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Blog / How to Heal from Rejection: An Interview with Lysa TerKeurst

How to Heal from Rejection: An Interview with Lysa TerKeurst

Lysa TerKeurstRejection can be crippling. Cruel words spoken in mockery or being mercilessly shunned can create wounds that dig deep into our sense of self, and can resurface in surprising ways as an adult. But this doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

In this Bible Gateway Q&A, Lysa TerKeurst (@LysaTerKeurst) talks about her book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely (Thomas Nelson, 2016).

[Join the Uninvited Online Bible Study with Lysa TerKeurst teaching from the Holy Land on StudyGateway August 20 – September 30. Registration is open now and you get free access to 6 videos and other downloads]

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Why did you write Uninvited?

Lysa TerKeurst: Rejection isn’t just a complicated emotion. It’s an utter devastation of what we thought was real and safe and secure. And, it affects us all way more than we’d like to admit. We’re all either trying to heal from a past rejection, deal with a present rejection, or fear that an unexpected rejection is just around the corner.

So, this book is about finding the acceptance and love we’ve always longed for and starting to pick up the pieces that we’ve been trying to put back together for years. I chose this topic because I want us to dig in to the core of who we are and expose—and finally heal—rejection’s deep infection.

It’s not a tidy process. But it’s honest. And it’s good.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Know When to Say Yes: An Interview with Lysa TerKeurst]

Describe your own fear of abandonment.

Lysa TerKeurst: Being abandoned and losing my identity weren’t words I would have used when I was a little girl. But I definitely experienced those fears.

My home life felt very unpredictable when I was young. I had a dad who never wanted a girl, while I was desperate to be a treasured daughter. That’s a hard equation for which there’s no easy answer.

My greatest fear was that he would one day stop coming home and I’d be no father’s daughter. I vividly remember whispering in the dark of night over and over, “God, don’t let my daddy leave me. Just don’t let him leave.”

And my dad fed my fears every day. He’d use the word divorce as if it were his freedom pass — not just from my mom but from me as well. He thought it no big deal to say whatever he felt. But because his words carried such weight for me, every threat of divorce was death breathing down my neck. Because if he did leave, then who would I be? A girl without a daddy felt to me like a girl without a place in this world. After all, if he couldn’t love me, who would ever love me?

When my dad finally did stop coming home, the last bit of what held together my security and identity splintered as he packed his things without so much as looking at me. Rejection settled deep into my heart. And I came to one earth-shattering conclusion: “I don’t matter. I am worth nothing to my dad.” And even more disturbing: “I fear I am worth nothing to God.” The sum of these feelings became my new identity. Who was Lysa? The unwanted one.

How should ideas of rejection projected onto to others be avoided?

Lysa TerKeurst: So many times we assign thoughts to others that they never actually think. We hold them accountable to harsh judgments they never make. And we own a rejection from them they never gave us. This is why we have to choose to “live loved.” It’s a phrase I saw an author friend of mine write in a book she was signing. Live loved. Not only an instruction, but a proclamation.

It’s settling in your soul, I was created by a God who formed me because he so very much loved the very thought of me. When I was nothing, he saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved.

This should be the genesis thought of every new day: I am loved.

How do we stop the cycle of rejection?

Lysa TerKeurst: I’ve discovered great power in two simple phrases: “me too” and “you do belong.”

We need to let our past rejection experiences work for us instead of against us by allowing them to help us sense the possible pain behind other people’s reactions. We can try to see things from their vantage point and think of how they might be hurting in this situation. Pretty much everyone has at some point been deeply hurt by someone. That’s our “me too.”

We can also make a list of good things we know to be true about the person who’s hurt us. This doesn’t validate their actions in the moment, but it’ll validate their worth as a person. Even if we’re clueless about the past hurts that could be feeding their reaction, we can still be sensitive to their obvious pain. We can be an agent of grace in their life as we whisper, “You do belong.”

Doing these things and choosing to cooperate with God’s grace will help us stop the cycle of rejection and hurt. In other people’s lives. And in our own.

In the Holy Land, what were the lessons you learned as you considered the olive trees there?

Lysa TerKeurst: Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree. Jesus knew the crushing heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it. And I don’t think it was a coincidence the olive tree was in the Garden of Gethsemane in the moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

First, in order to be fruitful it has to have both the dry, hot desert east wind and the rain-filled Mediterranean west wind. The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit… and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and winds of relief to sweep across our life if we’re to truly be fruitful.

Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful: waiting, washing, breaking, soaking, sometimes salting, and waiting some more. It’s a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness.

The final thing is not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. It needs a hard rain of at least two-to-three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree, and to the olives.

And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.

The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed. Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It’s also the way to get what’s most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed; pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8).

When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they’re necessary. When I’m being processed, I forget it’s for the sake of ridding me of bitterness. And when I’m being crushed I forget it’s for the sake of my preservation.

I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Maybe God knew we all would. And so, he created the olive tree.

[Join the Uninvited Online Bible Study with Lysa TerKeurst teaching from the Holy Land on StudyGateway August 20 – September 30. Registration is open now and you get free access to 6 videos and other downloads]

Bio: Lysa TerKeurst is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and The New York Times bestselling author of Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely and The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. She writes from her sticky farm table and lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.

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Filed under Books, Interviews, Women