“I think we’re just … better as friends.”
I suddenly felt like I might throw up. Sitting cross-legged in my closet so my parents couldn’t hear my conversation on the phone, I felt time stop—or transition into slow motion, at least.
“For sure,” I said on the other end of the line.
That was the moment—the one that truly exposed my 13-year-old heart to rejection for the first time. My feelings had been hurt many times before, but the pang of that moment overrode the sadness that came from not being invited to a slumber party or getting benched so I could watch another girl take my place on the basketball court.
As a married woman today, I can confidently say I had absolutely no clue what love was at the age of 13. Even so, my heart desperately wanted to be wanted.
Years later, in college, I experienced rejection yet again. This time it was worse—much worse. With the end of a relationship I had naïvely thought might last forever came the deepest sense of loss I had known. Even though I had been spared from a toxic relationship that had broken my heart long before it ever ended, I was certain I was the problem.
And, as he often does, the enemy took what God meant for rescue and turned it into a fear of loving and being loved. It was no longer safe—no longer worth the risk. Even if it was, was I even worthy?
As women, we want to be accepted—by our friends, our family, coworkers, a man … and yes, even fiancés and husbands who have already committed themselves to us. We want to feel worthy and loved and cherished. This is true by design. We were made to love extravagantly and be loved by God who is Love Himself. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:27) and commanded to show deep love for one another (1 Peter 4:8). Depending on the translation you’re reading, the word “love” is mentioned anywhere from 300–600 times throughout Scripture. God is serious about love!
So why does it feel so hard to love freely, even when we want to? Why does it feel scary to let any part of ourselves care too much (or at all)? Why is love filtered through a level of potential risk? As powerful as love can be, the fear of rejection can quickly supersede any desire to open ourselves up to it.
This fear can work itself into a multitude of scenarios. Fear of being rejected by a guy after you’ve grown to care about him. Fear of not being fully welcomed into a community of friends. Fear of being dismissed at work after your colleagues find out what you believe. Fear of someone walking away from an intentional conversation you try to start.
Fear of being rejected and then being awkward about it (can I get an amen?).
Here’s the thing: What if Jesus had only loved with the promised assurance that He wouldn’t be rejected?
I dare say things would look wildly different. Jesus didn’t just love in the face of rejection; He loved because of it.
In fact, Jesus was rejected more often than He was accepted. From being rejected in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:14–30) to being denied by one of his own disciples—a friend within His innermost circle (Luke 22:54–62). Jesus knew what it was to be turned away, scoffed at, and refused altogether.
Even when He was accepted, Jesus knew that the ones who praised Him then would eventually reject Him in the most profound way possible. But that was no matter to Him. He loved lavishly and extravagantly, because His hope never rested in returned affection. It still doesn’t. When we reject God in our day-to-day—from choosing sleep over time with Him, to ignoring the Holy Spirit’s conviction for a moment of pleasure—He’s still right there, eager and ready for us to let Him fill the void that only He can satisfy.
When our identities rest in Christ alone, we have access to that same ability—one that allows us to love without expectation, fear, or apprehension. We can be confident that the God of the universe loves us without restraint; no rejection from a human being can ever nullify that!
We know that:
- We are worthy because of the sacrifice of God’s only Son (John 3:16).
- God’s love for us is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).
- God loves us as His very own children, as His daughters and prized possessions (1 John 3:1).
- God is merciful and gracious toward us, slow to become angry with us, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 86:15).
- There is no fear in love, and perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
Whatever season you’re in, accept the fact that you are eternally accepted. What God has promised, let no man (or woman!) make you question. Abide in that love “so that [Christ’s] joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11)—even in the face of rejection.
Sarah Beth McCloud is passionate about healthy communication and facilitating messages that move us forward—personally, professionally, and spiritually. She and her husband Marshall live on the outskirts of Atlanta where she works as Manager of Communications for WinShape Foundation. When she’s not writing, she much prefers being outdoors. She loves reading (surprise!), spinning, cooking, and talking about the nitty-gritty details of the Bible over a (very) strong cup of coffee.