Making a Change to Receive God’s Promises

people-2595611_1280

Confession time: Lately, I’ve fallen into a pattern of getting to church late. Each Sunday involves a similar sequence: I leave too many tasks to do in not enough time. With only minutes to go before we need to get out the door, I realize one of my kids still needs to be dressed, the diaper bag for my 2-year-old isn’t packed, and I still need to put makeup on. Getting five people out the door takes intentional planning: bathing my kids and laying out their clothes the night before, getting up early to ensure the kids are fed on time, and cutting out unnecessary activities.

These are not difficult habits to cultivate, and I was consistent about getting us to church on time when I only had two little ones, but with the birth of my third one, I haven’t been as disciplined about laying the necessary groundwork to get us out the door in a timely manner. In order for us to arrive at church on time, I am going to have to make a change in my habits.

A Message Asking for a Change

In Zechariah 9, we see the Jews in a situation where they, too, are going to have to make a few changes to get a desired result in their lives, but are reluctant to do so. Previously held captive by the Babylonians and exiled from their land, the Jews are now free to go back to their homeland. While some Jews have returned to Israel, some linger behind in Babylon. Zechariah’s message encourages both groups to return to Jerusalem and begin the work of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. (vv. 9-12, ESV, emphasis mine)

As we can see from the passage, the Jews are promised incredible protection and blessings if they return. Why, then, haven’t they done so? Quite simply, rebuilding will require hard work. Israel is still under Persian rule and foreigners have moved into the land in the absence of the Jews. In addition, the Jews face threats from surrounding enemies. The very journey back to Jerusalem will be difficult. Even as the Jews long for their land and a share in the blessings God promises to pour on Israel, they are established in the homes and businesses they had built in Babylon during their exile.

And, undeniably, according to Robert Tuck in the Biblical Illustrator, they may have had a false sense of security where they were, saying, “Some day, we will rebuild, but not now.” In other words, they aren’t refusing the call to help rebuild, but putting off the steps needed to help out their neighbors, pushing the day of return off into a distant day that they could look to longingly, but not make a reality.

Why We Can Have Hope in Our Circumstance

Though Zechariah 9 records words spoken to a group of people long ago, I can see myself in the Jews’ reactions. As the Bible says, all Scripture is useful for our instruction (2 Timothy 3:16), and his words are still so applicable for us today.

While we may not be able to relate to being held captive in a foreign country, we can all relate to feeling captive by our circumstances either because of life choices we have made or because of the choices that others have made for us. We may know how we might improve or even get out of our situation; however, like the Jews here, we have grown comfortable in our situation — however imprisoning — and so we put our hope in another day, saying, “Some day I will make a change. Some day I will get a handle on this. Some day I will overcome this.”

And yet, Zechariah challenges this kind of complacency with the words: “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope” (v. 12). The wording of this phrase is so odd and one I had to really meditate on and pray about in order to uncover the meaning. How exactly is one a prisoner of hope? Doesn’t hope always mean something positive? Why is “hope” paired in this way with the word “prisoner,” which has negative connotations?

A possible interpretation is that the prisoners have hope in front of them. Certainly, many translations read this way. If we look at the preceding verse, it says, “I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.” The pit of verse 11 is contrasted with the stronghold mentioned in verse 12. However, it’s a little baffling because in the very next verse, we see that these very prisoners that have been freed are still identified as prisoners, but differently, as “prisoners of hope.” How can a person be freed and still be identified as a prisoner?

To answer this question, it helps to understand that during this time period prisoners were often left in large pits dug in the ground. They were either left to die, without food and water, or they were simply left for a period of time as a particular punishment. Just as the Jews in the passage have been freed from the “waterless pit” of Babylon and have the promise of a restored Jerusalem, they still have the interesting paradox of being “free and having hope,” but still captive to their oppressive circumstances and wrong dependencies.

And how similar is this to the experience we have as Christians. We have been freed from the “pit” of sin by the blood of Christ when we receive Christ into our lives as our Lord and Savior, and yet, we have these areas in our lives where we need God’s sanctifying work.

As we walk with Christ, He reveals habits and patterns of sin that we need to let go of, and He invites us to partner with Him to get rid of that which isn’t holy in our lives and become more Christ-like. We might start out the race with enthusiasm, but then want to quit when we encounter obstacles. However, we have to continue running the race He has set out for us to usher in God’s blessings, which includes leaving behind the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1).

In addition, we live in a world that is hostile to Christian ideas. To live the Christian walk means to live counter-culturally — which, quite often, will leave us feeling debilitated, exhausted, and defeated. We might have the best of intentions about living a God-honoring life but then get overwhelmed by the sheer difficulty of it and let ourselves slip.

Even though we know where we are is not God’s best for us and we haven’t yet attained the promises God has for us, we settle for what’s easier instead of pushing through the difficulty to get to the better God would have for us.

Christ As Our Ultimate Hope

Where, then, can we find hope we need to make the necessary changes God reveals to us? We should note that in this passage, though the Jews are asked to help rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, their hope isn’t in a restored Israel. Their hope is in the coming of Christ. While Zechariah urges the Jews of his time to “Return,” his invitation calls them to the stronghold of Christ.

Similarly, we have the same invitation. Wherever we find ourselves, we are not left alone to battle our circumstances or conquer the sin in our life alone. We are offered a place of safety in the midst of our struggles. Even if we have slowly gotten distracted and veered off the path God has for us or perhaps left the path with our own willful disobedience, we have the call of Jesus and a stronghold to which we can flee.

Proverbs 18:10 tells us the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it are safe. Similarly, David writes in the Psalms that God lifted his feet from the miry clay and put his feet on a rock (Psalm 40:2). Just as the Jews are graciously offered a chance to return and rebuild the city that was destroyed because of their rebellion against God, we have the same offer.

However, it won’t be without work or a fight, but the efforts we make to partner with God in His plan for our life, however challenging, will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

Can you think of choices that have led you off track? Do you feel far away from God and His purposes for life? It’s not too late to get on track! Let’s pray: Dear God, we aren’t where we want to be. We have fallen short of your perfect plan for our life and we have found ourselves in challenging circumstances because of our own choices. But you are a God who won’t leave us alone and will restore and redeem those who turn back to you and call on your name. Lord, forgive us for the ways we have fallen short. Give us a clear vision of the steps we can take to get on track and help give us the resolve to rededicate our efforts for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Want to learn more about stepping out in radical faith to usher in the promises and blessings of God? Check out this article on how our faith-filled steps move us forward, or this one on God’s blessings.

Would you like to check out other articles, but don’t have time to read them? Check out our podcast archive and listen to co-hosts Suzy Lolley and Carol Whitaker talk through the points of some of our articles in podcast form.

*Updated September 23, 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.

More Posts

Finding Healing From Same-Sex Relationships

autumn-2833590_1280

In the novel The Color Purple, the main character Celie develops an intimate relationship with another woman, Shug Avery. Though she is a married woman, her husband abuses her, so she seeks respite in the arms of a kind friend who pays attention to her.

Though we might think this is the kind of scenario reserved for the pages of fiction, I believe this kind of situation is not uncommon. Though the details might not unfold in exactly the same way in every story, we may find ourselves more susceptible to finding love in a place we never thought we would in the wake of a rejection of some kind, abandonment, or other serious attack to our worth.

Certainly, same-sex relationships can happen because individuals have feelings for or an attraction to the same sex, but as The Color Purple illustrates, individuals who never struggled with a same-sex attraction can drift into same-sex relationships for emotional fulfillment and security, especially if those individuals are in a place of feeling unloved and insecure.

I would know — because this happened to me.

My Story of Same-Sex Relationships

When I was in high school, I had friendships with other girls that started off as regular friendships and then grew physical. This wasn’t a pre-meditated decision. I wasn’t struggling with same-sex attraction or unaware of what the Bible said about homosexuality. I grew up in a Christian home and knew the Bible’s stance on same-sex relationships.

But I was afraid of the opposite sex. I went through an awkward stage in middle school and early high school and was teased by a handful of my male peers. Sensitive and insecure, I internalized the criticism and determined something was wrong with me. I bought into the lie that no guy could ever like me. Even as I had interest from some males and friendships with males that developed into dating relationships, I secretly believed that they could not really care about me.

I needed an out for the pain I experienced when others rejected me and a place to boost my sagging sense of worth. I didn’t know how to place my identity in Christ or find in Him the love and acceptance I was missing. Therefore, these physical relationships evolved. I denied what was really happening and even thought that I was saving myself for marriage.

Even though this experimentation with the same sex ended before I graduated from high school, I carried a deep sense of shame for what I had participated in. I resolved that I would never tell anyone what I had done. I would keep my past sins a secret.

However, I didn’t know that stuffing down your sin doesn’t heal or liberate you. It places you in bondage. To get free, we have to do as the Bible says and choose to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9). The Bible says that we are to confess our sins to others and bring out in the open what we are hiding (James 5:16). Although individual confession in our own prayer time is needed, we also find healing by sharing our sin struggles with others and asking others to pray for us.

Certainly, open confession isn’t advisable in every circumstance, and we shouldn’t run around and confess every thought and action. In addition, we should be wise about whom we confide in, as there are some who can’t handle the details of our story. However, we find a great release of guilt and shame when we choose to be transparent with others.

This could look different depending on our circumstance, but this might mean confessing to a fellow believer, pastor/church leader, or Christian counselor. This may mean telling others our testimony, as I am doing here. Whatever the case, God will lead us in the right way to go when we open ourselves to Him and choose to surrender over the dark parts of our life that need redemption.

Walking in the Light of God’s Freedom

Some time ago, I watched a documentary where siblings, abandoned by their mother, went on a search to find out their mother’s identity and the reasons for their abandonment. With the help of an agency, the agency found a relative in their mother’s family and set up a meeting to meet with her. The aunt, as she identified herself, gave details about their mother. Yet, after the initial meeting, when the agency pressed for further meetings and details, a truth immerged that no one expected: the “aunt” was actually the biological mother of the children. She was afraid to tell the truth because she didn’t want to inflict more pain on her adult children and identify herself as the one who had abandoned them. Yet, when the agency suspected the truth based on the details she gave, she finally caved.

Before her confession, her secrets were weighing on her so heavily she had been having heart problems, but when she chose to be honest about her shortcomings, the burden of guilt and shame she had carried lifted — and her heart problem began to improve.

I tell this story because confession is not easy. Those of us raised in the church may have the hardest time confessing sin because we know better, and it’s all too easy to play the perfect game by dressing up each Sunday and warning a pew, but no healing can come until we get honest with God and sometimes others, depending on the situation. Only then can healing come.

God Heals Us When We Turn to Him

If you are someone who has had same-sex experiences in your past, you don’t have to live in shame and condemnation. Maybe you have always felt different and have been attracted to the same sex. Or maybe, like me, you found yourself involved in a relationship with the same sex at a time in your life when you felt unloved or unworthy. Or maybe you are someone is attracted to both genders and consider yourself bisexual.

Whatever the case, when we veer outside of God’s plan for sex and relationships, our actions cause burdens of shame and guilt that we cannot remove on our own. God promises not to turn anyone away who comes to Him — and grants healing to those who call on Him and desire to walk in His ways.

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do that now and ask Him to help you walk a new way. And, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can approach Him with confidence as a beloved child of God. In either scenario, He is waiting with open arms.

Related Resources:

This is part of a 2-part series on same-sex relationships. Check out my first article in the series about what our approach should be as Christians to the topic. If you’d like to hear more details about my personal testimony, check out my podcast episode at the top of this post.

Feel a little confused about what it means to confess our sins to others and what the Bible says about confession? Check out this free resource detailing a few guidelines about confession (when to share and when not to) that I’ve learned on my journey.

Want to learn more about breaking free of sexual sin? Check out these following articles on severing unwanted soul ties: “Breaking Negative Soul Ties; Getting Rid of Emotional and Romantic Baggage” and “Breaking Unhealthy Soul Ties: How to Get Over Past Romantic Relationships.”

*Updated September 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.

More Posts

Why We Need God’s Wisdom

people-2604832_1280

When I was growing up, I never quite understood the Bible and decided it was archaic and boring. As a young person, when I did try to read the Scriptures — out of duty, mostly, and some curiosity — I pretty much stuck to Psalms and Proverbs. If I was feeling really adventurous, I might open a chapter from the New Testament, but even then I read on a surface level and stayed away from any passages that might be confusing or challenging.

As I grew in my faith, I began to study the Word of God more diligently by looking up commentaries and notes on the passages. I developed a love for the Word; however, as much as I have grown to love reading the Bible, this love is tempered at times by the reality that God’s Word doesn’t always feel like a loving embrace. The Word is truly active and pierces uncomfortably into places I don’t always want God to go (Hebrews 4:12).

It’s those moments of discipline — whether through His Word or some other means — where God corrects me or points out a way I need to change that make me want to avoid reading his Word or opening up myself to His counsel.

However, the Bible tells us that people are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). However much we may not want to hear what God might say to us at times, we need the wisdom God provides to do life. Proverbs 1:20-28, 33 urges us to learn from and submit to God’s wisdom. Let’s take a look at the passage:

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refused to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you … . Then you will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord … But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’

A few things that we note about these lines:

1. Wisdom is ours for the taking.

In the original Hebrew, the word “wisdom” is plural. God’s wisdom (or wisdoms) reaches out to us in many ways: through His Word, as I mentioned, but also though prayer, our experiences, conversations with friends, sermons, His creation — to name a few. And interestingly, in the lines, wisdom addresses three types of people: the simple who don’t know the ways of God or what it says in the Bible, mockers who laugh at the wisdom of Scripture and God, and fools who hate learning and refuse to learn from it.

In addition, wisdom’s voice is loud enough to be heard (she “raises” her voice) and is above the other voices and influences in our lives (“on top of the wall”) (vv. 20, 21). Clearly God is eager to make Himself and His counsel known. In the passage, the voice of wisdom goes out in public places where people are sure to gather and be found (in other words, it’s available). However, the people in the passage rush by in busy throngs and don’t pay attention. Though wisdom calls to us, we have a responsibility to pause and listen.

2. Wisdom warns us to turn from the way we are living.

Not only do we need to pause and listen, we must turn from our wrong ways when we hear God’s warning. Verse 23 says, “Repent at my rebuke!” The King James Version says it like this: “Turn you at my reproof.” Again, we see that God makes great efforts to give us His instruction and direct us in the way we should go, but it is our choice as to whether or not we will accept His words and respond to His correction.

As Mike Riches points out in Living Free, most of have a negative view of repentance. We associate repentance with feeling bad over a wrong or God being angry with us. However, Riches emphasizes that it is because of God’s kindness that we can repent. The Bible tells us that God “disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). It is because of His love for us that He seeks to warn us before we make poor choices and give us wisdom that will help us live in a way where we can avoid bringing harm upon ourselves.

3. There is a point where we will be left to our own devices.

The passage encourages us to listen and turn when we hear God, or there is a point where wisdom stops calling. In fact, the lines tell us that when we ignore wisdom, she will “laugh” because we “hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord” (v. 29).

Wisdom is personified in these lines and is not suggesting that God will mock us unmercifully when we stray. But it is giving a caution as to our ways. Not only is this admonition for those who refuse God’s call to salvation, there is also a message for believers. God will warn us of certain actions or attempt to show us the right way to go, but if we stubbornly resist Him long enough, He will leave us to our own devices. And our choices made independently of Him will have consequences.

As I was meditating on these lines, attempting to better understand them, I was reminded of the times in my life when God told me to do a particular task or initiate a conversation, and I was reluctant because I was afraid or it was uncomfortable for me to obey. God’s voice usually came to me more than once in a few different ways, so that it became clear to me what course I was to take. Often, if I was resisting, I became so miserable that there was a point I just went ahead and did what God asked of me — however hard it was — so I could feel a sense of peace again.

However, there were other instances where I said no to God. I told Him I wouldn’t do what He wanted of me. I didn’t like the way He was pointing because the path didn’t look as attractive as another, or I didn’t want to do whatever hard thing that He was asking. And, those times I rebelled never ended well. Though the disaster wasn’t always immediate, I could trace back years later and see how the decision to go my own way brought harm rather than good.

Clearly, God is a God of restoration and redemption. We can make poor choices and return back to Him for forgiveness. The Bible is clear that He pursues us when we stray. But as the proverb warns, there is a point where our own refusal to yield to God will result in God allowing us to do what we want. That could mean an eternity separated from Him if we don’t ever accept salvation, or it could simply mean a period of stagnancy as a believer because we ignored His voice.

The key here, as commentator Alexander McLaren points out, is to note that wisdom’s charge is not against the deeds of the persons addressed, but the dispositions: the simple, the scoffer, the fool. Those described in the passage aren’t people who make a few bad choices and desire to repent. The individuals described are those opposed to God — consistently over time — either because they don’t try to learn His wisdom and walk with Him or are vehemently opposed to Him or simply don’t want to do what He says.

Certainly, though, the proverb ends on an encouraging note for those who choose to hear God’s voice. In verse 33, it tells us that those who listen to God will “live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” While that doesn’t mean that we will never have trouble as Christians, we will have the assurance that God is with those who obey Him and remain in Him (John 15:4, 5). Later in Proverbs 2, we are further encouraged that when we accept God’s wisdom and seek to learn His instruction, His wisdom will guard and protect us.

Why We Should Listen to Wisdom’s Call and Heed the Word of God

God’s instruction is all around us and available to us in His Word for us to learn — but it is up to us to accept what He says to us and seek out His knowledge. When we study what His Word says and seek to hear from Him, we know what direction to go and what actions to take.

Even if we have made choices in our past that were harmful to us, or we are making harmful choices now, we can listen and turn. God has provided a way for us in His Son Jesus Christ for us to turn to Him in repentance.

If we have never accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can do that now. And, as believers, if we have received salvation but have areas of our lives where we aren’t listening, we can take steps to do a U-turn. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God’s heart is for us to not fall into unrepentance or bad choices — but we have to heed wisdom’s call.

Let’s pray: Dear Lord, we have fallen short of your laws and precepts. But you knew this would happen, and that is why you provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and be in right relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Forgive us for [name any specific sins]. Help us walk in your ways and receive your forgiveness. We love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Is there ever a point where God gives up on us when we repeat the same sins or run away from Him? Billy Graham explores this question in more detail with this answer.

Are you a person who has not yet put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and have an interest in learning more about salvation? Check out our Know God page for more information on inviting Jesus into your life.

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.

More Posts

How We Get Trapped in a Cycle of Rejection

people-2583116_1280

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.

More Posts