I boarded the plane for New York, sat down and cried. Leaving my semester in Australia felt like leaving my heart on the other side of the world. I hadn’t expected to fall in love there (much less with a quirky, adventuresome pastor who wanted to be a missionary)!
I was already brainstorming ways to find a job near this guy. My alma mater actually had a job opening that would bring me back to the same hemisphere—even the same city!—as this guy I’d met. I was uniquely qualified for the position and couldn’t wait to apply.
A few weeks passed before I heard back from the job. I’d nailed the interview and surpassed all the qualifications. I opened the letter fully expecting a yes, but found a no. I had received a rejection letter! I kept praying, “Why, God? Why?”
Later that week, a Facebook message from Mr. Australia popped up on my phone. He wanted to hear how things were going, and if I was would be moving back anytime soon. I had to tell him that honestly, I didn’t know if or when I’d be able to move there. I was starting to feel like God was shutting every door and keeping me trapped in upstate New York.
A few weeks later, Mr. Australia was dating someone else.
One year, later they were engaged.
And I was still very, very single.
As I wrestled with this rejection, I prayed, “God, I really thought this was the plan you had for me! I thought this job would work out. I thought eventually I’d marry this guy. What’s happening??”
And, in His slow and subtle way, God started teaching me two things that completely changed my perspective on rejection. And I want to share those things with you today.
1. Let God surprise you.
The first thing I felt God put on my heart was this thought: “Stop overanalyzing.”
I loved thinking back over every detail of my time with Mr. Australia, replaying every word and moment, trying to figure out where I went wrong. I loved daydreaming about what could happen, trying to figure out the future—where in the world I’d end up, who in the world I’d be with. But I felt like God was asking me, “Would you let me just surprise you?”
So when the temptation to overanalyze would come back, I’d try to steer my thoughts in another direction. I’d go hang out with a friend, plan a service project, read a book, exercise or pray.
Overanalyzing put my heart in the wrong place. It set my heart up for hurt and disappointment.
The best thing I could do was stop trying to figure it out, and let Him surprise me.
There were many times when I fell back into overanalyzing, but each time, I remembered that God wanted to surprise me. He had something else up His sleeve.
2. Realize that rejection is a form of God’s direction.
A wise guy friend once told me, “Tiff, if I had to choose who to marry out of every girl in the world, how could I ever make the choice? So when someone breaks up with me, I don’t take that as rejection; I just take that as God guiding me.”
Rejection as a form of God’s direction? Who knew!
Turns out, my friend was right. Since then I’ve seen so many times when rejection has been a subtle form of God’s direction in my life! Here are just two examples:
- When I applied for dozens of dream jobs after finishing my master’s degree and didn’t get any of them, I couldn’t figure out why! But then, God opened the door for me to start traveling around the country as a motivational speaker and author. And as I began traveling and speaking, I realized that was exactly what I’d been made to do.
- When I was turned down by guy after guy after guy…and stayed single until my late 20s…I had no clue what the future held. One day I ran into someone I’d known since childhood, but hadn’t seen in years. When we got together, it felt so different, so right, and 14 months later we were married. Being married to James is the best thing that ever happened to me, and it makes me SO HAPPY I didn’t end up with any of those other guys!! James is seriously SO MUCH BETTER for me than any of them would have been—Mr. Australia included. Thank God for all the guys who rejected me!!
I’ve been rejected more times than I care to remember, by countless boys, jobs and even friends.
But each time, I’ve seen God turn what seemed like rejection into a new direction. I’ve seen Him take that disappointment, mold me through it and guide me through it. And that has made me surprisingly thankful! (Who knew “thankful” could be an outcome of “rejection”?)
Here’s what I’ve learned: Rejection doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. Sometimes it just means that God is guiding us.
And we can trust that He has something special up His sleeve, every time.