Just about everyone has experienced some sort of opposition or rejection in life, whether personally or professionally. In work, we may have been under-rated, rejected for a certain job or rebuffed when we wanted a raise. Perhaps as youngsters we were bullied or assigned a label by acquaintances at school as often happens. Soft bullying might actually be of some benefit in the form of critique (perhaps our hairstyle or clothes are really ridiculous!). Often bullying can happen by our own siblings, and this is commonly put under the umbrella of sibling rivalry. All of these stories are too common, and to some extent part of growing up.
Perhaps some people feel the hurt from these experiences more, and in some instances the rejection experienced is deeply pervasive and awful. But what should happen in these cases? It is almost as if the universe is rooting for you to succeed and to overcome. The justice of the universe demands it. Good must succeed, bitterness and resentment cannot prevail. Courage and kindness must triumph in the end.
Featured on the popular show “Shark Tank”, Barbara Corcoran is a woman who built a very successful real estate empire, capitalizing on past failures and rejections. She turned these negative experiences in her life into a great motivation to succeed, and also as a way to judge the character and potential of those she hires.
Here is a short clip of Barbara Corcoran discussing a trait she has found in herself and in her most successful salespeople
The Bible is filled with characters overcoming their obstacles
The Bible has a number of inspirational stories in which God uses the oppressed but sincere believers.
Joseph – While he was the doting favorite of his father, Joseph was hated by his siblings. When he revealed dreams he had to his brothers that indicated that he would be in a leadership position over them, they hated him even more and said that would never happen. His brothers then sold Joseph into slavery. (Genesis 37) However in the course of events after slavery and time in prison for a false accusation, he then had an opportunity to interpret Pharoah’s troubling dreams. After that Joseph received the promotion of a lifetime. At age 30, Joseph became second in command to Pharoah in Egypt (Genesis 41:46). His brothers not only recognized Joseph in his leadership position, they were dependent on his stewardship for survival.
David – as a youth Shortly after being anointed by the prophet Samuel while still a youth, David was sent by his father to deliver food rations to his three eldest brothers on the battle lines with the Philistines. When David talked with men there about the threat of the giant Goliath, his brother responded angrily to him. Below you see the interchange, and David’s innocent response.
And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
–I Samuel 17:28-29
Up to that point, it would seem that David had only fought wild animals to protect the sheep he tended. His brother mocked him for presuming to talk to “men” about the battle. While David’s brothers obviously disregarded David in regards to man-to-man battle, interestingly David became one of the most famous warrior-Kings ever. (I Samuel 18:7, Psalm 144:1)
David – as a young man Although Saul utilized David in different ways, for his musical skills early on (I Samuel 16:23) and to head up his men in battle (I Samuel 18:5), Saul quickly became jealous of David and began a series of attempts to kill him. (Samuel 19:10) David had to live as a fugitive for a period of about 8 years. While Saul continuously tried to kill David, David also had a very loyal band of brothers with him — his “mighty men”. (II Samuel 23:8-39) And while he had to remain a fugitive early on, he is still the most glorious king of Israel. He ruled successfully over the united Israel for many years, while keeping Israel pointed toward God.
David – in old age David was a man of passion and as such, even though he was a man after God’s own heart he also brought much trouble to himself. David became guilty of adultery and murder to cover it up. David repented greatly of these sins afterward (Psalm 51). Even with such repentance, God punished David. God had greatly blessed David and He would likewise discipline him. The prophet Nathan told him the pronouncement of God: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.” — II Samuel 12:10. David’s house, or family would be in turmoil. David’s son Absalom opposed his own father in battle to overthrow David and rule instead (II Samuel 14-18) and David’s son Adonijah tried to make himself king instead of Solomon, the one David wanted to be king after him (I Kings 1). While David experienced much grief and opposition from his family, his family also became the royal line of Jesus. Through sons of David and Bathsheba – Solomon and Nathan – would come both lines of Jesus, his biological line through Mary, and the line of his non-biological father Joseph. In spite of everything, David would still be a man after God’s own heart.
Jephthah – Jephthah is an Old Testament figure who also gets a shout-out in the New Testatment with a mention in the “chapter of faith” (Hebrews 11:32). Jephthah became famous for his vow that is often misunderstood as I show here. But when he was young, he was thrown out of his father’s house by his half-brothers because he was born of a “harlot”. Jephthah spent time with “vain men” in the land of Tob. (Judges 11:1-3)
In spite of this personal rejection, there must have been some intrinsic quality in Jephthah that caused the people to look to him in a time of distress.
And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, Therefore we turn again to thee now, that thou mayest go with us, and fight against the children of Ammon, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head? And the elders of Gilead said unto Jephthah, The LORD be witness between us, if we do not so according to thy words. Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and captain over them: and Jephthah uttered all his words before the LORD in Mizpeh. –Judges 11:4-11
Jephthah is also shown to be a great man of faith. He did not do his accomplishments in a vacuum. Jephthah’s vow was under the direct inspiration of the Lord, and Jephthah feared God in such a way he would not take back his vow. This vow was in accordance with scripture as I explained in my previous post. The Bible condemns the taking of “innocent blood” in many cases in the Bible. While a lamb would have been offered as a burnt offering in the vow, Jephthath’s daughter was the first to come out of his doors to greet him. in Jephthah’s daughters case, she served God in a virgin state, and Jephthah would have no grandchildren as a result. (Judges 11:35, 39-40)
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands.
And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
Judges 11:29-32, 35
Finally, there is the example of Jabez.
Jabez – There is a short excerpt in the genealogies of Chronicles that tell of this man. It seemed that Jabez felt he was almost under a curse, and perhaps his mother’s life has been lost in bearing him. He felt a great responsibility on his shoulders, and he wanted God’s blessing. When Jabez got serious, he “doubled down” in prayer.
And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.
And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
–I Chronicles 4:9-10
The Power of Good
This year a movie was released for children, a remake of the classic fairy tale Cinderella. While I personally reject notions of fairy godmothers and don’t believe in dabbling in spells or that sort of thing, there are positive lessons in this fairy tale. Cinderella lived under very oppressive conditions, doing the work of four people while treated very spitefully. She returned good works for her stepfamily’s bad wishes. And she was treated with more and more contempt.
In this film, the message Cinderella received from her parents before being orphaned was “to have courage and be kind”. Cinderella diligently practiced this, even though at times she was overwhelmed. Because of her kind nature, animals of all kinds could recognize her kind nature, although the stepmother’s cat named ‘Lucifer’ was her one nemesis in the animal kingdom.
Fairy godmother narrates:
“Names have power — like magic spells.
All of the sudden it seemed to (Cinderella) that her Stepmother and Stepsisters had indeed transformed her into merely a creature of ash and toil.”
Some will rightly point out that Cinderella was assisted by a powerful magical benefactor, and didn’t just pull herself up by her “own bootstraps”. However, hardship can also prepare us for greater responsibility.
Bitterness or desire for revenge hurt the people who harbor those feelings the worst. Sometimes the laws of nature and justice of the universe are the best in sorting things out.
A few last thoughts from the Bible:
“See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” –I Thessalonians 5:15
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” –Galatians 6:10
“Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.” –Proverbs 20:22
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” –Romans 12:19
God inspires us to strive for his standard of Agape love.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” –Mathew 5:43-48
Opposition or rejection can teach us things in life that we can benefit from. The first lesson is to remain humble. Success will find us in due time. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” –I Peter 5:6. The second lesson is determination. The determination of David – “is there not a cause?”, or Jabez, who didn’t want to be a disappointment. Humility and determination are great attributes to put us on the road to success. It shouldn’t be the kind of success to flaunt, but rather the kind of success that says that good wins in the final outcome.