Sunday after Sunday, the church heard this; “Resentment is allowing someone to live rent free in your mind.” The new pastor had the task of shepherding a congregation through one of their darkest seasons. As an adolescent in a church in Binghamton, NY, I remember hearing these words from a pastor named Bill Kirk.

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Resentment and bitterness relate to each other as siblings. If you look these words up in the dictionary, you can find the other word within the definition. They promise to inflict pain or silence the existence of a person who has caused hurt. Possessors of these siblings end up carrying the brunt of their damages.

When we hold on to resentment and bitterness, we find ourselves putting our deepest anguishes on repeat without ever seeking healing.
We begin to buy the narrative that the only source of retribution will come from watching our perpetrator fall in some way.
Behind this narrative we tell ourselves a lie; God’s grace is insufficient to redeem this situation.

Over the past few weeks, I have found myself in I Samuel. This book traces the rise and fall of King Saul. A man who had all the potential to lead succumbs to pride and spends the last chapter of his life far from God. Healthy leaders attempt to empower their successors. He wanted to thwart his successor, David, a little shepherd from Israel. Instead of building a nation, he became preoccupied with bitterness and resentment directed towards David. The last half of the book records his tragic demise.

Jesus says in the Gospels, “love your enemy” and “bless those who curse you.” At the heart of this message, we can begin to experience grace. He says these things in the context of people who would hurt Him. Instead living controlled by bitterness and resentment like Saul, He calls us to live in the freedom of releasing this pain.

Loving our enemies and blessing those who curse us looks like Jesus, because they challenge us to live a better story. One where our Savior can redeem our bitterness and resentment. 

Let the message from Bill Kirk sink into your heart and mind; resentment and bitterness lets someone remain rent free in your mind. 

You might find yourself replaying the stories of bitterness and resentment. We find the words of Jesus rooted in the fact that He lived this out. Romans 5:8, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” He calls to experience grace that He himself gave to us. In the end when we love our enemies and bless those who curse us, we live out the freedom of the Gospel.

Christ calls us to live the story of grace rather than bitterness or resentment.

Where would we begin to experience grace in the midst of bitterness and resentment? I find that writing a prayer to God acknowledging the bitterness moves it from within us to outside of us. Take time to put words to the hurt and ask God for forgiveness where you might have failed. Then in moments like these, find a person with maturity and wisdom who you can trust to share this area of your heart. When we share with God and with others, we bring light to our souls.

What would it like today if you lived the story of Christ’s grace rather than bitterness or resentment?

Photo credit to Olya Myers Photography.