I sat in the restaurant booth across from my husband, but I was distracted by the couple sitting nearby. As I watched them, smiling, enjoying their massive plate of gluten-and-dairy-filled food while my body ached and stomach churned, resentment began to rise in me.
I bet they can eat whatever they want and not feel miserable afterward.
How nice it must be to enjoy a date and not be distracted by a pain-wracked body and a trail of heavy trials that follow you wherever you go.
Rather than enjoying a rare night out with my husband, I found myself spiraling down into self-pity over how hard my life has been, and how easy life seems to be for so many people around me.
Before long, God, in his kindness, jolted me out of my pity party and made me see the ridiculousness of comparing the messy inside of my life to the seemingly pain-free outside of this unknown couple. I don’t know their story. I don’t know the heartache or scars hidden behind those smiles. I don’t know whether they are joyful in Jesus or ignorantly happy in their blindness.
They weren’t the problem. My own heart was.
Though I hate to admit it, resentment is a subtle but real temptation in my heart, especially during times of deep pain and sorrow. Over time, I’ve learned how important it is to recognize this temptation when it comes, so that when I start to go down that path, I can take steps to realign my heart with the truth.
Thankfully, God has shown us exactly what it looks like. Psalm 73 temporarily travels the road of resentment toward “the wicked” whose lives seem to be going so well.
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. (Psalm 73:12–14)
By God’s grace, the psalm doesn’t get stuck there. As it continues, God shows us how to turn from a resentful heart to a grateful one.
Trust What God Says, Not What You See
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (Psalm 73:16–17)
If we try to make sense of our circumstances, or compare our circumstances to others’, we will inevitably feel like we drew the short straw. We will always find someone who seems to have an easier life, better job, healthier body, or what we long for and can’t have.
Therefore, like the psalmist, we need to stop trying to understand what is beyond what God has revealed, and instead trust the loving purposes our Father has spoken by filling ourselves with the truth of his Word. As we do this in prayer, our resentment may melt into gratitude as we remember that no painful circumstances in this world can compare to a hopeless eternity apart from Jesus.
How foolish to resent those who are comfortable now, but will be eternally lost. And how foolish to resent other believers who have something we wish we had when we serve a God who is purposefully working in each of our lives to give us what we most desperately need: more of himself.
Confess Your Resentment
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. (Psalm 73:21–22)
Just as the psalmist realized his resentment was ultimately directed toward God, my resentful feelings toward the couple near me was really a cover for my resentment toward God. I might as well have said to him, “I don’t believe you are doing what’s best for me, and I don’t trust your plan.”
When we are suffering and feel resentment towards those who are not, or when we resent others for having something we don’t have, our feelings are rooted in some form of unbelief towards God. We are either believing he’s not good (“If he was truly good, he would not deny me what I want”), or he’s not in control (“If he was truly sovereign, he could have prevented this or given me what I think I need”), or he’s not trustworthy (“This can’t be what’s best for me”). The battle begins at the level of our thoughts – that we take them captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
As we find in God’s Word the truths about him we aren’t believing, we must confess our unbelief. As we acknowledge the root of our resentment and repent of unbelief, God will faithfully bring us back to the truth of who he is and what he has promised.
And our joy will be restored once again.
Tell Him Your Sorrows
I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:23–28)
I thank God for his grace and patience as I stumble my way down the path of following his Son. I never imagined the challenges and heartache I would face in this life, but God knew, and he has promised to carry me through to the end – growing me and drawing me closer to him each step of the way.
Christian, if you find yourself battling bitterness, resentment, or anger toward what God has chosen for your life, and how unfair it feels, I encourage you to lift your eyes to our loving Savior who knows your pain, struggles, and heartaches. Nothing on this earth compares to knowing Christ and enjoying him now and having the sure hope of eternity with him.
When you feel tempted toward resentment, and feel the weight of your circumstances threatening to crush you, remember that, though your heart and flesh may fail, God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever. He will faithfully guide you with his promises and counsel until that day when he receives you into glory.
When we can honestly say, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” a grateful heart has replaced a resentful one, and the circumstances that once brought resentment may be the very means God uses to show us his worth and satisfy our restless souls.
[This article originally appeared at DesiringGod.org. Photo Credit: Lightstock]