“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 NIV). The psalmist David was intimately acquainted with feelings of fear and rejection, feelings that started when he was a shepherd boy and stayed as he became king.

For instance, when the prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel, David’s father initially excluded him from consideration (1 Samuel 16:10–11). King Saul later became so jealous of David that he tried to kill him (1 Samuel 18–19). Even David’s son Absalom conspired to overthrow David and assume the royal position of king (2 Samuel 15). Imagine how all that felt!

There’s no doubt that these situations hurt David. His writings often expressed his feelings of disappointment and sadness over the rejection he endured, but he had also learned to lean into his heavenly Father as a constant source of comfort and provision. Psalm 27 illustrates David’s confidence that everything he needed came from the Lord, not man.

The same is true in our struggles today to feel like we belong.

For most of my life, I went to extreme lengths to avoid rejection. In elementary school, I endured relentless teasing and bullying that caused terrible anxiety and daily panic attacks. Often, I would pretend to be sick so I could stay home and avoid the fear and loneliness I felt.

And then, in the third grade, I figured out a way to make the kids like me, at least temporarily. It turns out mean kids like candy, and they would leave me alone if I gave them some. Many were even nice to me all day.

So I started sneaking out my bedroom window at night and shoplifting candy from a grocery store near my house to take to school. I could’ve gotten in a lot of trouble for stealing, but the risk was worth it. Nothing was worse than feeling rejected. Talk about an early lesson in manipulating circumstances.

I carried that bad habit of people-pleasing into adulthood, doing things I knew were wrong so that people would accept me. I took crazy risks with my life and freedom and made foolish, impulsive decisions to avoid feeling left out or overlooked.

Those choices, of course, came with heavy consequences. Some even landed me in jail and prison. But no matter how hard I tried, my actions never won me the acceptance I craved.

When I learned that God loves me unconditionally despite my flaws, mistakes, and sins and that He loves me so much that He wouldn’t leave me that way—it changed everything! God pursued me throughout my life to adopt me into His family (Romans 8:16–17). I am a child of God, chosen, set aside, and called for His purpose. And you can be too. All you have to do is ask. It’s not what we do for God or others that puts us in the right standing with God; it’s all and only because of what Jesus did (Ephesians 2:8–10).

Moving away from people-pleasing has been a journey. It helps when I remind myself that seeking people’s approval hinders me from serving the Lord. Galatians 1:10 puts it this way: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (NIV).

Wholeheartedly serving the Lord is my greatest desire. I consistently evaluate my motives to determine whether what I am doing is for God’s glory or if I’m seeking to gain approval from others. I don’t want to harm my witness for Christ or contradict the way God calls me to live. My relationship with God is most important.

Besides, even my best efforts couldn’t gain the approval of everyone…and that’s okay!

I remind myself that even mature Christ followers can fall into the people-pleasing trap, and we must all guard against it. The best way to do that is to understand our identity as a child of God.

Search the scriptures to discover the many ways that you are loved and chosen by the Creator of this world. And then embrace a life free of the fear of rejection.


Christina Kimbrel serves as VL’s production manager. Once incarcerated, she now ministers hope to those held captive by their past and current circumstances while sharing the message of healing she found in Jesus.