Resentment – Is It Worth It?
January 12, 2016
I want to start off this morning talking about stress. So let me ask you – are you stressed out this morning? Do you feel like you’re under some stress?
Stress is simply a feeling of emotional tension. It’s a result of an event or of a thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. The result of stress? Intestinal problems (diarrhea or constipation), forgetfulness, chronic aches and pains, heart problems, depression or anxiety, lack of energy, trouble sleeping, stomach problems and loss of weight.
Stress can be acute…or short term…or it can be long term, or chronic. Any type of stress that goes on for weeks or months is chronic stress. In fact, chronic stress can go on for so long that you can become so used to it that you don’t even realize it’s a problem. Chronic stress is caused by a lot of things including ongoing money problems and long lasting health problems.
But the main cause of our stress be it short term or long term is other people. People cause stress. People at work, people outside of work, our neighbors, our friends and yes, even people here at church cause us stress. Stress is caused by people within our families, including all sorts of problems caused by our spouses as well as problems and issues caused by our children, our grandchildren, our siblings and even our in-laws.
Unless you live out on an island all by yourself, it is difficult to prevent friction and stress. Because we’re human and imperfect humans at that; with that being said, avoiding conflict, misunderstanding, and hostility that cause stress is virtually impossible.
Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote his letter to the Christian Church at Ephesus. He wrote the letter because his friends were a lot like we are today. Like us, they were followers of Jesus, but at the same time there continued to be forces at work in the world that loved nothing more than to cause dissension and disunity (stress) among the Christian people. There were gentiles who irritated the Jews. There were Jews who irritated the gentiles. There were Jews who couldn’t get along with other Jews and there were gentiles who couldn’t get along with other gentiles.
Things were said…sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally…and people’s feelings and pride were hurt…and the tension and the stress and the anxiety and the sleepless night began to grow because those who were hurt couldn’t let it go. Despite living their lives for Jesus and despite trying to follow the commands of Jesus, they were falling short because they couldn’t forgive those that hurt them…and because of their actions they were drifting away from living the type of life that God wanted them to live.
The stress from being talked about and being hurt began to take its toll; tensions began to mount; people were filled with resentment; it was as if each person was a time bomb waiting to explode because people were filled stress caused by their inability to forgive one another.
As much as we want to get along with one another, there are going to be times when it doesn’t work out that way. We are going to disappoint other people…we are going to hurt other people…and we are going to wrong other people…sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. And because we are dealing with other human beings who are just like us, we in turn will experience hurtful retaliation from those whom we have hurt.
It’s important that we learn how to deal with the stress caused by those who have hurt us…and it’s just as important to know that the remedy for all of this is found in God’s word…and it’s called forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (v. 32).
When we are wronged, when we are hurt, Jesus tells us that we are to absolve (pardon, forgive, excuse) the person who has hurt us – which means that we are to no longer hold any resentment, any bitterness, or any grudge against the one who has hurt us.
But that’s hard to do isn’t it? It’s hard to forgive or pardon or excuse someone who has hurt us in some way or another because our feelings run deep…and so does our pride. But let’s consider what might happen to us if we fail to obey God’s command to forgive.
To be unable to forgive is something that will affect us spiritually. In addition to causing emotional stress deep within us, being unable to forgive others will stunt our spiritual growth. The resentment deep down inside of us will cause us to become dormant and we will no longer be able to produce the spiritual fruit that comes to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The inability to forgive will hinder our service to God; and at the same time it will allow Satan to get his foot in the door of our lives so that he can have more of an opportunity to wreak havoc in our lives.
To be unable to forgive is something that will affect us physically and emotionally. Resentment toward others will take a toll on our physical and mental health leading not only to stress but to depression and emotional problems because of the constant negative calculating that’s going on in the back of our minds and the constant turmoil going on within our soul. And if we don’t deal with it, we’ll end up being hurt twice – first by the original offense that hurt us and then again by hurting ourselves as we are continually drinking the poison that come from our inability to forgive.
Finally, being unable to forgive is going to affect our relationship with those around us. We love to talk! We love to talk about our own problems and we love to talk about other people. When we get other people to join us in our grievances and they come over to our side, then our negative attitude begins to affect them and it eventually drags them down into the darkness that fills our life. When we work to get others to side with us and at the same time turn against others then we are doing nothing more than causing our friends and/or our family to stumble on their faith walk as their hearts and minds are filled with the negativity of resentment as well.
Resentment multiplies exponentially and eventually ends up affecting more than one person and more than one relationship. An unforgiving spirit has the ability to affect our entire being and beyond. Not being able to forgive is like a poison that spreads throughout our entire body. It (an unforgiving spirit) is “like a drop of ink in a glass of water – it eventually spreads and stains our entire being” (In Touch Magazine, Is Resentment Really Worth It?, September 2018, 25).
Not being able to forgive will affect you internally and externally. Jesus tells the story about a man whose debts were forgiven by the king, but that same man refused to forgive others of the debts they owed him. “And the king, moved with anger, put him in prison until he could repay all that was owed him. Your heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if you refuse to forgive others” (Matthew 18:34-35).
Stop and think about it! Stop and think about how many times God has forgiven you for all that you have done…and yet you continue to stress yourself out by trying to retaliate in some way or another so that you can get even with those who have hurt you. All we do is end up being tortured by our own bitterness.
Paul tells us that those who believe in the ways of Jesus should walk in holiness and in unity with one another. Those who believe are not live their lives like those who don’t believe…because those who don’t believe have hardened hearts and are insensitive to God and his ways.
But those who have allowed God’s revelation into their lives are no longer alienated from him; their hearts are no longer hardened and their spirits are no longer impure. Believers are new people with new attitudes. Believers are changed people who can no longer endure living the way they used to live. Get rid of the bitterness, the rage, the resentment and the anger. Get rid of the yelling and screaming, and the slander and the malice toward others. Be kind. Be compassionate and be gracious. Be kind, compassionate and gracious because that’s how Jesus is.
To not forgive is completely contrary to the message of the gospel. Jesus was willing to lay down his life for us so that we could receive unconditional forgiveness. Does it make sense to think that someone’s offense against us is unforgivable while all our sins against God deserve mercy?
Once again this morning, as we do every Sunday morning, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer – “And forgive us our trespasses (sins), as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us…if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:12,14-15).
It’s the Good News of the Gospel – accept Jesus into your life and have all your sins forgiven. And once you give your life to him, we’re supposed to walk in obedience with him. But are we? Are we walking in obedience with God if we fail to forgive others as he forgave us?
Holding on to a grudge isn’t worth the stress and all the heartaches and all the sleepless nights that go with it. We were wronged (we were hurt or embarrassed or whatever) and our attitude instantaneously becomes, “The person who did this has to pay the price for what they did to me.” Yet we would never want God to take that approach with us.
You don’t have to suffer from stress because you don’t have to get even. Simply ask God to help you remove the resentment from your heart. He’s forgiven you for all your sins up to this point and he will help you to do the same for those who have hurt or wronged you.
Paul sets the standard high for us – he tells us to be imitators of God – imitate the love and imitate the forgiveness of God. And why shouldn’t we? After all, we’re children of God. Just as a child imitates his parents, so too should we imitate God. And the only way to do that is by loving one another with the same sacrificial love that Jesus loved with and by forgiving one another as God has done for us.
It’s been said that we are never more like Christ than when we forgive others. The hurts and the pains and the offenses we suffer during our lives should be seen, not as causes for anger and resentment, but as opportunities to grow closer to God, as opportunities to trust in God and as opportunities to let God transform us into better people. When we see the possibility of a world based not on anger and resentment, but a world based on reconciliation, it is then that we are beginning to understand the ways of God and when we do that we’ll notice that the stress begins to disappear and we’ll find ourselves surrounded by inner peace.