Recently a door slammed closed on me.
I received a “no” from someone, when frankly, I was hoping for, praying in Jesus’ name for, and expectant for a big fat yes. At first, the denial stung. It felt like I had a giant REJECT stamp on my forehead.
When life hands us no’s—especially ones that are unexpected—ultimately, we have two choices: 1) to sit in a stinking pile of rejection or 2) to see life’s rejections as God’s interjections—instances when God wants to do something mighty in us.
What I mean by that is this: Rejections aren’t closed doors; they’re open doors—to classrooms. If we can wipe that REJECT stamp off our foreheads, and open ourselves up to some lessons, life’s no’s can actually teach us a lot about spiritual growth, emotional maturity, and personal development.
With that in mind, here are a few helpful ways to deal with rejection:
Avoid negative interpretation. Anytime you hear a “no,” it’s easy to interpret the situation negatively. You might begin to nurse some pessimistic thought-patterns like, “This person said ‘no’ because they don’t like me.”
Or, “I’m obviously not good enough.”
Or, “Good things never happen for me.
Or even, “I’ll never amount to more than this.”
You might even be tempted to take your negative interpretations one step further, and make assumptions about the other person’s motives— “They only said ‘no,’ because they don’t really have a good heart.”
The reality is, just because someone closed a door on you, that doesn’t make them a bad person. Use this opportunity to lean into your Christ-like muscles; assume the best—that God is at work in their life as much as he is in yours. Speak a blessing over them instead of nursing your own bitterness. Perhaps there is something you can learn from this person’s example. I mean, hey—they know when to say no. Maybe they’re modeling healthy boundaries, something we can all learn.
Also, keep in mind that this particular rejection does not mean God is rejecting you. In fact, God is either protecting you from a path he doesn’t want you walking, or he’s getting you back on the path he does have for you.
At the end of the day, negative interpretation comes down to an issue of trust. Instead of feeding those pessimistic thought-patterns, starve them. Trust that God is at work making your paths straight (Proverbs 3), and opening his own doors of opportunity for you.
Cast down the idol of “otherhood.” In seasons of rejection, we can be tempted to misconstrue the goodness of God. We might even start believing false things, like God isn’t for us, or God only wants to bless some of his daughters—the rising stars, the ones with growing platforms, the “special” ones. God’s at work in others. They’re perfect. They’ve got it all, etc.
Anytime we get in that mindset, the red flag in our souls should start waving frantically—because it means we’ve begun to worship the idol of “otherhood.” In other words, we’ve gotten stuck in the comparison trap and we need to get out.
If we let the idol of “otherhood” control us, we will soon morph into bitter, angry, and ungracious women—only focusing on what God is doing for others and what he’s not doing for us.
Now listen, it’s certainly acceptable—even biblical—to lament your disappointments to God. He wants all of your burdens because he cares deeply for you. But at some point, you have to lay those feelings of rejection down at the feet of Jesus—and walk away before they consume and define you.
Push stop on the “otherhood” song before it even starts. Sing a new song of gratitude in its place. Stop trying to live the “other’s” life and instead, focus on God’s extravagant, undeserved blessings in your life. Most of all, consider this rejection an invitation—to worship God for God alone, not just for his benefits.
Evaluate yourself. Rejection is a unique opportunity to do some self-evaluation. Take stock and ask yourself questions like, why is this particular no hitting me so hard? Am I looking to this other person to define me? Was I using them to get something, instead of developing a genuine relationship with them? How could I have done things differently? What can I learn from this? How can I grow? What is God trying to teach me? (You might even consider politely asking the person who said “no,” why they did; do you have any advice for how I can improve as I pursue this avenue in the future?)
That said, I know that a closed door to a potential opportunity, or a “no” from someone you admire, is different than a rejection from a loved one. If a best friend, boyfriend, spouse, or parent has repeatedly rejected you, it is excruciating. In those cases, evaluate your emotions and pour them out to God. He wants to reveal his nearness to you. Run into the arms of your Heavenly Father and allow him to bind up your tender wounds with this healing love.
And remember this: this rejection doesn’t equal your inadequacy. Try to see rejection an awesome opportunity for God to correct your thinking, mature you, enhance your dependency on him, display his strength in your weakness, and meet some needs you didn’t even know you had.
Ultimately, these responses to rejection—avoiding negative interpretation, casting down the idol of “otherhood,” and evaluating yourself—all come down to one thing. Don’t live like you’re rejected when you’ve been accepted by God in Christ!
If you can begin to frame every one of life’s rejections as God’s interjections, you’ll discover that it is not in anyone else’s power to open or close doors for you. God, and God alone, has all authority and power – over your doors, your pathways, and everything in between.
In fact, life’s no’s are perhaps the precise moments God wants to speak his yes’s over you.
Aubrey Sampson is the author of Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan) and an upcoming book on lament and hope with NavPress. She and her husband Kevin, and their three young sons, planted Renewal Church in the Chicagoland area, where Aubrey serves on the preaching team. Aubrey is part of the Propel Cohort at Wheaton College and travels around the country speaking and preaching at a variety of churches. Find and follow Aubrey on Instagram, Facebook, and www.aubreysampson.com