I was at rock bottom – I just felt so lost, so hopeless – I felt as though nothing I could do could make me clean, could make me good enough for God. I felt the sting of one of my deepest fears – rejection. My faith was at a point that I had absolutely no doubt in God and Jesus and the fact He died for the world. The part which just would not connect for me was that He did this not just for everyone else, but actually for me. I was absolutely doubting, not that God is true, not that the Gospel is true, but that my salvation is true.
I was terrified that I had got it wrong – absolutely terrified that God, after everything, was going to reject me on the Last Day and send me to hell, and could not quench this fear inside me. How could God accept me? My mind and emotions were all over the place. I kept doing what I knew to be wrong even though I was desperate not to. I was terrified whenever anyone asked, “Are you sure you are a Christian?”, because I so desperately wanted to be in God’s Kingdom, and so desperate to be reassured by God that He accepts me.
I had an absolute fear of rejection, which I think began with my parents’ separation when I was 16 – which, I suppose, took my feeling of security away in long-term human relationships. From this point, I became almost obsessed that my friends would just at any point, arbitrarily and randomly reject me. I just was terrified of exclusion, from anything, from a social group, from a relationship, and most of all from God’s Kingdom.
I couldn’t bear the idea of being in a place and people judging me and talking behind my back about me – excluding me even though I was so desperate to be amongst them. At the same time, I saw other people who were being excluded from friendships, people who weren’t taken seriously, whose lives were almost treated as though they’re worth less than others. People whose deepest longings were to be accepted, but just were not.
I felt like this to both people and, worst of all, to God. I could not bear the pain of exclusion… I cried out at night, desperately crying for salvation, hoping no human could hear as they’d think I’d broken down, as it was so absolutely extremely desperate. I hated myself, I hated that I couldn’t feel content and included by God – I felt as though something inside me just was holding me back from God; I couldn’t get rid of it.
At worse times, I would feel overwhelmingly like the anger at myself couldn’t be expressed by shouts and weeping, so would hit my head and arm, as nothing else felt sufficient to express the emotion. There have been points more recently in which my shame and failure have felt so terrible that I just don’t trust God to give me a fresh start, as I really want to, and I felt so angry at myself. Without God, I was nothing, and couldn’t cope for a single minute without being in His light and salvation.
Yet, one night, when in a worship service at Cliff College, one of my dear friends felt as though they had a word from God to tell me. The verse was Galatians 5:1:
“For freedom Christ has set us free.”
Christ has set us free – Christ has set us free. Set me free! His explanation, and God working in me, began to finally create the idea that God didn’t want me to feel as though I would never be good enough, but wanted to reassure me that He wants me to stop worrying, because He accepted me already.
Other people reassured me that God had a plan and purpose for me – something which I had never heard to the extent that it almost moved me to tears. Before this, when I was in my late teens, and someone had told me directly for the first time, “God loves you, Elliot”, I almost broke down to weep as I did not even know what to do with such a wonderful piece of information.
I am now utterly reassured now that, in spite of all the negative ideas I’ve had, God is not an exclusive God. God does not talk behind our backs. God does not show favourites based on who’s least shy or most ‘cool’ or anything – He has no favourites. God is not like people. God’s relationship with you will never stop, not like my parents’ marriage stopped, not like relationships in the world are so sporadic and insecure.
This is the message I want to convey this morning, these verses from Romans 10 which reassure me so much:
“if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
“No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
God does not want us to wallow in self-pity, or in fear – perfect love, which is what God has and always had, never has fear. Call out to Him, and He will save you. He loves you, every single person here. How I wish I’d known that when I was 16! He is your perfect Father, perfect friend, who will never dream of excluding you – even if all your friends seem to hate and ridicule and gossip about you – He will never let you go, not even one bit. With Him, you are so secure, so safe, in a relationship that will never end.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This is so reassuring! All we need to do is ask, and God will set us free! We can trust Him! I realised my issue was not with God not accepting me, but more that I wasn’t accepting this acceptance for myself. We can know He accepts us, clean and free from our pain and our shame and our past and our inadequacy, no matter how much we think we fail people and how much we hate ourselves – God still loves us, still cares, still accepts us.
I still struggle with trusting in this now, but I am infinitely reassured that, no matter who excludes me, or rejects me, God will NEVER reject me – He is the friend who will never even dream of rejecting you, or leaving you, or forsaking you. God is not some figure who is trying to find fault with you to reject you, but He sent His very Son to die for us because He couldn’t bear to see us far from Him. He loves you, and longs to accept you and for you to know that He reaches out His hand for us to take, and will never take it away and will never give up on us.
No matter how rubbish we feel, no matter how much we fail, no matter how much we fear rejection, God will never, ever reject us. He wants us to live with Him free from fear, free from the pain of exclusion and rejection, and then, inspired by this, to include and not reject people ourselves. He won’t reject even a wretch like me.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found.
'Twas blind, but now I see.
And He rejoices He created every single person in this building – He longs for you to know His acceptance – and I would just love to spread that message this morning. God loves to accept you, and will never reject you. No question about it. This is why the Good News is so wonderful – it’s about God’s acceptance. I pray for freedom for all those who fear, for freedom to know God’s glad and loving acceptance of them, for every single person.