Sitting there in our home school co-op and it flew at me out of the blue, just a week ago. We were one of the very few families with only two children there. The range was three-child families to nine-child families. And several were speaking of their eagerness to add more.
It was everything I had always wanted. Everything I was always certain I would have. And there I sat. Instead of being almost 16 weeks pregnant, I had a flat tummy and my husband’s words ringing in my ears, “I don’t want to try anymore. It’s too difficult for us.”
Resentment against these new acquaintances hit hard and fast. Old emotions I thought long gone came back and taunted me, until I almost felt an angry dislike for these women, simply because they had the large families that I wanted. Not only that, they were talking without reserve and were not giving a second thought that maybe some of us there couldn’t have large families, and that this conversation was a knife to our heart. These are the thoughts that my heart whispered to me with a blind indictment against them. With resentment, often, comes the attitude that everyone should just know and understand our story, telepathically, and we become angry when that is not the case.
I came home and in an unusual moment of sharing my heart with my husband, I told him how hard being the smallest family there had been for me. His response? An eye roll with the comment of, “How can you want more, when it’s so traumatic, and we lose them? Besides, you’re already so busy.”
Eyes filling with tears, I turned my back and the resentment grew. Against my husband who should have wrapped me up in my pain, and who is on an entirely different track than me regarding trying again, and against those who have what I don’t.
Resentment is a sludge of ugly in our heart. It goes hand in hand with bitter envy. I say bitter, because it is sharp-edged and painful when it pricks our heart. It keeps us from rejoicing with those who rejoice and can grow so poisonous that we wish sadness and harm on those who have what we want. We begrudge joy and we wish away blessings from the lives of others.
It’s not just an internal fight. This resentment will ooze out into our faces, no matter how much we try to hide it. A grimace will take the place of a genuine smile and chilly, meaningless conversation exists rather than heart-to-heart sharing. Our hearts are filled with anger that someone has what we don’t and as a result, we are unable to connect emotionally or spiritually with those around us. Our resentment becomes our prison and we stand behind the walls angry that everyone or anyone has what we don’t, and we actually beginning to hate them for it. Somehow, we forget that what they have is from the hand of Almighty God, fulfilling His sovereign and eternal will. Instead, we blame them for their pregnancies and their children, and we take it as a personal affront that they have them, while we grieve ours. We even hate them for the attitude of ingratitude, either real or perceived, that we see in them.
This bitter resentment will destroy, not only our own life, but also every relationship that we have. It will crumble our marriages, our friendships, our family ties, and even our relationships within the body of Christ, as we hold out a stiff arm to everyone, because we envy and dislike them for having what we want and what we feel that we deserve.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21
Our foolish hearts will destroy us…unless…we fight back. This is a battle cannot be fought with weapons of human strength. This is a battle that can only be fought with the Spirit’s enabling, as God’s heart flows through us, and as we take up the absolute truth of His Word.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18
Let’s look at the weapons that God gives us to fight resentment.
Captivity to Obedience
Take every ugly, painful, resentful thought captive as it tries to steal your mind. Run to Jesus and ask – sometimes plead – with Him to victory over these thoughts. “I hand it to You. Do with it what you will. I do not have the power on my own to give it up, to quit thinking it. Take it and redeem it for Your glory. Replace it with Your truth. Show me Your thoughts on the situation that is causing my resentment. Let me see it through the eyes of Your Holy spirit and His understanding, rather than my own human emotions and logic.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:4-6
However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him. These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. I Corinthians 2:9-11
Dwell on beauty
That which you dwell on is what will be fed within your mind. Dwell on what you don’t have and what you think others shouldn’t have in light of your void, and that is what will grow into epic proportions. Dwell on the things of God and the promises of His word, and they will eventually become so magnified in your mind there will no longer be room for resentment to dwell. We must replace the negative with the positive.
In this same vein, we must also focus on the blessings that Hehas already given us. If we are a child of His, the gifts are many – beginning with our redemption, which was bought with the precious blood of Christ. We need to concentrate on what He has already given, rather than on what we do not have. This exercise, once habitual, will eventually bring about a gratefulness, never before possessed, as we realize just how much we have because of Him and His gracious benevolence.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Bless your neighbor, instead of measuring yourself by your neighbor.
But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12b
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. Galatians 6:2-4
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38
Replace resentment with rejoicing and fretfulness with thankful prayer.
Thanksgiving is so difficult in the beginning, but as we focus on the truth, it becomes easy. Rejoicing fills our hearts and flows out, as we begin to recount to ourselves and to others, everything that God has done for us and given to us. Resentment cannot dwell where rejoicing is. The two simply cannot reside together.
While it may take some time to offer thanksgiving for the situation we currently find ourselves in, there are other things for which we can offer thanks in the midst of our pain – Thankfulness that God is sovereign, even while He loves, and that He holds our lives and hearts in His hands. Thankful that this earth is not the end, but that there is an eternal, heavenly realm after this life. Our lives on earth simply prepare us for that forever home, and that God will redeem all things for Himself. Thankful that God knows and understands the longings of our heart and the pain with which we live each day.
The promise is amazing. The peace that comes will pass our human understanding, as we undertake this, at times, painful exercise of choice.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Offer the sacrifice of praise
It truly is a sacrifice to praise when we are broken. But the aroma of this sacrifice rises to God and touches His heart deeply. Sometimes praise is offered up even as tears stream down. This praise that rises from the ashes of what is left of our heart’s dreams is exceptionally precious to our Heavenly Father who knows just what it costs us to offer it.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD. Psalm 17:6
Surrender to what brings God glory
We have touched on this topic in other studies. Because He has knowledge that we do not have and sovereignty we will never have. He alone knows what is best, not only for our hearts and lives, but also for that part of the eternal story we cannot yet see. As painful is that is, we have to trust absolute truth and let that carry us, even when we look to others and think they have the lives we should have been given. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not ours—and his ways are what will bring Him glory, not what we think should be written into being. This surrender will bring peace and joy.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. John 15:10-11 (kjv)
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:7-9 (kjv)
Original material by Melissa J Carswell, MA, BCCC. Holly M Besser. Perfect Joy Ministries ©2012. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bsbp013p11-01-12