Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Pain of Rejection or the Pathway of Constant Love?

Puzzles adorned the room, pieced together to create scenes from nature--robed in colors of autumn, blanketed in the snows of mid-January, or skipping with radiant rays of July sunshine.  Elderly residents at the home, whose free moments stretched endlessly some days, had created the framed masterpieces here.

One moment, residents searched for which individual pieces would fit; a thousand pieces later, their puzzles hung completed, glued together, reminiscent of times spent in one another's company. 

Life's lessons can often be like those puzzles.  Day after day, a particular God-sent challenge bewilders us until we locate how it connects to another lesson learned.  Bit by bit, the picture emerges as we piece together that scene on the appropriate puzzle in life.

One puzzle that's recently arrested my attention is this short Scriptural declaration:  "Love never fails."  A particular puzzle on that theme now decorates a room in my heart.

The puzzle's message?  Though people reject us, through Jesus' strength, we can offer them God's brand of constant, unfailing love.

While many around us choose to follow their own dreams or openly defy biblical truths they seemed once to embrace, God's brand of love doesn't let people's directional decisions impact our constant love toward them.   Even if our love is never appreciated, understood, or reciprocated, God calls us to love; therefore, we can love unconditionally and unequivocally, like Jesus loved us.

During one challenging season of life, I experienced frequent rejection.  In those instances, I questioned myself at the deepest level.  Finally, after many pain-filled months filled with prayer and heartache, I concluded God did not want me to live in that place, where I overflowed with questions about why people did what they did and where rejection hurt so badly.  I was accepted in the Beloved.  That was enough.


I began to realize that, while people can misunderstand, misjudge, and think the worst in any given situation, God understands, perfectly judges, and propels us to be the best we can be.  That constant reassured me.

Finally, a glorious setting emerged, framed in the breathtaking beauty of God's perfecting love.  Jesus longed to fill me with His constant love so I would never again feel satiated by others' approval.  Because of Christ, I could love people, care for them, and pray for them.  I could give myself in consecrated service for them.  But if they did not accept me, that rejection could not define me.  Through the miserable puzzle pieces which looked so similar, a gorgeous scene began to emerge:  while loving others is always the method, anticipating their approval is never the goal.

So often in our moments of affliction, God draws us nearer His heart.  As my Fountainhead of Love, Jesus taught me I could give out the love He offers me unconditionally, even if that love is never appreciated or reciprocated by those in my surroundings.  In fact, His love is powerful enough to overflow from me into the very breathing space of those who reject me!

Amazingly, piece by piece, God began to shape my perspective to see that true love is an ever-present constant, even in the midst of people who rebel against Him and flaunt rejection.  One of the pieces to my puzzle I unearthed in Matthew 15:18-20--

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart;
and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed
evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
These are the things which defile a man:
but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man”
—Matthew 15:18-20.

In these verses, Jesus tells us there’s nothing outside us that has the power to corrupt us—it’s only as we yield ourselves to it that it controls us (Romans 6:6).  At his best state, man is altogether vanity (Psalm 39:5b).  Thus, people's cutting words do not compare to the precious, eternal words of my perfect God.  When I allow my heart to be hurt by man's words that are but for a moment, instead of embracing God's Word as my meditation, my own sinful heart is the source of defilement.

Perhaps those about us are engaging in Bible-defying behaviors that grieve God’s Holy Spirit. Openly rebelling.  Or regularly speaking evil.

Nevertheless, it is from within that we are corrupted to choose any pathway but that of constant inner peace from our precious Jesus, Whose presence brings full joy. 

Dozens of passages teach us to surround ourselves with people of wisdom who love Jesus; simultaneously, this passage teaches us we ought never blame challenging people for any corruption of our own hearts—that emanates from within.

Our own hearts are more deceitful than anything else on this planet (See Jer. 17:9). 

So whatever curve balls get thrown our way, whatever rejection emanates from unkind people about us, we can unconditionally love those very people who offer the rejection, speak the hurtful words, and mock us.

Peter warns:
            “Be sober; be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist, stedfast in the faith…” (I Peter 5:8).

Incredibly, that word sober contains the idea of “dispassionate.”  In other words, don’t allow your feelings (even to potentially hurtful things like rejection) be a weak spot in the fence that guards your heart, because there's a raging, man-eating beast out there trying to get to your very soul.  Watch out!

You have an adversary.

And your hurt can become his entryway into your heart.

So…. Do.  Not.  Let.  Hurt.  In.

Impossible?

What did Jesus do when kissed in betrayal by the friend who had daily done life with Him for three and a half years?  Not hold on to hurt.  Not become self-justifying.  

Christ did not allow injustice about Him to interfere with His love for the people who spit upon Him and plucked out His beard.  Certainly those who reject Him will never experience His eternal home, all the treasures He offers forever, or His fulfilling presence in their daily lives as they walk deeply in His Word.  And yet, knowing they would trade His riches for their own paltry rags,  He stood His ground—loving those who rejected Him all the way to the cross.  And He continues to offer that completely undeserved love to us.

Constant. 

Love.

Why then do we cling to a right to make hurt a frequent companion when our hearts cry out from others' grievous words or poor life choices?  Let us rather view such feelings as inroads for Satan to get a place in our hearts. Let’s not give him an inch of space in our lives by allowing hurt to live there!

Take a cue from Peter—passionate follower turned sober preacher.  Note the frequency with which his book uses the command, “Be sober.”

Peter’s love for Jesus has been passionate.  Real.  Sincere.  Surrendered. 

But this older, seasoned apostle now commands Christ-followers to “fervent charity.”  Fervent indicates the notion of constant.

If there’s one constant that ought drive us, it’s true, biblical love. 

            “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Peter 5:8).

This constant love will dramatically shift your perspective.  With ever increasing clarity, you’ll see your own shabby ability to love the fleeting shadows about you, human souls headed to eternity somewhere.  Instances of rejection will beckon you to partake of Jesus' never-failing strength to love a world that daily defies Him. Your greatest grief will be that your own inability to extend God-shaped answers to hurting hearts should fall so short of God’s perfect ability to do so. For, oftentimes, those who extend the most rejection our direction are feeling an insurmountable depth of hurt and pain in themselves.

No wonder John says,
            “Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” 

Indeed, such love is not human-sourced.

In a day when division abounds among people who used to care deeply for one another, let us embrace the kind of love that God commands—constant, unfailing love.

Love constantly. 

That’s what I Peter 4:8 calls us to.

God can replace your pain from man's rejection with His love for the very people who have rejected you.  Ask Him to do it today, tomorrow, and each day into the future.

Because constant love just doesn't hang on to the negative, fleeting stuff of life. 

Instead, it keeps on loving, echoing an eternal love.

Like Jesus.