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More on Resentment

imageResentment is a certain evil, a ready seed in fertile soil. Like a noxious weed, it takes over and quickly ruins anything good around it. It’s a hidden trap, a merciless captor. It has no place in the heart of a Christ follower. It causes self deception, destruction of relationships, and is a cancer to the one bearing it. It fosters sin, the unjust belief of lies, and replaces Grace with Judgment.

After receiving grace ourselves, what a dangerous place in which to live.

Trust me, I know.

Paul says “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Cor 2:10-11

The enemy of our soul hates relationship and is scheming to destroy what binds people to one another (body of Christ, spouses, friends) and to God. Human bonds, perhaps based on good feelings and emotions, are easily broken, sadly. Our feelings are hurt. Or perhaps our pride is wounded. Our worth or opinion is dismissed. Our needs are unmet. How easily we hold others accountable when we are wronged. And people in our lives should be held accountable for their actions, in a right and loving way. But accountability and forever labeled and blamed are not the same thing.

The bonds we as Christians have with one another, forged by God’s grace, are powerful and unbreakable. His is a Grace that doesn’t seek what it deserves, but what others need. Grace isn’t a fleeting emotion, but a powerful and deliberate act. It’s supernatural.

In fact, I think I’ll tattoo this to my forehead:

His is a Grace that doesn’t seek what it deserves, but what others need.

Want to thwart the enemy? Ask God for more grace and then choose to pray for the one you resent. I didn’t say it would be easy, but you can do it. (What Christ did for you on Calvary was much harder.) Choose to forgive and let go your case against them. Pray for them in earnest, and watch your resentment fade. Seek better for others, and seek Christ’s healing and comfort for yourself and your hurts. Be empowered by something far more powerful than a determination to hang onto your rights. Take your resentment to the Cross, where Christ accepted responsibility for your sin, and let grace help you leave it.

Question: when was the last time you chose to pray for the one who wronged you?

The Resentment Trap

hurtWhen you are hurt or don’t like the way a person makes you feel, do you assume they have wrong or hurtful motives toward you? Do you assume they are disrespecting you, or acting out of jealousy, or wanting to make you look bad or that they are dismissing your worth, or whatever is your particular “trigger” for feeling hurt or offended? (we all have one….)

Just how far have you let your assumptions run? Have you later found out you were wrong? That they were not out to hurt you? That you misread their actions?

I have. And it’s been done to me, so I know that it hurts to be falsely accused of wrong motives.

I have seen how my assumptions have caused me to foster and feed resentment, negativity, and thoughts that lead to sin. All based on an assumption (or suspicion). Sometimes those suspicions are founded, but more often, unfounded. But even if my assumptions about others’ motives are founded, I have found that harboring resentment causes attitudes and thoughts that lead to my sin, like critical words or some resentful/retaliatory act which can then cause far more hurt than the original thing that started it.

Who wants to see us fall into the trap of sin? Who is the one with TRUE malicious motives? The devil. God, as a triune being, is clearly a God of relationship. It is very important to him. The devil hates that we can have relationship with God and with one another. He prowls around seeking to destroy God’s children and our relationships. Do you realize that the enemy knows your sore spot and delights in finding ways to bait you so you will trip and fall?

Feeling hurt or offended can be a sin trap for some of us, so we need to be on guard and recognize the steps leading to it.

Hurt feelings/offense => assumption => resentment => sinful response => double hurt => division/destruction of relationship

If you also struggle in this way, let’s pray for one another that we will recognize the trap before us when hurt or offense leads to assumption, resentment, and beyond. Let’s check our thoughts. If you’re like me, critical thoughts can be hard to reign in even when recognized. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that we can take our thoughts “captive” with Christ’s help. By his spirit, we can do what is too difficult for us. If we ask, he will handcuff those suckers and march them off to jail.

Dear Lord, please help me not to assign or assume negative motives in others that result in resentment and other sinful attitudes and actions in me. Help me take my negative thoughts captive and hand them over to you (and leave them with you!). Help me bring hurts and offenses to you instead, and please heal me of the “triggers” that the enemy knows set me off so easily. Help me recognize the sin trap that hurt feelings can set me up for.

Amen?

Who’s The Prisoner?

girl cage freeI find myself holding grudges, though I don’t mean to.

Okay, what that really means is that I know I shouldn’t, but that doesn’t stop me.

Do you have trouble holding grudges, either consciously or unconsciously? Does it matter whether or not harm was meant?

Should it matter?

How do we judge the actions and motives of others? Do we take circumstances outside our knowledge into account, such as the person’s background or current circumstances? Or do we, without hesitation, view every offense as an intentional injury? We are wired via human nature to hold others accountable. We feel it’s our right, even our duty. After all, people shouldn’t get away with doing that, not to us or anyone else.

In my upcoming novel, Like There’s No Tomorrow, the hero, Ian, faces his longstanding mortal hatred for a man who wronged and wounded him deeply. Ian can’t let go of his bitterness, and understandably. After all, he’s human. Humans are self-preserving. We are wired for survival. This is logical. We are logical.

But God is often not logical, and is, in fact, the God of Irony, as I have learned and am reminded again and again. A few examples:

  • But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matt 5:44)
  • Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. (Rom 12:14)
  • Vengeance is mine. (not yours) (Rom 12:19)

God’s ways are too often incomprehensible, too often unnatural to our way of thinking. Perhaps unnatural because He is supernatural. To align ourselves with the supernatural (and God-illogical) requires an uncomfortable amount of surrender and blind faith.

In this above-mentioned story, Emily, the heroine, suggests that Ian try praying for the man who wronged him. After all, she says, what can it hurt?

Is it possible to be free from bitterness and feel only compassion for the one who hurt you?

I bared my soul over a similar situation in THIS POST. No, you’re right, it’s no coincidence that a real-life experience ended up in my novel. Art has an interesting way of imitating life (or is it the other way around?).

I hope you will get a chance to read the book and keep the miracle that inspired that part of the story in mind. If you do, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Q: Have you ever prayed for an enemy? If so, what happened?

Balancing-Act-001On Facebook recently, I mentioned that I’m in awe of those who (I perceive) are confident in who they are—in their looks, their abilities, etc. When I see confident people who don’t (seem to) struggle with insecurity, I am simply amazed. I just can’t fathom this kind of confidence and suspect I never will this side of heaven.

In response to my statement, some kind souls offered me encouraging words and compliments. Others “got” it by saying they felt the same way. And some responses reminded me that Normals just don’t understand. It’s logical to assume a statement like this is simply fishing for compliments. Honestly, this was the farthest thing from my mind. If you understand insecurity at all, you’d know that compliments do very little for us poor saps. At least with any permanence. The reason being that, at least as far as it applies to me, no amount of compliments or encouraging words can shore up the missing foundation in the insecure person’s life. Compliments we receive are quickly forgotten, because whatever is missing or lacking in our confidence lies far beneath looks, talent, accomplishments, etc. It’s like a black hole, really.

Don’t get me wrong, strokes are always welcome. Isn’t that true for everyone? But it’s just that no amount of compliments or kudos (or money or prestige or accomplishments or beauty or la la la) will ever fill the black hole of self-doubt.

At least, that’s how it feels to me.

The way I see it, insecurity is not a struggle to “like myself” enough to finally find “inner peace,” or the need to inflate my ego until it’s full of enough hot air to float me through life, but it’s more of a constant fear that the ground I’m standing on isn’t solid, the foundation of who I am is sketchy and can crumble with enough wind or opposition. Or maybe it’s more like living life on a tightrope. One slip and I’m toast. I think of insecurity as the constant fear that there’s really nothing solid beneath you.

I’ve whined talked about how it’s taking me a dreadfully long time to grow up, thanks to just the right combination of factors in childhood and my being a bonehead in general. What I’ve learned over the Long Haul is that I’m a mess, you’re a mess, everyone fails, everyone comes up short. It’s in our nature. Only God can be counted on to be steadfast, faithful and true. And he is. Someone at some time or another will crush me by rejecting or dismissing me. This can’t be avoided. At the same time, unfortunately, I know I will wound and offend, though I wish to God I didn’t because I sure don’t want to. 

Enough whining. My point is that I have learned to embrace this weakness of insecurity. I am not looking for strokes (though don’t forget, they are perfectly acceptable much like chocolate—no such thing as too much) and I really, really don’t mean to be a tedious navel-gazer. What I want is to remember is that this life we live on earth is so short and so fleeting, and yet is so full of potential. Whether we are multi-talented or simple-minded, handsome or plain, popular or awkward, we all have a precious opportunity to fill our bank account with treasure that will go with us into eternity.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

I’m reminded that one day, when we pass through heaven’s gate, our lives will pass through a fire of testing, and after our “works” (& all the stuff we based our confidence in) have been burned off, all that will remain will be the lasting gems forged by faith, hope and love. Faith from each moment of surrender to God, Hope from trusting in his goodness, Love from acts of obedience and dying to self.

So as long as I’m looking to find security in my accomplishments or popularity or talents—wood, hay and straw—I will be gathering goods in vain. Not only do I find no lasting security from these things, but none of that stuff is going with me into eternity. And eternity is going to last a lot longer than this little bit of earthly life I’m trying to muddle through right now. 

The only things that we will take with us into eternity are the things that build godly character in us, that make us more like Christ. Instead of inflating our egos with success and accomplishments, or aiming for being the most successful salesman or the most popular girl at school or the coolest mom on the block, we ought to invest our efforts on obedience to God, on trusting his wisdom and power, on complete dependence on his love and mercy. That’s our task, and for me, that’s where solid, lasting security lies.

Q: Do you struggle with insecurity? 

white flagAs a Christian, conversion is an endless process for me, mainly because I face a never-ending challenge to become a fully submitted soul. It’s a constant battle to lay down my will, surrender my desires for the good or need or comfort of others or simply (and most importantly) put Christ and his will first in all I do. It’s not about becoming some kind of doormat or whipping post, but rather growing a servant heart, because let’s face it, surrender of my will is not my spiritual gift.

I can easily blame my self-focus on being a 150% Introvert, but let’s be honest. I’m wired to think of myself first. I always have been. It probably started in childhood when my mom felt compelled to spoil me by letting me have my own way because life around us pretty much sucked. It probably also stems from abuse that forced my will from me and robbed much from a needy little girl.

As a result, I’ve always been willful and ultra guarded of my will being taken from me, even in small things. Though this has been a long and frustrating battle, I finally realized that Jesus gets this about me. For decades, he’s been patiently challenging, encouraging and helping me lay down my will—in the right ways. Because unfortunately, I think when someone like me learns to guard our will against violation, we can create an iron will and may never experience the freedom that comes from surrendering to Christ.

Though I constantly fight “dying to the flesh”—that part of us that wants to be satisfied and fed, soothed and esteemed—I understand self denial is healthy. Vital, in fact. Maybe through denial of self, in a very small way, we can catch a small glimpse of what Christ has done for us on the Cross.

There’s a story in 2 Samuel 24 about King David whose sin had brought a terrible pestilence on his people. He begged for God’s mercy on them, so God directed him to build an altar on Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah (clearly not struggling with the same issues I do) was pleased to give David everything he needed for the altar: the property, the wood, the oxen—the works. But David refused the gift and insisted on buying the man’s property and all the supplies he needed, saying, “I will not offer burnt offering to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.”

I’m reminded how easy it is to look at Christ’s gift of eternal life and his death on the cross without fully appreciating what it cost him. I don’t know if I will never fully appreciate it this side of heaven.

In the meantime, I lay down my will here and there when Jesus nudges me to let go or relinquish my plans or my comfort or convenience (more often now than before, so see, I’m making progress). And when I do give it up, I sense his pleasure. I also find, again and again, that though my flesh may grumble for a moment, the surrender is neither painful nor pointless. With each surrender, I find myself a little freer in my soul, a little less chained to my willful flesh, a little closer to Jesus, a little more like him.

And when you get down to it, that’s all I really want.

Q: Have you ever experienced freedom through surrender?

 

For a Similar post on Surrender, see: https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/if-i-only-had-a-heart/

Image

Do either of these statements describe the way you see God’s love for you?

1. God loves me, but (or as long as) _______.

2. God loves me, period.

Is God’s love for us something we control by our actions or behavior? Is his love contingent on what we do or don’t do?

In the biblical parable of the Prodigal son, Jesus tells us the story of a young man who thoroughly insulted his father by asking for his inheritance or “death benefit” early and leaving home to do as he pleased—to go hog wild, so to speak. After he partied all of his inheritance away, he found himself destitute and starving. He came to his senses and realized he’d been a wretched fool and his only hope for survival was to return to his father and beg to be made a slave. But as he neared his father’s estate, his father saw him from a distance and ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him, overjoyed at his son’s return.

Was the father’s love for his son based on the condition that the son return to him? Or did he love him all along?

I wonder if some of us see God’s love as conditional, based our actions, strivings, and obedience to him. I wonder if some of us need to see that God’s love is not like human love; it is not capricious or waning like that of humans. He doesn’t give the silent treatment when insulted or hold an offense over our head. His love does not tire like a discontented mate and send him in search of someone new.

I have often despaired of ever being good or pleasing enough. I struggle with the constant challenge to do better, to be better, to try harder. Yet I fail. I am inherently flawed and prone to mistakes. I can only follow Christ and serve him with his help, and even then I fall short of my aims.

But . . . then I read the story of the prodigal son and am reminded this represents the Father heart of God. Jesus paints a very touching picture of a father’s love, and more importantly, our heavenly Father’s love. I am so moved by this story, straight from the mouth of Jesus himself, which describes the holy, righteous God of the universe as an incredibly loving father.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not moved by the fact that the son got away with reckless sin and was forgiven without question, as though I were looking for a way to justify or excuse sinfulness. I am just awed and touched by picture of the Father’s steadfast love. The father didn’t lift his chin and turn to his friends and say, “Well. At least he’s back where he belongs, that takes a load off my mind. Lucky for him he came to his senses. But he has proven himself a disappointment and won’t soon forget what he did, I can guarantee that.”

No. He celebrated his son’s return to him. Wholeheartedly, with exuberant joy. He was so moved to emotion that he ran, breaking cultural codes of propriety. He not only ran, he embraced his son and kissed him. Couldn’t contain his joy at his son’s return. Unreservedly expressed his love before his son had a chance to speak a word of remorse for his sin. Showed lavish grace and forgiveness without another word about what the son had done.

I wonder if those of us who grew up either fatherless or with dads who were unloving or abusive have a particular need to be reminded of the “Father heart” of God. I am not suggesting that we should ever forget that he is also God of the universe, the absolute holy, righteous judge. But those of us who have lived under the thumb of someone who rules by cruelty and intimidation may have a harder time understanding how so good and loving a father can be at the same time so exacting in his judgment and so thoroughly demanding of holiness. It’s simply who God is (and more than can be addressed in a blog post.)

We must do our best to keep in mind the big picture perspective of all that God is, and not pick and choose our favorite attributes. He is fierce both in his love and his holiness. His love is everlasting—to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:17) Not fear him in the same way I once feared a stepdad’s return home from work every day, but a reverence for him in all his righteousness and holiness. AND his love. Embrace the total truth of who God is and allow Him to embrace you in return.

And don’t forget: he is running to embrace you long before you’ve even arrived.

I have finally decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as we word nerds call it.

This is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This is something I’ve wanted to try but 1.) haven’t been in a place with novel projects to stop for a month and take part, and 2.) I have a steroid-crazed, muscle-bound inner editor who I fear won’t let me write non-stop without stopping to spend obscene amounts of time tweaking and editing.

But this is one of the beauties of NaNoWriMo. They help you (I’m told) learn to turn off the inner editor and just write glorious garbage like the wind. Something I’ve not done since Jr. High, and something, I suspect, could be very freeing and possibly even diamond-in-the-rough producing.  (All bets are off as this remains to be seen.) And since I’ve taken all of 2012 off of novel writing (the wedding was lovely!), I would love to end the year with at least the bones of a book in hand.

That inner editor can be helpful when the proper time comes to perfect all the nuances of grammar, style, rhythm, research facts, plausibility, plot holes, etc… the list is endless. The inner editor is an anal left-brain, shoulder-pinching, whispering detail-freak (at least mine is) who shuts down the right brain and stops the blood flow of creativity. There is a proper time and place for detail work. Unfortunately, some people, like me, can NOT figure out how to keep that thing from butting in when the Right Brain is trying to do its thing and get the story bones down.

Then of course there’s the problem of hearing voices in the first place, something that was probably nagging at the back of your mind, right? Oh, if you didn’t already know this about novelists, sorry.

There are voices you can listen to, and then there’s that other voice. The evil one. I get the inner editor’s voice confused with a very similar sounding voice, one that tells me what I just wrote was dripping dumpster slime. The one that whispers, “You thought you were a writer?” while hopping from one shoulder to the other, giggling. (Yes, this IS as disturbing as it sounds, be glad you don’t live near me.)

As a Christian, I understand the problem of listening to that lying enemy of our souls. Why is it that it takes no more than a tiny doubt-casting whisper to send us screeching to a halt in our walk of faith? It began in the garden with Eve, poor girl. “Did God really say…” It only takes one subtle seed to plant doubt, discontent and divisiveness that undermine and destroy. It takes going back repeatedly to the Voice of Truth, to God and his word, to tune out that crafty voice bent on complete destruction.

So as I prepare to block and tackle (holy moly, that sounds like defense and offense at the same time…) my inner editor, evil or otherwise, I will remember that I have a powerful weapon at my disposal: Truth. All I have to do is keep my eyes and heart trained on what’s true. And I have to trust God to keep me straight on that.

Just a little FYI: If during the month of November you see me plugging my ears and yelling “Shut up!” to no one at all, do not be alarmed, I’m totally fine.

And since I’m now preparing for this story and will then bear down like a rabid dog to get 50,000 words written in 30 days, you probably won’t see much from me in the way of blog posts, unless inspiration burns straight through my fingers. So your prayers and patience over the next several weeks are gratefully appreciated!

Q: How do you respond & deal with the devil’s critical lies?

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