In a previous post Dr. Vincent discussed the symptoms of resentment and how to recognize an infection. But how do you find healing in your life? In this post he offers biblical counsel for believers seeking victory over the sin of bitterness.
When a small fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s home near the Thames River in London in 1666, no one could have envisioned the extent of the resulting devastation. Flames ravaged the city for the next four days, exceeding temperatures of 1000 °F. The fire spread from Farriner’s home at 2 Pudding Lane to adjoining homes and nearby streets until more than 80 percent of the city had been consumed, leaving a nearly equal percentage of people homeless. Smaller fires burned for weeks afterward, and smoke spiraled from smoldering cellars as much as six months later. Lives were lost, economic damage proved devastating, and personal fortunes were irreparably reversed.
Resentment burns like spreading and smoldering fires. If not quenched scripturally, it can wield an addictive power in your spirit, generating a stimulating adrenaline rush and creating its own deceptive and destructive energy. The ensnaring habit by which resentment is born and the seemingly ubiquitous fresh opportunities for bitterness to burn present the greatest difficulties one faces when waging war to replace resentment. Resentment feeds itself and is continually “re-sent” again and again. We must beware of these dangers and aggressively cleanse and rebuild the house of our hearts with more fire resistant material.
What elements constitute the sustained recovery process in a life ravaged by resentment?
- When I’m tempted to give the wrongs of another traction in my heart, I must resolve by God’s grace not to allow anger to live through a single night so that I do not give the devil an opportunity (Ephesians 4:26-27).
- When resentment threatens to rage internally, I must learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20) and be renewed in the spirit of my mind (Ephesians 4:23), and “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24). The very spirit of my mind needs renewal.
- Where I have habitually adorned myself with the thought patterns and actions of those outside of Christ, I must put on Christ (Romans 13:12,14, “Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. . . . But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”).
- Where I have permitted the faults of another to have ruling influence in my own life, I should focus instead on the perfections of Christ so that I can be transformed instead into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18). I must replace my prolonged study of another’s faults with an exploration of the example of Christ. Instead of dwelling on the sins of those who abused Him wrongfully, Jesus spoke to His Father and “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21). This enables me to pray tenderly for those who may never realize how wrong their actions have been (Luke 23:34) and avoid taking retribution into my own hands.
- Where I have seized opportunities to bite and devour another (even in my own mind), I must begin under the Spirit’s control to serve them in love (Galatians 5:13-26), not being overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21). Often it is best to serve one anonymously who has wronged me. Giving humbles me and opens my heart toward those who have wronged me.
- Where I have withheld forgiveness, I must remember that because I have been forgiven by God in Christ, forgiveness must become perpetual (Ephesians 4:32). Even if the offender never repents, my disposition toward him can be kind and tenderhearted.
- Where I have forgotten that God is watching, I must live in the fear of God. I should remember that the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12). I never want to let a broken relationship with an individual impede my relationship with God.
Victory over resentment is more than not falling. The greatest spiritual victories come when God enables me by faith in His Word to advance in the face of temptation to sin – offering prayers instead of curses, good instead of evil, forgiveness instead of retribution.