Psalm 78:4-6; Deuteronomy 4:9) and fulfill the plans of God (Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:28). In response to this knowledge, I have to let go of some of my own plans for my children and my desire for control.

I’m not saying we as parents don’t provide structure for our kids or make choices for them at times that go against what they want. Today, kids’ rebellion against the Word of God is often seen as merely letting them be who they are — when their choices are far from what God desires for them (Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 29:15). As Christian parents, we must train them to adhere to God’s ways and walk in right paths, as part of knowing Him (Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 119:1). But what I am saying is that we attempt to consider our children’s preferences and interests along the way, rather than stunt their growth with our own often stifling expectations and demands (Colossians 3:21; Ephesians 6:4).

This may sound like a relatively easy task, but it’s not so easy when our kids express ideas that veer from our own, show interest in activities we have no interest in, or perhaps want to follow a track that is different than we envisioned for them.

A former pastor of mine shared in a service about the time when he had to let go of the baseball dream he had for his son. As an avid baseball fan and high school athlete, the pastor hoped his son would follow suit. But to his dismay, his son told him one day during a baseball game, “I hate this.” Though his grown-up son enjoys watching baseball, he never “took” to playing the game. It was a moment where his pastor-father had to evaluate and asses that as a father he could try and force his son to live out the dream he had for him, or he could instead look for ways to bring out the son’s God-given talents and abilities. As you can guess, he did the latter.

Awe for Our Kids as God’s Creation Helps Us Be the Parents We Should Be

I don’t believe any of us as Christian parents enter into the parenting journey hoping to be rigid narrow-minded tyrants that get into constant conflict with our children. However, we can’t always foresee how our children will affect us with their distinct personalities and differences, and frankly, we don’t always best know when to assert our authority or when to let our children have their way.

While we won’t always get it right, if we attempt to remember that our children were uniquely made by a creative God, as told of in Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139, we can better evaluate situations and let some minor things go when it comes to our kids’ ideas about how they want to draw a picture for a project — or perhaps spend their free time or style their hair — and we can save our energy for drawing the line on the issues that really matter.

In addition, it’s when we acknowledge that we don’t have all the wisdom and we’re in a position of humility and dependence on God and His Word to best learn how to instruct our children that He can speak to us and help us navigate the issues that arise between us and our children.

Dependence on God and knowledge of the value our kids have will help us approach even our most challenging days as an opportunity to be ever aware of the awesome task we’ve been given as parents: to help raise God’s kids!

Related Resources:

For a more in-depth look at Psalm 139 and the value each of us have in the eyes of God, check out my previous article on being known and loved by God.

Don’t have time to read? Listen to the corresponding podcast episode where I talk with co-host Suzy Lolley and blog member Rachel Howard about the idea of being intimately known by God.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Endurance in the Christian Walk to Finish Your Race

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I had a manager once tell me I was really “good out of the gate,” but my energy lessened as my shift wore on. I have found that to be a true description of how I generally approach many tasks in life: My motivation is generally quite high at the outset but begins to wane as time passes and problems and trials sap my strength.

The Christian walk, I have found, is not a sprint but a marathon. Years ago, I answered God’s call with such enthusiasm. Before he gave me a ministry, I begged him for one. I couldn’t wait to get started, and yet, when He gave me the ministry I so wanted, I begged Him shortly after on numerous occasions to let me quit (or at least walk away for a season). I have discovered over the last few years that I don’t have the endurance to complete the marathon. It is only in God’s power that I have kept on for these past few years and continue to keep on in my current season.

To Endure in Our Calling Requires a Continual Commitment

In John 21:15-23, we see a disciple who also has to be instructed when he is about to bomb out on his calling. After making boasts about what he will do for Jesus (Matthew 26:33), this prideful disciple gets a lesson in humility: He fails Jesus by denying him three times. Rather than cast out this disciple, though, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach Peter what it means to be a minister of the Gospel and run the race with endurance.

He asks Peter three separate times if Peter loves Him and then points him to a directive: feed his sheep. Each time Jesus asks, Peter responds by saying, “Lord, you know that I love you.” The last time Jesus asks, Peter shows a shift, prefacing the words with, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (v. 17). As I discussed in my last post, Peter’s response shows he is no longer bragging about his abilities. He simply states that he loves him. And, as the IVP New Testament Commentary observes, his last response shows a position of humility and acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty.

Peter’s new learned dependence on Jesus is that which is necessary for us to model if we are to complete our call (and how we can handle the failures that we are sure to have along the way), but there is another lesson embedded in their conversation. According to the IVP, each time Jesus asks represents those times in our lives that we will have the temptation to go an easier way. Service to God isn’t a call we answer one time in our lives. It is a call we answer over and over again.

As exemplified in the passage, we will have to continually renew our commitment to Jesus as we follow Him (IVP). This means that as we grow in spiritual maturity and Jesus reveals to us at different intervals what our walk is going to entail (letting go of a certain habit, overcoming a fear in an area, etc.), we must be willing to answer, “Yes, Lord, I love you [more than these].” I love you more than my comfort, my security, my desire for wealth, or acceptance. I am willing to give this up or work on this area for you. Again and again, Jesus will test us with the question He raised to Peter, “Do you love me [more than these other things]?” We have to be willing to allow Jesus to “raise the bar” in our lives as He teaches us what it means to be His follower.

To Endure We Must Also Stay Fixed on Jesus

Not only must we must be willing to repeatedly deny ourselves and renew our commitment to Him as we continue in our calling, we must not allow distractions to take our focus away from Jesus. Though Peter is making progress in his spiritual maturity and walk with Christ, he still has a human moment where he turns from his claims of devotion and takes his eyes off Jesus. When he learns that his call will entail going where he does not want to go and even being led to die as Jesus did by crucifixion (vv. 18, 19), he pauses for a moment and asks about the fate of John, who is following close behind.

Jesus tells him, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v. 22). In other words, he tells Peter to only worry about himself. It is all too natural that Peter should be concerned about whether or not others will go through the same difficulties and suffering. But Jesus doesn’t give him the answer he wants, but tells him to stay focused on his own commission.

Too often, we compare our suffering in ministry to that of others. We’re OK with denying ourselves if others walk a similar road, but what if they don’t? What if Jesus has us in a place we don’t want to be, we suffer more than others, or Jesus leads in in a way that seems to be more treacherous than the path of other Christians? We must be willing to follow even if our road looks harder than that of others or is undesirable. As Romans 5:3 and James 1:2-4 tell us, our difficulties don’t have to knock us off the path — but rather, are the very tests that will develop fortitude in us if we let them.

Romans 5:3 (VOICE): “And that’s not all, we also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance.”

James 1:2-4 (VOICE): “Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately [find joy in them]; if you [embrace them], your faith will [blossom under pressure] and [teach you true patience as you endure]. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line — mature, complete and wanting nothing.”

Conclusion:

Jesus’ conversation with Peter offers us some valuable insight into how we can develop and maintain the rigor and endurance it takes to complete the mission God gives us. Like Peter, we have to allow Jesus to turn us from our own desires, love of self, and pride and choose to follow Him again and again even when we’re tired, weary of trials, and disappointed because we don’t have the results or the perks others have. We will have obstacles that threaten to entangle us, but with continued commitment to Christ and a dependence on Him — we will finish the race.

Why must I weep when others sing?

“To test the deeps of suffering.”

Why must I work while others rest?

“To spend my strength at God’s request.”

Why must I lose while others gain?

“To understand defeat’s sharp pain.”

Why must this lot of life be mine

When that which fairer seems is thine?

“Because God knows what plans for me

Shall blossom in eternity.”

– from Streams in the Desert

Related Bible Verses:

Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Hebrews 3:14: “For we have become partners with Christ, if in fact we hold our initial confidence firm until the end.”

Podcast Corrections:

Peter denied Jesus the night of Jesus’ arrest, not before.

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Why Your Failure Isn’t Final

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In my life, trust of God has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn, and I’ve had many big failures in this area — times when I succumbed to fear and doubt in a crucial moment when I needed to have faith instead. In fact, I can count some major times in the last few years where God arranged something on my behalf or wanted me to simply rest in Him, but instead, I trusted my own understanding or that of others in a situation.

But here’s what I’m learning now: God gives us a second chance (or maybe a 20th chance, if that is what is needed) to learn what we failed to learn before. Recently, I’ve found myself in a circumstance that feels all too familiar: It’s been the overriding refrain of my life the last few years. God has been leading me through challenging circumstances, and yet, He has been telling me to trust what He will do on my behalf.

The “practical” voice of reason in my head screams that this can’t be right, it can’t be the way. I’ve prayed about a step I can take to “fix” this situation or proactively step forward, but God has told me to wait. And this waiting is that which I have been instructed to before and failed at. So this time feels extra hard because my go-to response in times like this has always been to try to work my way out, make something happen, avoid the pain by taking the escape (even if it’s not God’s will). And I know I can’t do that this time.

Curbing that “do-it-myself, I want it my way” fleshly attitude is one that is taking painful discipline and work with the Holy Spirit. Maybe as you are reading this, you can think of a lesson God is teaching you — about trust — or maybe in a different area. Whatever the lesson is, no matter how not-fun, we should be encouraged that scores of individuals in the Bible had to be given multiple opportunities to learn a lesson.

Peter: A Disciple Who Was Given a Second Chance

Peter is perhaps the best all-time example of a disciple who needed more than one chance to learn a lesson. In John 21, Peter has failed big-time. Just as Jesus predicted, Peter denies he knows Jesus on the night of Jesus’ arrest and betrays his Lord. And yet, Jesus doesn’t reject Peter in his failure.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Mary Magdalene and other women find an angel in the empty tomb, and he gives them a message from Jesus, saying, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’ ” (Mark 16: 6, 7). Did you get that? Jesus asks for the guy who had failed him miserably just a few days earlier by especially singling him out by saying “the disciples and Peter.” Peter responds to the Lord’s call, and Jesus initiates a conversation with him, as recorded in John 21:15-18:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

It seems a little surprising that Jesus would seek out Peter and spend time with him after Peter had so obviously failed him. But there are two important lessons we can learn from Jesus’ actions:

1. Our failure is an opportunity for us to grow.

So many of us view failure as a final end that we can never recover from. However, we see from this passage that God never wastes an opportunity. He uses everything in our life — even our failures — for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

As described in these lines, Jesus uses Peter’s failure to teach him and help him grow. However, Peter’s growth doesn’t come without some personal angst. The second chance Jesus offers Peter has eery parallels to the time he failed. Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus asks him if he loves him three times. As the IVP New Testament Commentary illuminates, Jesus’ questions are probing, and most likely, make Peter uncomfortable. Each time Jesus poses the same question, he is reminded of his failure, and that is painful.

Similarly, for us, as much as the second chance God offers may be one we’re relieved to see in front of us, it may also be painful as we enter circumstances that resemble those we left. We have to face what we did wrong and change. Yet, here, we can see Peter is already changing. When Jesus inquires of him as to his love, Peter doesn’t brag as he has in times past (IVP). Before the crucifixion, Peter had insisted he would never fall away, even if others did (Matthew 26:33). Here, he simply answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (vv. 15, 16).

In addition, the third time Jesus asks, Peter answers with a variation saying, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you” (v. 17, emphasis mine). By his acknowledgement of Jesus as all-knowing, Peter further shows a new humility that points to God’s sovereignty and knowledge, rather than his own (IVP). Jesus further explains how Peter will have to continue to deny himself by being a disciple, saying, “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (v. 18). Jesus loves and forgives Peter, but spells out clearly to Peter that being a disciple with entail continued humility and dependence on God.

2. God wants us in our failure.

God’s love is a concept that many of us struggle with. I remember years ago struggling to feel God’s love, and He told me I couldn’t feel it fully because of my unbelief. As I’ve begun to believe in God’s love, I’ve begun to recognize the ways God is intimately involved in my life — how recklessly He loves each of us, and how He’s willing to pursue us when we get it wrong and stray (Matthew 18:12).

Though God loves us so much that He comes after us when we fail, we have to accept His love and pursuit of us. Jesus includes Peter’s name with his instructions because he wants it to be clear to Peter that he is included. But Peter still had to make the choice to return and accept the forgiveness and acceptance of His Savior. He had to allow himself to go through the uncomfortable heart surgery Jesus performed on him when it would have been much easier just to cut off ties and go his own way. But despite how uncomfortable it must have been for Peter to face Jesus when he had just denied him and submit to Jesus’ discipline, Peter returns and became stronger and better equipped for his role as a disciple because of his willingness to learn from Jesus.

As I discussed in a previous post, not everyone who is offered that love chooses to return when they fail. But how amazing that God offers us unconditional love knowing that some will reject Him. When we “love” as the world loves, we love with a conditional love. This type of love loves until the person fails and then casts out so that there is no hope of restoration. But God teaches a different way, a way that says, “I want you no matter how bad you mess it up, no matter how you get it wrong.”

Truly, this knowledge shouldn’t give us a nonchalant attitude where we take advantage of the grace offered and knowingly make bad choices with the excuse of, “It’s OK, God will forgive me.” God does forgive us when we repent, but the Bible warns us to be sincere in our repentance (Romans 6:1, 2; 14, 15). And we should know that while God’s grace is lavish, earthly consequences can come as a result of our choices and should help deter us from not doing what is right.

But how wonderful that God never leaves us in our failure. When we’re not strong enough to make the right choices, we can turn to Him, and He sustains us and gives us what we need to do what’s right.

Psalm 54:4: “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”

Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he. I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Related Resources:

Want some more posts on Easter? Check out last week’s post on Jesus’ feelings as He went to the cross. We can learn from Him how to handle seasons where we feel lonely in our calling or wonder if God has left us.

Don’t have time to read many posts but want to listen instead? Check out this post in podcast form or past episodes by stopping by our brand new podcast archive.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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