THE SPIRIT OF REJECTION
by Ron Wood, Touched By Grace Ministries
Alienation, isolation, and rejection are paralyzing the church. Loneliness is like a plague on the land. The ties that knit our lives together seem to have unraveled. Covenant love has grown cold and casual contacts can't replace them. The tapestry of society is like a mass of individual threads, no longer woven together. Broken homes from divorces provide a vivid picture of our inability to stay in meaningful relationships. (In Cuba, where I have ministered, the divorce rate is 78%.) Ask any modern schoolteacher how many children in their classroom still have the same original parents. The answer is always, "Hardly any." The feeling of abandonment hurts. These kids usually suffer from rejection.
Even if you can't explain it, you can describe it. It is a reality in our souls. What is rejection and what does it do to people?
Rejection affects adults as well. Many people have come to full age still carrying the scars of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. These men and women look normal but inside they are filled with terrible insecurity, anger, or fear. Others are sitting on a ticking emotional time bomb of resentment and rebellion, just waiting to boil over into rage. These scars, if left unhealed, will render a person incapable of entering into committed, wholesome, long-term relationships.
One particular problem is very common. It undermines the confidence of many Christians and interferes with true fellowship between friends. It is a lying spirit from our enemy called a spirit of rejection. Rejection is the worst pain the human spirit can suffer. Anyone who has been abandoned, suffered abuse, or endured discrimination can relate to this kind of anguish. Let's examine this assault from Satan so we can recognize this form of mental oppression.
The Mind-Set of Rejection
First, the spirit of rejection refers to the mind-set ingrained into us which tells us that we are unloved, unwanted, or will never be good enough. This may start in childhood. This mind-set makes us strive to earn our acceptance. It makes people feel driven to perform in order to be approved. This mind-set makes people feel they are loved for what they do rather than for whom they are. It is demeaning. It robs people of peace. The sad thing is that no amount of achievement is ever enough to satisfy it.
In other people, the injustice of being treated unfairly or rejected or disrespected makes them boil over in anger. They quit trying to fit in, rebel against everyone, and try to break out of the box being forced on them. In refusing to be a victim, they may victimize others. Resentment covers their soul like a dark shroud. They wind up in an emotional prison of their own making.
The mind-set of rejection is the result of having believed a lie. It is a syndrome of self-talk that comes from being programmed with falsehoods. Having been told a lie often enough, victims begin to say, "Yes, it's true." The lie becomes accepted when the victim agrees with the accusations. They become their own accuser. They have internalized the venom. The deceit becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The victim begins to expect to be rejected and thus sabotages his/her own relationships.
This mental stronghold of rejection is powerful. It will be torn down only when we find God's Word about our case and choose to believe the truth instead of a lie. Only God's truth can set us free. The truth will connect us to God's love. God's love will cure our wounded souls.
The Wounds of Rejection
The spirit of rejection also refers to the residue within our personality of being deeply wounded. This mental or emotional scarring can occur due to being neglected, abandoned or abused. It can also come from being betrayed, being shamed, or being made to feel unloved. Racial discrimination often leaves scars of rejection. Children who were abused sexually suffer cruelly from this inner hurt. Divorce can also leave a lingering, festering wound. The fear of being rejected can make a person run from relationships. They reject others before they themselves are rejected. They spiritually "stiff-arm" those who try to get close.
Just like you can be injured in your flesh and form a bruise or a scar, so you can be injured in your inner man and develop a sensitive place or perhaps a hardened area like a scab on your feelings. When that irritated place gets touched, a reaction occurs. The Bible speaks of having a "wounded spirit." One symptom of having a wounded spirit is that you feel absolutely nothing, like you are dead inside. Another symptom is that you are hypersensitive in that area and can explode at the slightest provocation. God's unconditional love, realized and received, can cure this wound.
A Lying Spirit called Rejection
The spirit of rejection is also a specific lying spirit, a demonic messenger from Satan. This spirit whispers to people that they are unloved, not wanted, or are being ridiculed. The devil inflames insecurities and fears. This demon seeks to undermine the Christian?s true standing before God as a saved, cleansed, redeemed child of God. He does this by lying and attempting to deceive the believer regarding God's love, the atoning work of the cross, and our righteousness before God.
This lying spirit comes between family members and divides brothers and sisters and makes them feel isolated. The spirit of rejection pours gasoline on the fires of racial hatred. This demon is very successful in splitting up marriages, churches, and partnerships. These are vital relationships that the Holy Spirit wants to establish between friends. These relationships are necessary in the Body of Christ in order for God's work to be done. Disunity, like divorce, often has this lying spirit as its agent provocateur.
The Spirit of Adoption
To understand the spirit of rejection, we need to understand its opposite, which is the spirit of adoption. In the Bible, Romans chapter eight speaks of God's antidote to the spirit of rejection. This cure comes from our Heavenly Father, through the grace of our Lord Jesus, and is born witness to by the Holy Spirit. It is called the spirit of adoption. This is the Holy Spirit telling us that God the Father loves us and Jesus accepts us.
Sin and suffering cause people to be cut off from God and mistreat one another. Many unsaved adults are mad at God or are so deeply hurt that they blame God. This resentment keeps them from feeling God's love. Their image of God is wrong so they refuse to accept Him. God's grace offers us pardon even while we are angry and sinning. God knows we need to be healed of the consequences of our sins and the injuries of sins committed against us by others, even our parents. The spirit of adoption comes from heaven?s throne. It can also be mediated by unconditional acceptance through other Christians. When we accept one another in Christ, relationships in Christ?s body are formed. The Holy Spirit connects us together and affirms our self-worth. We are empowered to appreciate each other.
God's merciful provision for our healing comes by Christ?s atonement on the cross. It is made real and effective in our lives when we confess our sins and receive His forgiveness. Then the Holy Spirit comes into our heart and testifies that we have become God's child. He does this by bearing witness in our spirit that we are adopted by God. This is the spirit of adoption.
The spirit of adoption goes beyond believing that God loves us; it is the actual felt love of God, so that we are enabled to know that God loves us. It ends loneliness, literally forever!
This marvelous work of affirming who we are in Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. He only bears witness to what is true. He testifies in our spirit that we are truly loved by God. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures as well as the affirming voice of God to tell us the truth about ourselves. God's voice will cause us to know God's thoughts toward us. Those thoughts, always in agreement with the Scriptures, will reprove us of our sin and will affirm us as His children, but will never condemn us or drive us away. God will always tell us the truth in a merciful way. Our response is to believe what God says. Believing the truth about what Jesus did for us and believing the truth about who we are in Christ sets us free. We need to believe both aspects of the truth - about Jesus and about ourselves.
The truth is, God likes us! His love toward us is tremendous. He wants us to really know Him and He wants to dwell in our hearts. God wants us to have fellowship with Him without condemnation. He accepts us into His family by virtue of Christ?s work on the cross. He gives us a new identity as His sons and daughters.
Unlike some earthly fathers who failed us, our Heavenly Father will never abandon us. He will not cast away His children. God maintains a relationship with His offspring so that we need never fear being rejected by Him. His love is steadfast. It is covenant love.
Recovering From Rejection
God understands rejection and knows how to remedy its pain. Christ was rejected when He came to His own people and they would not receive Him. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." (John 1:11). He endured rejection when He bore our sins. "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3).
In other words, he specifically included in His suffering the substitutionary pain that was required to relieve us of our rejection. He bore it so we don?t have to. On the cross, He felt the pain of being cut off from his heavenly Father. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt. 27:46).
God understands your feelings. Therefore, He can be touched with your pain and is ready to heal you. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Here's how to diagnose if you suffer from the spirit of rejection. Three areas to examine are circumstances, emotions, and thoughts.
Let's start with your circumstances. Did you have an alcoholic parent? Were your parents divorced? Were you abused? Have you been abandoned or betrayed in marriage? Have you suffered from discrimination? Have you had to break away from a controlling relationship? Have you been repeatedly de-valued as a person? If you fit any of these categories, then you could be a victim of the rejection syndrome.
Now let's consider your emotional hot buttons. Do you have great difficulty receiving correction? Do you take it personally and get offended? Do you resent all authority? Do you get angry for no apparent reason? Or, Do you have an unnatural need for everyone to like you? Does the need for approval control your decisions? Does insecurity sweep over you? Are you plagued by chronic self-doubt? Do you wrestle with chronic bouts of loneliness? At times, do you despair of life, or are you tempted to take your own life? If so, then you probably battle rejection.
In addition to these diagnostic questions, ask yourself this about your thought life. What kind of thoughts run through your mind when you are with a group of people? Would you characterize these thoughts as mostly negative or positive? The spirit of rejection inserts these kinds of thoughts: "These people don't love me." "They won't talk to me." "I'm not worthy to be here." "I know they are judging me." "They don't really want me here." This is mental torment that typifies the spirit of rejection.
Inner Healing & Deliverance
If these questions point to your problem as the spirit of rejection, then you need to take it to God in prayer. If the problem persists, get someone to pray with you for deliverance. But first, realize this, rejection often carries with it unforgiveness toward those who have offended you. We might have been an innocent victim, but we have to take responsibility now for our reactions. We can't do away with our will and our choices or our reactions. We can be sinned against, begin to cherish a grudge, and as a result, begin to sin against our oppressors. Unforgiveness is itself a sin.
God's grace will enable you to make a choice, to give forgiveness to all those for whom you hold grudges. This is important! Freedom won't come without this vital step of forgiving others. In this case, your forgiveness must be explicit, by name, and it must be spoken aloud even if it is only to God, and even if it is for someone who is now dead. That does not matter. God is the judge of the living and the dead. Don't make any exceptions.
Don't allow any resentment to remain in your heart. Healing begins with a decision to repent and to give undeserved forgiveness. Give away grace and God will give grace to you. Repent of all bitterness and hatred.
When forgiveness is totally accomplished, it paves the way for successful inner healing. Inner healing is the actual curing of your soul of the wounds and traumas you have suffered and accumulated. The finger of God touches the sore spots and makes them well. This is the transformation of the inner man, the end to unrighteous reactions and automatic defenses. It is being at peace in Christ.
Inner healing must accompany deliverance. The place where damaged emotions have given way to this mind-set of rejection must be torn down, or else deliverance will be merely temporary.
The house of your thought life must be swept and cleaned, then occupied with God's reassuring truth and love. Determine to think God's thoughts. This is a decision you must make in order to be free. Automatic judgments, racial prejudices, and defensive reactions need to be removed.
Take all negative thoughts captive. Don't let them rule over your mind. Replace them with words and images of faith that come from your heavenly Father. Take God's thoughts, God's attitude, God's will as your creed, not the words of this sinful world.
Repeat what the Scriptures say until they replace the lies you've heard. Soak in God's word and let it renew your mind. Meditate on the Scriptures until faith, hope, and self-acceptance fills your personality. This takes time but it is something you can do for yourself.
Renounce the spirit of rejection and stand against it. To renounce means to take a stand against something that you had previously been identified with or had claim to. Like renouncing your citizenship, it is a legal action that has power to affect your status. Pray aloud and say with your own words that rejection will not rule over you.
Instead, ask God for His fatherly affirmation. Ask God to give you the spirit of adoption. Every child needs to hear the father's voice saying, "You're mine and I love you!"
After you've prayed against rejection, read the Scriptures, especially the epistles of the New Testament. They teach us our new identity in Christ, to "lay aside the old self" and "be renewed in the spirit of your mind." (Eph. 4:22) Replace Satan's lies with God's word. Soak your thoughts in the truth of who God is, what He has done for you, and who you are in Christ. Banish all self-doubts. Tell yourself the truth until you truly believe it. Find new friends in Christ who affirm you and love you with God's love. "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God." I John 3:1.
Recovering in Community
God loves us so much He accepts us just as we are! Yet He loves us too much to leave us like we are. This tension between acceptance and transformation is the balancing act of divine love. God tells us the truth about ourselves so that He can build us up, not put us down. God's love is full of light. It illuminates our hurt areas then it heals them. Having the light hit our injured heart may seem painful at first. But Biblical repentance always leads to restoration. Why? Because that's the nature of our wonderful Lord. He is a true redeemer.
Our Father in heaven knows we cannot change ourselves. So He credits us with the worthiness of Christ while He works in us and on us to conform us to Christ's image. Here is where we learn to believe the right thing, and a result, to have the right feelings, and to behave properly. The cross is our exchange post. At the cross of Christ we exchange our sins for His righteousness, our failure for His success, our guilt for His holiness. And all the while, God wants to surround us with other transformed believers who can help us make the journey.
One part of our Father's plan is the community of believers. Here is where we learn to belong in the body of Christ. God wants to plant us in a place that will help us stay well. Here, we experience God's love through human hands. "Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Rom. 5:5 NAS). God's kind of love constantly believes the best. It is always filled with hope and encouragement. God's love has a vertical dimension, between God and us. It also has a horizontal dimension between us and others.
The essence of Christian community is our acceptance of and acceptance by our brothers and sisters in Christ. "Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." (Romans 15:7) Unfortunately, some churches are sick with legalism. Some groups emphasize individualism so much that no one ever thinks to love one another or to build Christian community.
It is important for Christians who are recovering from a spirit of rejection to belong to a church that is not contaminated by an atmosphere of criticism. That error results in an emphasis on law instead of grace. According to Romans 7, this defeats the purpose of grace and aggravates our failures. Instead, we need to walk in the grace that sets us free by virtue of Christ's complete atonement and His indwelling presence in our lives. The church should be a place where it is safe to be a sinner on the way to being saved, where we feel loved even when we know we are still weak and imperfect.
God's Word prevails over the spirit of rejection. The Father's mercy, poured out by the Holy Spirit in the church, affirms for us God's love and acceptance.
God wants to heal us of the internal strongholds that have been hidden inside us. Only then, with Christ's love and authority and truth, can we be prepared and strengthened to pull down the external or heavenly strongholds that damage society and enslave humanity.
© 1995 by Ron Wood. Visit us at www.touchedbygrace.org. Feel free to duplicate this article for distribution as long as it is unchanged and this byline and attribution of authorship remains complete. Touched by Grace Inc. is a ministry devoted to equipping emerging leaders in the developing church. Write TBG at P. O. Box 12749, Wilmington, NC 28405 USA.