A couple managed to stay married for fifty years. At the anniversary party, someone asked for their secret. The husband said, “We made a simple agreement when we were married. Whenever she was bothered about something, she should go ahead, tell me off, and get it out of her system. As for me, every time I got angry I should go out and take a walk.” He concluded, “I guess you can attribute our marital success to the fact that I’ve largely led an outdoor life.”
Actually, he does have a point. There’s something to be said for good, physical exercise. There is no full physiological solution to what is a spiritual problem—let’s be very clear on that—but a little perspiration is beneficial for strong emotions. It takes the edge off fresh anger. It provides an outlet. It becomes an escape valve so that we don’t build up a backlog of bitterness. Don’t sit in a dark room and brood. Go out and take a vigorous walk. Sweat away some of your emotions.
Talk It Over
You can discuss your feelings with trusted friends. You can discuss them with your family. But please don’t fail to talk your feelings over with the One who loves you most, and the One who has the power to make you, your mind, and your heart brand-new. Go to the Lord and tell it all. Bring that essay with you, no matter how many pages it took you to write. Even if it’s the size of War and Peace, that’s okay. The Lord never slumbers. He’ll listen to every word.
Be just as honest with God as you were on paper. That’s hard for some people who put on their emotional Sunday best before approaching God in prayer. It’s good to acknowledge His holiness, but it’s also important to be authentic in prayer. If you’re furious, remorseful, frantic, sorrowful—whatever emotion you may have, bring it to God. Come as you are. It’s not as if you can hide anything from Him, anyway. There’s no hair on your head He doesn’t know; no molecule within the marvel of your body that He didnplace there. Share it all with Him, and He’ll begin to share certain things with you—things such as grace and forgiveness.
Hebrews 12:15, as we’ve seen, offers a compelling phrase: “Looking diligently [carefully] lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” What does that mean? Those with resentment in their hearts are coping with a grace deficiency. They need to approach God and recover what they’ve lost, for He is the only true source. To experience His grace and forgiveness is to find that we have plenty of it for others. Otherwise, we’ll continue to play by the world’s rules. We’ll continue to keep our ledgers and tally up every little hurtful word and deed we perceive someone has aimed our way.
There is a story of two men who were traveling through the jungles in Burma, one a visitor and the other a resident missionary. Along their journey they came to a murky little pond, and the waters came up to their necks as they crossed it. When the two men emerged on the far side, the visitor was covered with leeches—all over his arms, his legs, and his torso. He began frantically plucking at the parasites, trying to pull them off. But the missionary said, “No—don’t do that! If you pull one out suddenly, a part of the creature will remain under your skin, the wound will become infected, and you’ll be in much worse condition.”
The other man said, “Then what am I supposed to do?”
“We need to get you into a balsam bath, as quickly as possible,” said the missionary. “Soaking yourself in the bath will cause those leeches to pull out their hooks, and you’ll be free.”
Deep resentment is the leech that embeds itself in your heart. You can’t pluck at it and discard it simply by making a resolution, reading a book, or any other simple action. You know from experience it’s going to take more than that; those feelings have their hooks in you. But there is one thing you can do, and that’s to bathe in the luxurious grace of God. When you do that, a lot of strongholds begin to loosen within your spirit. When you contemplate the forgiveness He has given you, your merciless grudges begin to fade into nothing. When you feel the wonders of His cleansing grace, you settle down into that bath until the waters rise up and overflow. They begin to soak all of those around you, your antagonists and rivals and enemies. Suddenly the thing you resented doesn’t seem worthy of notice anymore.
It simply comes down to this: We can forgive because God has forgiven us. If you haven’t accepted God’s forgiveness for your sin, you’ll struggle to forgive others. You’ll know no way other than the strict rule of the ledger book. But if you’ve found the way of grace, you’ll find how delightful and rewarding life can be when you stop keeping score.
Talk to God. Ask Him to help you see the depth of His love, His mercy, His grace and forgiveness. Ask Him to fill your cup with it. Then spend some time expressing your thanksgiving to Him for doing so. I have a feeling that, after doing so, the spell will be broken. You won’t feel at the mercy of merci-lessness any longer.
David Jeremiah, Slaying the Giants in Your Life (Nashville, TN: W Pub., 2001), 12–14.
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