First off, please read our text today, which is Lamentations 3:46-54.
Once more Jeremiah leans into God and declares that all they have experienced and felt is unjust. And through very vivid imagery (especially verses 52-56) we get this feeling of being overwhelmed, taken over, and near death. Death isn’t felt but the feeling is that it’s just on the other side of that which they are going through. The feeling by Jeremiah is that no matter where he looks, no matter where he turns, they are rejected by all.
I don’t think there is any “good” rejection unless it’s for quality control and it has to do with something that saves lives. So if I’m on an assembly line for a heart defibrillator and a part comes across that is vital to someone’s survival and it’s not manufactured correctly and could possibly make the defibrillator malfunction – then “rejection” is needed. If it’s not right and can harm you…then we don’t want it in the product! “Rejection” in this case seems like a good thing. Now clearly there are other instances where “rejection” would play a role in being positive but it seems like more often than not to be “rejected” is harmful…especially when it comes to our own lives and relationships.
Really smart people have done some studies about rejection and they’ve come to see that there is a physical pain that comes along with rejection. That while it’s an emotional response there is also a psychological and physical response as well. An article back in 2013 from Psychology Today on “rejection” came up with some really interesting facts:
- Rejection and physical pain pathways in the brain follow the same path
- We can relive that social pain more easily than we can physical pain
- Feeling rejected severely impacts our behaviors
- Rejection creates surges of anger and aggression as it leads to a greater risk of adolescent violence (more so than drugs, poverty, or gang membership)
- Rejection sends us on a downward spiral that attacks our own personal self-esteem
- Rejection temporarily lowers our IQ
And these are only SOME of the things we’ve seen! Rejection itself is so strong that we can find ourselves doing things we wouldn’t normally do, saying things we wouldn’t normally say, feeling things we don’t normally feel, and just in a place that is not “normal” for us. I know that for myself when I have felt the sting of rejection I don’t want to do anything, be anywhere, eat anything, or talk to anyone. I just want to sit here and do nothing. And yet “nothing” doesn’t happen because all I can do is feel the rejection, think about the rejection, and experience it over and over and over again.
Now, let’s take those truths, and those feelings, and compound it 100 fold and lump on the feeling of being “rejected” by God. Take the feeling that nobody comes to your rescue, nobody comes to your aid, and that all people and nations are hunting and attacking you and that you USE to be able to call out to God for his protection but not even God now comes to your aid. That in fact your place, and space, is happening because God himself is not even here to help you and he, himself, has also rejected you. That God no longer protects you from your enemies. That all your suffering and tears are flowing and happening because God is not there to wipe them away, comfort and console you, or protect you. And that all of this will continue until God decides to “look down from heaven and see.” Once more the feeling of “rejection” speaks words to us that may or may not be true. Once more the feeling of being rejected declares its truth upon us that actually may or may not be truthful. I’m reminded of the old school-aged taunt that, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” – which we all know isn’t true. Words hurt much more than a stick. And the words of, “You are no longer my child” from God would be the hardest words any of us could ever hear. But is rejection really taking place here? Are Jeremiah and the people of God cast away and no longer the covenantal people of God?
I think on one hand we need to remember what we just reflected on last verses and last blog. That God, in his balanced scales, is not only just but he is merciful. That he not only punishes sin but he sent all of that punishment upon the shoulders of his son, Jesus Christ. So as we read these verses and feel this immense rejection we cannot dismiss the truth that they were being punished for their sins because they sinned against each other and against God. But let us also hone-in on verses 49-54. So take a second and read those
- 49 My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, 50 until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees. 51 What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. 52 Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird. 53 They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; 54 the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to perish.
Is Jeremiah declaring that his tears will never stop? Does he declare that as the hunters find him, the bird, they capture and kill him? Does he state that they took his life from the pit by those stones? Does the waters that closed over his head actually kill him? The answer clearly to all of these is no. Jeremiah knows that there is relief for his tears, that his grief will be replaced, that he will not be killed by the hunters or the stones and that no waters will overtake him. Why? Because God IS looking down and seeing. That God DOES care for him. Yes, these feelings he has are authentic and being rejected by someone/people speaks words into our lives but we must remember that those words aren’t completely true or real. We need to fully comprehend that the power of rejection is so strong that we easily fall into its prey and allow ITS truth to declare its lies and we simply cannot land there. And what’s so powerful about rejection is that while we know we won’t die from the rejection, that we can even declare the words that we won’t, it sure feels like we can and will.
To be honest, if you read the Bible from cover to cover you’ll see this constant push and pull with rejection. Rejection itself is what we did to God that got us kicked out of Eden (Genesis 3) and it was rejection that God did that fateful day too – but let’s be clear…God didn’t reject us. We often feel that he did but in truth he didn’t reject us – he rejected sin. It’s just that when God rejected sin he knew that we would be pushed out with it since sin itself consumed us and God cannot be around sin (Habakkuk 1:13). And then what we read throughout the rest of the Bible is God’s pursuant love to gather his sin-rejected children back into his arms and remind them of his grace and mercy. I don’t want to narrow down the work of Christ too easily but honestly Christ’s coming to earth and dying for our sins was God’s way of reconciling that rejection. Sin had to be dealt with and rejected completely, as well as the sinful body, and so Christ used his own perfect sinless body and blood to reject rejection and bring us back into the presence and embrace of God )there’s clearly more going on there than that but it’s also just as simple as that).
The struggle I think you and I have, the struggle that Jeremiah and the people of God had, was that while we know this about God we also know the power of rejection and its voice in our lives. That we can scream at the top of our lungs and hold tightly to the love of God and that he will NOT abandon us and that he WILL look upon and heal our wounds and HAS wiped away all our tears – the voice of rejection really makes us question that which we hold so tightly to. It’s the struggle we’ll have till the day we die – but the ultimate comfort we have is not in the fluctuating feelings we have but in the ultimate sanctifying love of God and knowing that we are NOT rejected. That by way of Jesus Christ and the cross and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit we are gathered in, embraced, and never let go of.
3 Questions for you to think through
- What stands out for you in this text? Why?
- There’s a beautiful comfort in verses 49-50 that reminds us that the things we need in life and the comforts we find in life are NOT of this world and in fact only come to us by God. I think it’s something we all know and yet we often look for comforts IN this world. Do you agree or not? If so – why? Why do we seek worldly-comforts and not eternal and Godly ones?
- How do you bring comfort to someone who is feeling rejected? How do you let them know that rejection is real and what comes in its wake is destructive – and yet it’s also not the end of the world?