Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
I heard an expert say that you are qualified to teach a “master class” if you know 10% more about something than others. A handful of scintillating course topics I could teach crossed my mind when she said that. Then Sorry, can’t make it, lit up my screen. I knew my topic: loser-itis.
Actually not loser-itis, even though I’ve got some experience there. But who’d take that class? No, my masterclass would not be about loser-itis, but about how to fight loser-itis.
Fight Loser-itis Right 101
The next text confirmed my topic, Something came up. See you next week. A couple friends declined my invites and my husband rejected my plan, and someone unsubscribed from my Facebook group all on one day last week.
But even worse than outright rejection are those soul-desolating, joy-decimating crickets that come when you pour your heart out and not. a. peep. For souls who long to influence, those chirps are deafening.
This all was inflammatory. It triggered my loser-itis.
But recall, while I am a certain expert on loser-itis, I’m fairly sure I know 10% more than many about how to fight loser-itis. I don’t have a syllabus or slide show yet, but I’d love to share three fight tips that help me beat loser-itis— and they’re all 100% free!
Belt On: Fight Loser-itis With Truth
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. Ephesians 6:14
No one has a chance against loser-itis—that discouragement that comes with failure, rejection and being ignored—unless truth undergirds.
Truth number one for every Christian is that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. That’s Romans 8:37 and it deserved its own post. If you’re in Christ, you are not a loser. Period.
Here are the three other truths I’d unfold with those enrolled in my master class.
1. Sow On: Forget The Weather App
He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11:4
Failure is part and parcel with with trying. You can’t have one without the other. As Christians we are called to sow generously. We are to invite and initiate and bare our souls for the sake of the Name, even if no seed grows—or grows now, or grows where we can see it.
Because, you do not know if it will grow, but you will not reap if you do not sow.
This I know. There will always be excuses not to take a risk, and good reasons for caution, too. But if we observe the wind, we will never sow. At some point we must take that step into the river and stop looking at the weather app.
So when loser-itis bites, remind yourself that failure is part of success. Because not all seeds will grow. But none will grow if you don’t put yourself out there. Which leads straight into truth number two.
2. Love On: Accept No
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
This is a proven winner in the fight. Hard as it is, we’ve got to give others the grace to say no, or even to say nothing. We are not entitled to a response. And if the rejection is personal and a downright outright rejection of us or our message, it is still for us to give grace.
Because everyone we meet has struggles we don’t see. And sometimes the healthiest thing is to say no.
We all say no. And when we do, we want others to receive it well. Do unto others, as you’d have them do unto you. But it’s only the blessed meek who can go bold—can ask and invite and sow— and graciously take “no” for an answer.
So go meek, love on, and be kind. For everyone is fighting a hard battle. Which brings us to truth number three.
3. Keep On: Tend Your Little Patch
Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
Don’t look past your front door for a cure for loser-itis. Odds are, there are people inside your house could use some TLC. Thirty years after she gave it to an insecure 7th grader, pining away on a Friday night, Mom’s advice to me is evergreen.
I can’t count the times I’ve fought off loser-itis by texting or writing or phoning a friend. Maybe I can’t pick the circles I run in, but I can love the ones in the circles I’m in. Love the ones you’re with.
Jonathan Rogers helps me here. I mentioned his words before. Rogers says we all have a territory,—a little patch of ground that is yours to cultivate. Your patch of ground is your unique combination of experiences and perspective and voice and loves and longings and community. Tend that patch of ground.
Serve them. Keep on. Tend that little patch.
Rejected, Victorious, and Lover to the End
That would be my master course, three truths to help fight loser-itis.
Ab, it was hard. A couple times it was actually sort of traumatic. I’m healing from other wounds. Now I’m processing this.
I swallowed hard.
This was us.
When Friends Keep Their Distance
Jess offered that in a phone call after our families had been together. She’d seen us up close. Jess was gentle, but I got the gist: our family dynamics were a downer. There was more downside than upside to being with us.
I felt unclean.
Friendship is risky. Traveling with friends is riskier. Sharing bathrooms and kitchens mean that faults will be exposed. And just like that, whatever bloom there was was off the Wallace rose.
Whenever we “put ourselves out there,” we risk being canceled or rejected. And in a Christian culture that promotes relational boundaries even good friends may be wise to draw their lines.
So I don’t blame Jess one bit. The burden of us it was just too much to bear.
Jess needed her distance from us.
Jesus Doesn’t Keep His Distance
But Jesus never did that. He never kept his distance. The Word became flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14)— the contagious, outcast, and unclean. The Son of Man visited his sinful people (Luke 1:68), and said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
Our burdens—tense family dynamics, secrets too secret for our best friends, the reasons we travel alone—don’t scare Jesus. Not one bit.
In fact, he knows all about them. He knows your issues better than you do. In fact, he knew you, and your burdens, before you even began to know you.
And Jesus doesn’t keep his distance because our sin doesn’t contaminate him. Our burdens are not to much for him to bear (Matthew 11:28-29). He doesn’t need to place boundaries. In fact, he destroyed the dividing wall that once created hostility and distrust (Ephesians 2:14).
But we’re fragile and frail. Jess is. I am. You are. This side of heaven, we are all saints, sinners and sufferers; we are victims and victimizers.
Healing For The Unclean
That reality hit me when our first-grader was infected by a bigger boy on the school bus. That morning, forever etched, made me want to protect my little boy. I wanted to keep him off the bus, and far away from “that boy.”
So no, I don’t fault Jess. Sin spreads. You can catch bad habits. Disease is contagious.
But there was a woman. She had been bleeding for 12 years. She probably hadn’t had either a husband or a hug in those 12 years because to touch her would make one unclean. This unclean, outcast woman knew that. Still, desperate for healing she risked touching Jesus. She risked making him unclean.
But that’s not what happened. She touched Jesus and immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:25-34.). She didn’t make Jesus unclean. Jesus made her clean.
Jesus Didn’t Socially Distance
You see, in the Old Testament uncleanness, unholiness, was contagious. But in the New Testament, holiness— absolute cleanness and purity— is contagious. Jesus proved that when the woman touched him. In the New Testament, Jesus makes the unclean, outcasts clean.
Jesus brings healing.
We see this in vivid color when the leper came to Jesus.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
Mark 1:40-45, ESV
There’s so much here. But don’t miss how Jesus was, “moved with pity.”
Then, again: how he was not afraid of contamination. Touching a bleeding woman or a leper would leave one unclean. But Jesus doesn’t socially—or ceremonially—distance to avoid infectious disease. He touched the man and made him clean.
As Kevin DeYoung so potently stated, Jesus doesn’t just overlook uncleanness. He conquers it.
DeYoung continues, He conquers it by trading places with it. The one who is unclean is clean and the one who can make everyone clean becomes an outcast. Jesus gives him his cleansing and restores him to the community. And now at the end of this great miracle, where do you find Jesus? He’s an outcast. He ends up, “in desolate places.”
Does that truth stir your soul? It about made me cry. We were that unclean. We needed healing. So a Healer came. The Holy and clean traded places with the canceled, unclean. All for love.
For some of us, saying no is worse than 1,000 mosquito bites and a week of sleepless nights. I mean, saying no hurts!
We relational types hate to let others down. We hate to disappoint.
For others, it’s not saying no that’s so terrible–it’s hearing and taking no that hurts worse. Being rejected rates right up there with jumping in Lake Michigan in January and getting stung by angry bees in August. That bad.
This post is for those of us who are more undone when we hear no. No, your son can’t take that class- your dog is not allowed in here -you can’t take off Friday – I can’t watch your kids. No, we can’t make it.
No. Sorry. No.
The first text read, Late meeting. So sorry I’ll have to miss tonight.
Then, I forgot it’s my son’s half-birthday. Sorry I’ll miss.
And, Abigail, so sorry I can’t make it. It’s our anniversary.
That- more or less- is how the texts came in.
Grace had stretched me far but now it felt personal. Resentment was starting to grow.
Because it’s hard to take no.
When We Are Rejected
So here we were. We three, then four, out of the dozen who’d been part of our little summer Psalms study. Then two more texts.
Here are 5 truths that help me face rejection and take no with (some measure of) grace.
1. Remember Who else was rejected.
This gives me perspective: God Almighty was rejected–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
Remember that parable of the guy who threw the big party and invited many guests? At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
Remember the excuses? They’re in Luke 14.
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Talk about rejection! Those texts messages are miniscule, not worth comparing. Even after I reserved the room and sent the invites and spent a couple hours prepping the study guide. Small potatoes. Teeny-tiny, speck-of-dust potatoes are my little rejections compared with that rejection.
Those texts were just polite little no’s to a Wednesday night Bible study. The host of the real party is God the Father. (See Matthew 22.)
In Isaiah 53:3 the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, is described as despised andrejected. When He came to his own, his own received him not. He said, The Son of Man must suffer and be rejected.
This one is big. It’s the perspective I want to have whenever I hear no. And not just in retrospect, but line by line as the texts roll in. When people upset my plans, I want to be like a woman I read about named Janet.
Someone who knew her said,
She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it. (From The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, quoted In Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot)
When people say no and reject our requests, this too reveals God’s ruling hand. The half-birthday and the locked car and all of those texts were God’s ruling hand.
When we are told no, the Golden Rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
When we have to say no, like I had to say no to my sister this afternoon, about watching my nieces and nephew tomorrow, I felt bad. I don’t like to disappoint. But Danielle understood. In fact, she sounded a lot like Janet.
Oh well, she said, I was on the fence about going to the party, anyway.
She took my no with grace and made it easy to say no.
I need to do the same. I need to do unto others when they say no to me. Odds are they like saying no about as much as I like hearing no.
4. Be disillusioned, in a good way.
I know that sounds strange. Because disillusionment isn’t usually good. It’s the feeling of disappointment we get when we find out that something isn’t as good as we believed it to be. But we can be disillusioned with people in a healthy way.
Jesus shows us what that looks like in John chapter two, where it says that he did not commit himself to them…for He knew what was in man.
The disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are…The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way — if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we allow ourselves to get disillusioned, we won’t demand every perfection or resent every rejection. We’ll be quick to remember others are frail and finite, with limited time and energy, too.
Being disillusioned is another of saying we don’t resent those who refuse or reject us. We take it with grace because we know that we all stumble in many ways. We don’t demand of others what they cannot give and we sit loose to our plans.
Good disillusionment means we aren’t devastated when our peeps say no.
5. Keep sowing.
This last “tip” for taking no has been immensely helpful to me, especially when it comes to the rejection and no’s that come with Kingdom work.
In Ecclesiastes 11:6 the Teacher says,
Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle; for you do not know which will succeed,whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
This passage, I’m coming to see, is about holy boldness when we, to use Jesus’ own words, sow the seed of the Word. Not everyone- maybe hardly anyone- will accept my invitations to a Bible study or Vacation Bible School or dinner or a walk.
But we need to keep sowing and asking and inviting. Because we do not know what seeds will grow. But we will not reap if we do not sow.
Put something out there that God can bless.
We can be too cautious. We don’t want to be the farmer who watches and waits for perfect conditions and never plants or reaps. There’s always a chance that the seed will stay dry or blow away when you plant. Or that a storm will knock it all down the day before harvest. You never know.
But Ecclesiastes 11 is a warning to us, when we hear no and only a few people show and the ministry seems a bust. It’s a warning to not stop sowing.
Whenever we engage in kingdom enterprises we offer to the Holy Spirit something he can use to save peoples’ lives. Some of us are so risk averse that we keep waiting to invest. That’s the picture we get in verses 3 and 4. The Preacher is asking us to invest in the Kingdom. If we want the blessing of it, we’ve got to exercise our faith and put something out that God can bless in return.
Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances. Don’t hold back in fear. Step out in faith. Not faith in your own efforts but faith that God can do it. But faith that God will take whatever you do and use it somehow for his glory. When it comes to kingdom work we should be venture capitalists willing to risk for the kingdom.
God is God and we are not. We don’t know God’s ways. We don’t know if our efforts will take and seeds of the Word will grow. But, we do know that we will not reap if we do not sow.
We cover ourselves up and lock ourselves into the closet of the manageable…The things we can manage are in that closet. We believe that’s the only way we can protect ourselves.
And it just so happens that the Psalm our little remnant studied Wednesday night was Psalm 121, the one that starts with, I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?
The Psalm ends with an immense, security-building promise for God’s children. Not only is He present and powerful, God promises to guard and watch over you. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).
You can risk yourself to the glory of God. You can live dangerously for God, because God will watch over your life. He will watch over your very soul. He will protect you and guide you and bless you and guard you all your days.
God promises to care for us and to guard our very souls from this time forth and forevermore. This means we’re free to request and invite and love others in risky ways, because the LORD will keep us.