At a dinner party, Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde were discussing the truth about resentment and envy, how a friend’s success often makes one unhappy, Wilde entertained the party to a story. “The devil,” said Wilde, “was once crossing the Libyan Desert, and he came upon a spot where a number of small fiends were tormenting a holy hermit. The sainted man easily shook off their evil suggestions.
The devil watched their failure and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson. ‘What you do is too crude,’ said he. ‘Permit me for one moment.’ With that he whispered to the holy man, ‘Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.’
A scowl of malignant jealousy at once clouded the serene face of the hermit. ‘That,’ said the devil to his imps, ‘is the sort of thing which I should recommend.’”
Resentment can strike any person, anywhere, anytime, regardless of background, theology, age, life experience, or education. It happens. But when you give in to these emotions, you can be pulled into paralyzing bitterness and a guaranteed miserable life.
A life void of joy and happiness is dangerous for our health, and we can open ourselves to diseases and disorders often linked to chronic negativity, resentment, bitterness, discouragement, and depression.
If negative emotions toward others stand in the way of a life of joy and fulfillment, how much more our resentment against our Creator—the only One who can move us from the depths of despair and disgruntlement to a powerful and positive life.
So how do we get out of this darkness?
First, we need to face up to any false sentiments about our relationship with God. This means that we are to be absolutely honest and blunt with ourselves. No amount of pretending will do here. We are told that we can’t just tiptoe around the issue or ignore it altogether because Christians should never feel such negative emotions toward God. Can we fool God? Since he knows every tiny detail about everyone all the time, including every thought and motive, trying to cover up our resentment and lie to him (and ourselves) with religious language is not only a tremendous waste of time and energy, it is dangerous.
No, if resentment against God has set in, for whatever reason, we must confess it to him openly without reservation or equivocation. Since he has heard it all before, he’s not going to be shocked, nor will he slink off into a corner sulking with hurt feelings. Does God like to be resented by those he deeply loves? Do we? Is he wounded by it? Are we? But this is another one of those places where God is not like us. Although he wants us to love, honor, worship, and obey him, he will not condemn us for our disloyalty, throw in the towel, and walk away. His faithfulness is based on his gracious character, not on ours, and he is determined to form in us the image of his Son.
Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” –Numbers 11:13-15
O Lord, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long. –Jeremiah 20:7-8
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” –1 Kings 19:1-4
In the above passages from the Bible, all three men, Moses, Jeremiah, and Elijah, recovered from their momentary disappointment and resentment, and all in the same way. They experienced the grace and loving-kindness of God. They waited long enough for God to act, and to see the deliverance of their Lord, not allowing their misperception of God to take root and define them from then on.
This is what people in every generation have eventually discovered about their displeasure toward their Creator: Whatever they feel has soured their faith is based entirely on a misperception of his character and purpose. One of the easiest mistakes each of us can make is to misunderstand God, what he is like, what he is doing, and what he intends to accomplish through the experiences he allows in our lives.
Anything that gives us serious doubts about God’s goodness, love, or intelligent purpose results from a wrong conclusion about him. This should not surprise us, for misperceptions about people around us are so common that much of our daily life is taken up by them. It has been one of the principal themes of world literature for centuries, and it is one of the most human things that can happen to us—we misconstrue the motives and purposes of our friends, families, bosses, co-workers, and others on a routine basis. So why not God, who is the most consistently, and uncompromisingly, love-driven being in the universe?
The only way we as followers of Jesus can hold a grudge against God is to fall for the long list of lies and slanderous accusations against him. The marketplace of ideas and, sadly, even the church are flooded with them. The antidote is to be so familiar with the Scriptures that their consistent portrayal of God and Jesus his Son drives out all the caricatures and grossly false descriptions that repeatedly bombard us.
Let’s also resist with all our might the temptation to bail out too soon when trouble or disappointment come our way. Waiting on God is one of the principal themes of the Bible. We make great strides of faith only when we stay around long enough to see the rescues and deliverances God has prepared for us. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
John I. Snyder is an international pastor (currently serving at Starnberg Fellowship, Starnberg, Germany), conference speaker, and author of the book Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame (ranked #1 on Christian Ethics in Theology on Amazon) from Abingdon Press. His highly acclaimed prayer guide Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God (ranked #1 on Meditations on Amazon books, #1 on Prayer on Amazon Kindle, #9 on Christian living on Amazon) from Thomas Nelson Publishers has transformed the lives of readers all over the world, taking them on a 100-day journey in prayer over a specific issue or circumstance in their lives. John received his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and he received his Doctor of Theology degree magna cum laude in New Testament Studies from the University of Basel, Switzerland. John has been featured on Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, Fox News, Faith Radio Network, Cru, American Family Radio Network, In the Market with Janet Parshall, The Bottom Line with Roger Marsh, Miracle Channel, Bill Martinez Live, and many more.