Understanding the Pain of Abandonment

Living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame.

Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: “You are not important. You are not of value.” This is the pain from which people need to heal.

Though we struggle Jesus will not let us fall.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been … Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. He understands (Heb. 4:15) For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted (Heb. 2:18)

Our Savior was rejected and was abandoned too. Jesus did not merely feel forsaken. He was forsaken; and not only by his disciples, but by God himself.

On the cross when he had cried, God had closed his ears. The crowd had not stopped jeering, the demons had not stopped taunting, the pain had not abated. Instead, every circumstance bespoke the anger of God; and there was no countering voice. This time, no word came from heaven to remind him that he was God’s Son, and greatly loved. No dove came down to assure him of the Spirit’s presence and ministry. No angel came to strengthen him. No redeemed sinner bowed to thank him.

And finally, the words even in the darkness was, “My God,” and though there was no sign of him, and though the pain obscured the promises, somewhere in the depths of his soul there remained the assurance that God was holding him. What was true of Abraham was truer still of Jesus: Against all hope, he in hope believed (Romans 4:18)

He knows what it’s like when friends fail and reject us. He knows when felt abandoned by the people you love. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

The confusion and shock of rejection is paralyzing.

My mind can’t help but rehearse the memories with suspicion. I walk back through the years I spent with those who hurt me and wonder if I was wrong about everything I had thought about our relationship. I can’t help but want to withdraw to protect myself from further harm. I resist trusting others with my heart. Even worse, I’m prone to harbor anger, resentment, and bitterness toward those who hurt me.

But then I look at the Rejected.

Jesus, of all men, did not have an orphan spirit, for He never really left the presence of His Father. He was at home wherever He happened to be physically, because He and His Father never lost the connection… not until He took our sins upon the cross. There He partook of the orphan spirit when He cried out in anguish, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?” Only then did Jesus experience the pain of the orphan spirit, as He died to bring us back to a relationship with our Father. Now we can come back home to the Eden Father created for us and we can live from Heaven, instead of toward Heaven.

I look at the pain and abandonment he faced for me — because of me — and it helps me face my rejections. The gospel — the good news of what Jesus did through his life, death, and resurrection — gives me hope in the midst of my pain. The sorrow I feel over broken relationships reminds me of Jesus’s brokenness for me.

The rejection Jesus endured shows me that he is my perfect forever faithful friend. I have a Perfect Father. His love for me is not fickle. It’s not dependent upon what I do for him, and it does not change. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). He understands my pain and sorrow. He has compassion for my tears. He weeps with me. He is always with me, and I can always trust him.

As long as we live in this sin-stained world, we will all experience rejection — even, maybe especially, from dear friends whom we have loved and trusted for years. Jesus never promised to protect us from pain or sorrow, but to be with us in it and eventually to deliver us through it to Himself.

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