Revelation 3: 19 “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline: therefore be zealous and repent.”
Even as Christians seasoned with decades of faith as part of our journey is the continual struggle to relinquish “our will” over and over again. More…
When I look back, more than I would care to count, when the direction of my life looked good, and it seemed to make perfect sense I ran into the trap of failing to remember God sees all the ramifications of everything in our lives, everything……When we have an issue in our character that runs counter to His will, (that being, He desires all men are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, 1st Tim 2:4). God will confront it in His children via the process of breaking that reveals the issue and begins to reform it an anyone who has experienced it knows all too well this is one painful, refining, revealing process! (emphasis on the pain part!)
Well this is how God has dealt with me, (and continues to do so by the way) in the area of bitterness and resentment. I noticed after two decades of providing counseling thankfully I’m not the only one dealing with this area! One aspect of our character God will deal with in His children is deep seated resentment or bitterness and the vehicle of choice to refine it seems to repeatedly be… brokenness.
First of all many of us through the course of our lives have experienced pain in sufficient amounts at the hands of others and ourselves so that bitterness and resentment seem to be “part and parcel” to the human condition! At least it was for me. The circumstances that brought on the resentment were incredibly painful and at the time I didn’t understand why it was happening, but more important ,I didn’t understand why God allowed some things to happen in the first place? That’s the type of bitterness I’m talking about here. If you’re angry over missing out on a promotion that was given to someone else this blog may not resonate with you! Bitterness and resentment is a natural human response to the very real experience of being victimized. Jesus certainly knew the experience of victimization as we experience it! The reason God has to deal with bitterness is twofold: First of all we are well acquainted with how it robs us of joy. This doesn’t have to be “sold” to the Christian or the non-Christian, we know this. God knows we simply cannot maintain bitterness and experience His joy. It makes it impossible to see others through the eyes of Christ, and no matter what our adversaries have done to us, (and yes some of us have had formidable circumstances) we are called unquestionably to love another as Christ loved. Loving as Christ loved is not a principle to be acknowledged, it’s a continual goal of life to strive for with the supernatural intervention of God giving us a new heart making it possible! (EZ 36: 26)
This supernatural change of heart though in regards to bitterness, is a journey. It’s a healing accomplished by Gods Spirit that will differ with everyone as the circumstances that promote bitterness are different for everyone. Some wounds run quite deep so does some forms of pride and arrogance two familiar partners in the package of bitterness.
There’s a second reason God will confront bitterness and resentment as it leads to the deadly spiritual condition of “entitlement.” Entitlement develops when we tell ourselves we can continue to feel this way or indulge in this behavior because after all “God understands doesn’t he” “He knows my brokenness and my tears.” Entitlement arises after we foster and nature bitterness in our hearts until a deep seated resentment has entrenched itself which produces a path of tears. Human beings from the beginning of time forward have perceived themselves as being “ripped off” and therefore they run as fast as they can to the fountain of entitlement. It’s the original offense and it lies deep in the souls and spirits of human beings and a supernatural remedy is the only cure. Entitlement and bitterness cannot co-exist with the Spirit of God for long. God will deal with this, and it will be extremely painful. He doesn’t want His children engaging in behaviors that grieve His Spirit, rob them of their joy and prohibit their ability to be used for His purposes. Angry, self righteous Christians rarely have effective ministries, but quite often they do have some of the loudest voices!
The path to brokenness involves consideration. God knows us at the deepest level of our being, in fact its quite intimate. There’s a reason why the church is referred to as the “Bride of Christ.” Gods commitment to our wholeness is like the dedicated sacrifice of the spouse in marriage. God knew what he was doing when he used this picture! When He sees something in the character of His children that will destroy them or compromise their spiritual growth or development, as a God who loves us more than we can comprehend He will act in our own best interest. (Rev 3:19) I’m afraid that often in our journeys what we perceive as a trial of our faith is actually us, suffering at the hands of our own decisions. Getting a ticket because you California stopped a stop sign and running into an officer who is having a particularly bad day isn’t the “devil out to get you.” or a trial of faith, but it sure reflects an attitude that is reactive instead of proactive; another mark of bitterness and resentment.
God’s desire is to grow us into the image of His Son is the work being completed “until the day of Christ Jesus” and brokenness may be a large part of the journey and if we fail to realize the personal investment and contribution we’ve made to our own brokenness we often miss the lesson God has for us. We dodge the brokenness path by padding our circle with those who’s response will confirm and even reinforce our resentment! That is why I am constantly surprised at how many followers of Christ seek counsel from those who are either not sufficiently engrossed in the Word and digesting it daily or from those outside the body of Christ. Advice is only as good as quality of its fruit.! When we conduct our “legacies workshops” at the Sentinels that promote healing for those who have experienced significant wounding we use the following example when it comes to advice. I usually start the workshops with the following statement: “The Native American have a saying in regards to giving advice to a fellow journey member it’s this…..”
Then I stand there for about 30 seconds looking in the faces of the men in the room who have made a commitment to take a workshop they know is going to cause considerable pain an introspection and say nothing.
The point has its effect. In my practice I have met so many people wounded by “advice” I’ve lost count! There’s a difference between advice and Godly counsel. If you open yourself up to ungodly advice during a period of God’s refinement of you (brokenness) and worse follow it, you open yourself up to an alternate path God never intended. I can’t overemphasize this point. Unfortunately the reality is in almost four decades now in the church, the people of “The Way” are often indistinguishable from those who profess no allegiance to Christ. Ghandi once said, (and this isn’t a blanket endorsement of his teachings!) “I like your Christ, it’s your Christians I don’t like… they’re so unlike you Christ! By the way I’m not sure if Native Americans actually say this word for word but I think I picked it up form old westerns!
I hate it when the world exposes our faults!
The process of being broken and remolded is part of our Christian faith. If you have to sit and ask yourself if you’re faith has ever been tested, or if you’ve ever been broken chances are you haven’t. That’s a little rough I know, but over the years I’ve gotten a little tired of well meaning Christians fresh off the latest spiritual fad assuming they absorbed the “Keys to the Kingdom” because they read their Bible thirty days in a row ! (reading your Bible is highly endorsed here by the way). I’m not advocating for pain as some club membership of spiritual superiority, far from it! Knowing when and how God chooses to work in the lives of others is beyond my understanding. But I do know this. If you want to grow, truly and develop spiritually into something God can use, brokenness will be part of your experience. I was told for years from believers if I wasn’t experiencing joy something was wrong with my faith. I do have joy, but it’s not 24/7 and that’s something Jesus never, never taught, (see John 16:33). I am however, sharing the Biblical principle of brokenness is found from cover to cover in the Bible and it seems to be forefront in Gods arsenal of tools in dealing with the problem of human free will amongst his children.
Be prepared for the following as well if you’re in a season of brokenness. Sadly the trials and comments of others that make up your experience will come from within the body of Christ as well as from without. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing all counsel because you been on the receiving end of bad advice or opinions about you’re circumstance based on limited information. During the season of brokenness which can last for years, seek Godly men and women to run with you. In my own seasons of trial I’ve heard a lot of ideas! “I needed to be baptized by the Holy Spirit! “Gods spirit never spoke to me,” There was unconfessed sin in my life (Jobs counselors) , “I needed to try harder,” I probably has a demon, I needed to go to this or that “spiritual cleansing” which would fix my messed up life! No friend, the remedy for a messed up life is Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with him. Seeking that’s hard enough but God will show up. For me it’s been through painful refinements of trial were there were days sometimes months he felt a million miles away. Make sure if you’re in a season of brokenness you simply remain open to the fact God might be working out something for you in your best interest. Then find yourself some “Sentinels,” comrades in Christ that are in the word deeply who can provide Godly counsel and comfort (oh how I wish we provided more comfort in the church) when needed. You’ll recognize it when it comes… it will look like this. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, loves peace, is reasonable, gentle full of mercy and good fruit, without hypocrisy and unwavering…” James 3:17
Throw out the rest.
J.P Grier is a writer at SentinelforChrist com – Sentinel For Christ is a network of Christian men helping each other to press deeper in Christ.