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Posts Tagged ‘bitterness’

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?

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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?

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Last week, I shared the story of how my ability to forgive an offender required an uncomfortable lesson in praying for him. No. I don’t mean praying for an eighteen-wheeler to accidentally park on his head, but praying for good. Sincere, eternal good.

But forgiving one long-held grudge hasn’t made me a graduate of the school of forgiveness. Since we don’t live under a rock (or perhaps I should speak for myself), the offenses and frustrating behaviors of others will continue to affect our lives. From injuries that wound so deeply they leave twisted scars that forever alter us, to the feather-ruffling annoyances that pass soon enough, to those repeat offenses that scratch the skin just enough to draw little beads of blood, day after day.

Recognize any of those?

And yet, I know I’m not perfect. I may live in a fantasy world sometimes (it’s okay, I’m a novelist) but I’m not delusional. I am well aware that I have my moments. What polite name should we give them? Hiccups? Bad hair days? Stress?

It’s important for me to be honest about this stuff, because once in a while, my temptation to hold a grudge over an offense is coupled with a humbling reminder that I’m no one to judge. I am guilty of making mistakes. I sometimes act thoughtlessly. Speak critically.

Offend.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

Just as.

Over the years, I’ve studied and pondered this line Jesus gave us in The Lord’s Prayer,

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . .”

I’ve found myself challenged by a little blink-and-you-miss-it two-letter word:

As.

What if that phrase “forgive us as we have forgiven” doesn’t mean while, as I’d always assumed, but in the same way? What if God were to only forgive me of my mistakes and sins in the same way and in the same measure that I forgive others?

“But some people are such jerks,” you mutter beneath your breath. (Don’t deny it, I heard you.) I completely agree! I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without being abused or disrespected or belittled. Or scammed. Cut off in traffic. Cheated. Lied about. Hurt.

I have the right to protect myself from harm.

I have rights!

But Jesus (if you’ve been around a bit, you knew a “But God” was coming) had rights too—full rights to the very throne of heaven as the Son of God, Prince of Peace, King of Kings. He had the right to be honored and revered and adored, to receive loyalty and total allegiance.

Yet he gave up those rights and walked resolutely through our decaying world of sin, pain, evil, suffering, abuse, offense—the worst those jerks we could throw down. Turning the other cheek. Enduring the scourging. Taking the nails. Because he had a single, unwavering purpose in mind.

Grace.

To demonstrate through both his life and his death the beauty of God’s immense, holy grace.

And I need that grace just as much as—

No. I was going to say “as much as the next person,” but who am I to judge?

A group of guys in John 8 were so offended at one woman’s sin that they gathered rocks intending to stone her to death. Justice was called for, according to the law, and they were prepared to deliver. Until Jesus interrupted them and said,

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then, after he wrote something in the sand that sent each of her accusers running:

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I don’t know what Jesus wrote in the sand, but I do know I have no business throwing stones. Am I without sin? Maybe I’m not guilty of the same evil as the one offending me, but can I honestly stand with stone in hand ready to demand justice as though I have never been guilty of offending my gracious Lord?

The double barrels of Judgment and Justice that I aim at an offender could spin a one-eighty and aim their sights on me. I’d best not even pick it up. Besides, vigilante justice (bitterness, criticalness, grudge-holding) taken into my own hands never satisfies any laws; it just creates more sin.

It’s not easy, yet I must leave justice with God, in whose hands I find no grudge-holding, no stones for exacting justice, only the grace and mercy in Christ that I need.

. . . because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

Gracious Lord, please fill my hands to overflowing with your grace until there’s no room left for stones.

Which is harder: Forgiving the offenses of others, or admitting your own?

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A few years ago, I caught myself using the term “Step Dork” to describe an ex-stepdad.

If you think that’s bad, you should’ve heard some of the more colorful nicknames I’d coined for him during his reign in my life. But after I became a Christian, I worked hard to curb the toxic snark that had long flowed fluently from my tongue. The kind of stuff I’d learned from him, actually.

Poetic justice and all.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t forgiven the man. Jesus says to forgive, so, obedient young saint that I was, I did. (That muffled coughing sound you just heard was the chuckle of an older, wiser, grace-saved sinner.) Being the bigger person, I Let It Go. Of course, I never wanted to see his face again. Ever. Forgiving your enemies doesn’t mean you have to like them.

Because that’d be pushing it.

During his time in my life, I ricocheted between hating him and hating myself. Later, as a new Christian, I understood forgiveness to mean giving no more thought or credence to the guy who had shattered my already wobbly self-esteem. At “dismissal” forgiveness, I had succeeded. But, since I’d come so far, I figured I deserved to indulge in a little harmless sarcasm once in a while. It kept the memories from bubbling up.

And yet, using the term “Step-Dork” decades later made me realize I had neither forgiven nor forgotten. I still hated him. Any time his name came up, I responded with scathing remarks that trickled from my stagnant reservoir of bitterness. No matter what I professed in my well-meant but foundering attempts at obedience, anyone could see that I had not forgiven him at all.

The Spirit of Christ nudged me to do something about it. So I prayed for help and looked to God’s word for guidance. The Bible says to forgive as God forgives us. It says to not only forgive those who offend us, but also to pray for our enemies.

Fabulous.

So I began to pray for him. Things like, “Lord, I hope he’s not being a creep to anyone else now.” And, “Make him know how much he hurt me, how I needed a good dad and how he totally let me down.” Okay, maybe a checklist of his sins and all the ways he needed to change wasn’t exactly what God wanted from me, but I wasn’t about to ask God to bless him—that would be like rewarding evil. God surely didn’t expect me to pray blessings on someone who didn’t deserve them.

I kept bungling along, continuing to pray for him. “God, cure his alcoholism,” or “Heal whatever is inside that makes him such a bully.”

After a while, I felt the Lord nudging me to pray for something truly good for him, something significant, and more importantly, that my request be sincere.

Right. How could I sincerely want anything good for someone who had wounded me so deeply?

But God patiently reminded me it isn’t always about my wants. I needed to want what God wanted for him—what he wants for everyone who is lost and without him. Like me, the man was an immortal soul who would spend eternity somewhere. I needed to pray he would spend eternity with an amazing, loving God.

My eternity. My amazing, loving God.

It wasn’t easy at first, but I knew it was right. “Lord, please help him know your love, peace and forgiveness. Help him do whatever it takes to be right with you.” This became my regular prayer.

It wasn’t until later that I realized something in me had changed as a result of those prayers. When his name came up, no caustic wisecrack surfaced, no snarky remark burst from my lips. By praying sincerely for his soul, my heart had changed. My hate-tank was empty. The desire to verbally lash out and wound him had vanished.

Praying for my enemy gave me the ability to forgive him.

I’ve said I never want to see his face again. So what would I do if ran into him now?

I’d like to think I would ask him if he’s found God’s grace, and if he hasn’t, I’d ask him if I can share some of mine. Because I remember I’ve fallen prey to addiction, just as he has. We all battle the demons that aim for those particular weaknesses and footholds in each of our lives. We are all hopeless without Christ and in desperate need of God’s grace and help.

I don’t know if my prayers for him have been answered. What I do know is whether or not God changed him, praying for him changed me. All I feel for the man I had long held in contempt is compassion.

I believe praying sincerely for another eternal soul yields significant results, whether seen or unseen. At the very least, it draws us closer to the heart of God, from where his immeasurable love for each of us flows.

Question (which you don’t have to answer!): Do you ever catch yourself making bitter remarks about someone you thought you’d forgiven?

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