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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Pain of Rejection

Thanks, Jules, for sharing this with me thru email. It really spoke to me. How wonderful our God is.

Jesus, Friend of sinners, thank You for loving me.


A hundred years ago a man's experience of desolation gave birth to a hymn which has been for me and for many the balm of heaven. George Matheson went blind shortly after becoming engaged. His fianc¨¦e broke the engagement.

Perhaps there is no more bitter loneliness than that of rejection. Not only must one learn to do without someone he had come to feel he could not live without, but he must endure dagger-thrusts to the heart, such as: You deserved to be rejected. You are not worthy to be loved. You will never be loved. Who would want you? You are condemned to loneliness forever.

Fear and anger arise. If I turn to God He might reject me. How can I turn to Him anyway? He could have prevented this from happening. What else is He likely to do to me?

The devastating conclusion is reached: I am alone.

Matheson's grief, instead of turning to bitter resentment against the lady who had caused it, was transformed. Totally transformed. These profound and simple words show how that happened:

O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

What, exactly, did Matheson do? He gave back his life, restored the light of his life, opened his heart, laid down life's glory. That spells surrender, which can only come of trust.

His blindness and rejection proved to be for George Matheson the very means of illuminating the Love of God. He may have asked the age-old question, Why?, but God's answer is always Trust Me. Matheson turned his thoughts away from the woman he had lost, away from the powerful temptations to self-pity, resentment, bitterness toward God, skepticism of His Word, and selfish isolation which might so quickly overcome him, and lifted up his "weary soul" to a far greater Love ¨C one that would never let him go.

In the words, "I give Thee back the life I owe" Matheson understood that there was something he could do with his suffering. It was the great lesson of the Cross: surrender. If Jesus had been unwilling to surrender to humanity's worst crime, humanity's salvation would have been impossible. But at Calvary the Lord of the Earth surrendered Himself into the hands of evil men. Yet, paradoxically, no one took His life from Him. He laid it down of His own will, offered Himself to the Father, "poured out His soul unto death," became broken bread and poured-out wine for the life of the world. We live because He died. The power of the Cross is not exemption from suffering but the very transformation of suffering.

Christianity is not a complete coverage insurance policy. Jesus suffered, "not that we might not suffer," wrote George MacDonald, "but that our sufferings might be like His."

The way of the Cross for George Matheson was heartbreak. God's power could have spared him that, but God's love chose instead to give him something far more precious than the happiness he had lost ¨C the Oil of Joy. God gives that oil to those who need it, to those who mourn. Its price in other words, is mourning. If he had not entered the lonely wilderness, George Matheson would not have found His sweet treasure. Would you say the price of that was too high? Your answer depends on where you set your sights ¨C on the short range or the long one. Think what Matheson would have missed. Think what the world would have missed had he been given the form of happiness he hoped for. Denied that, he looked for something better. God never denies our heart's desire except to give us something better.

With what misgivings we turn over our lives to God, imagining somehow that we are about to lose everything that matters. Our hesitancy is like that of a tiny shell on the seashore, afraid to give up the teaspoonful of water it holds lest there not be enough in the ocean to fill it again. Lose your life, said Jesus, and you will find it. Give up, and I will give you all. Can the shell imagine the depth and plenitude of the ocean? Can you and I fathom the riches, the fullness of God's love?

In the blindness, Matheson must have thought a great deal about light.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee.

A flickering torch ¨C must he sacrifice his single source of light? He yields. When his heart "restores its borrowed ray" what happens? In place of his own dim torch he is given God's "sunshine blaze".

Because the thing that he longed for, the joy of his life, was gone, he cried out in desperation to another joy, to the Source of joy itself:

O Joy that seekest me through pain.

I wonder if, for a moment or two, he might have felt as I sometimes do: I will not relinquish this misery, not right now. God has taken away what I most wanted. I have a right to feel sorry for myself. I have been wronged. I will refuse, for a while at least, any offer of comfort and healing. Don't speak to me of joy. You pour salt in my wounds. Let me lick them for a while.

If any such quite natural thoughts entered Matheson's mind, God understood, for He too had been a man. In His mercy He helped him to put them away and to write,

I cannot close my heart to Thee.

That is the response of a humbled heart, one that admits its poverty and recognizes the gentle Love that waits, the Joy that is seeking him precisely because he is in such pain that he can hardly seek anything but death. Then, although he is blind, he sees with the eye of faith, and what he sees, through the mist of his tears is a rainbow. He comes to believe that the promise is true: Tears are not forever. There will be a morning without them. His faith lays hold of the promise and, mysteriously, he finds that pain has been exchanged for joy. If he had closed his heart and indulged his feelings, he might have found some miserably meager happiness, but he would have forfeited the joy.

"If God loves me, He'll make me happy." Well, yes and no. Happy isn't the word, really. It's joy, a far better thing. Not sentiment, not mere "feeling good", but something that can never be taken away.

Love, Light, Joy. There is yet something else that the God who is Love and the Father of Lights and the Source of all Joy wants to give him. It is the Cross. Will he accept that? It can always be evaded, but if it is, the result is endless loss. His answer:

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee.

By this time he understands what he would be rejecting. With both hands, as it were, he takes it, says YES, surrenders, lays everything he holds dear ¨C "life's glory" ¨C down in the dust.

And what happens? Is that the end of the story? No. A thousand times No. Out of that sterile dust springs a miracle:

And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

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