Jodie Cadman was a New Zealand streetkid on Sydney's streets when we began "StreetSmart" in the 1980's. Jodie never forgot her mother's words she when she was six. Jodie overheard her mother saying to a neighbour in the next room: "I can't bear to touch Jodie. I wish I'd never had a girl. She just revolts me, somehow." Jodie's whole world crashed. She huddled, shaking, trying not to cry. She heard something about a baby boy that was stillborn.
Outside she climbed a tree and cried. Eventually Jodie went inside. Nobody noticed how quiet she was. The hurt grew inside her until she hated both parents. "How dare my mother not love me. She is my mother." Jodie noticed Mum cuddled her brothers. She craved the same affection. She would run to her mother who pushed Jodie away. As a young teenager she fled to Sydney.
As a Sydney streetkid, Jodie said: "I feel as if I am desperately searching for something I don't even know. Maybe it's happiness. Or love, I don't know. Nothing satisfies me. I still feel hollow. Frighteningly hollow. There's something missing. Something important. Perhaps if ever I found it, I'd know what life was all about and what the point was in it all." Street workers, Charles and Jill reached out to her and prayed for her. Charles said to her, "God wants you to forgive your mother, Jodie, for everything she did and everything she didn't do." Jodie replied in bitter resentment: "Why the hell should I? She doesn't deserve to be forgiven. She couldn't care whether I forgave her or not." Charles explained God cannot do much with us unless we release our resentful grip on those who have hurt us.
When Jodie released her hate toward her mother she said, "I felt an enormous weight lift off me. I felt strangely warm and peaceful inside like I'd never felt before." Jodie later said "I love being alive. It's just so good being able to live peacefully with myself and with other people. I'm at peace with God. The anger's gone out of me. I didn't want to live, most of my life I was running away, searching. I'm glad to be alive now. I just want to thank Jesus for giving me life."
For ten years Jodie Cadman was resentful. Then years of abuse on the streets. The likelihood of her recovery and restoration was remote. Thank God Christian people met her where she was, responded to her need and persisted with her until her change and conversion through faith in Christ.
"FINDING FREEDOM OVER RESENTMENT" is one of the great coping skills of the mature Christian. Resentment is a symptom of jealousy. Jealousy has many faces, one of which is resentment, the showing of bitter feeling of indignation or anger towards another person because of some insult or injury caused by the other person. Resentment causes stress and aggression. Many people carry resentment. Consider some.
I remember an exit interview with a senior staff person who for years was unhappy in his work asking him the cause. In a torrent of words he said it was unfair another in Wesley Mission who did similar work as he, received a 3% increment of pay which he didn't. He was bitterly resentful his colleague received that extra pay. I indicated the Officers granted the additional pay for a good reason.
His colleague had spent years doing additional study, graduated, and used his new qualifications to benefit Wesley Mission. Additional effort and qualifications deserved the increment in pay. Logical though that may be, the resentment burned within him until his work suffered and he resigned.
Why is it that friends find it so hard to rejoice when another receives some unique benefit? When a person gets praised, acquaintances and friends often turn sour. When a pretty girl gets the attention, her girlfriends get peeved. When a neighbour receives an unexpected sum of money the neighhood shows resentment. A group of academics can break up when one receives a prize or honour for their work. Secretaries in an office can turn catty when one receives some roses. We like to cut down tall poppies! When other people are given benefit, why do we find it so hard to rejoice at their good fortune? Why do we find it so hard to accept God blessing others?
I find resentment among some young parents who both need employment. Each must take additional responsibility to help out. There is pressure on the wife to be "superwoman": a perfect mother who shows her family life is not suffering because of her employment. The father must take on more of the household chores and child-rearing responsibilities than he really wants. Unless role sharing is sorted resentment builds up.
Sometimes resentment can be justified. Such as when a person suffers injustice at the hands of some petty person. I admire the character of Jesus as I see Him so unjustly tried in his trials.
After six Jewish and Roman trials, He is crucified. There was not even a pretence of justice. Anyone else in this world would have bitterly resented such injustice. But Jesus is the supreme example of serenity in the face of injustice. He is in control of the situation. For even amidst that heart-breaking injustice, it was still the conviction of Jesus that He was not the victim of men but the Servant of God, who was to die upon the Cross for our sin.
The Bible is quite clear about the deadening impact of bitter resentment stored in our hearts. Job 5:2 states "Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple." He declares 36:13 "The godless in heart harbor resentment." Jesus found resentment in a man He would heal at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus knew he had been lying there for 38 years yet He asked: "Do you want to get well?" He answered with bitter resentment: "Sir, I don't have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in somebody else gets there first." Jesus confronted him: "Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!" Jn 5:6-8 He was being crippled by resentment as much as by disease. He was healed by confrontation, a new challenge and faith which ended the bitter resentment in his heart! Paul taught: 2 Tim 2:24 "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." The Bible is wise. There can be no room for resentment in a Christian.
HOW CAN YOU FIND FREEDOM FROM RESENTMENT?
The Bible has such good guidelines for helping us become mature Christians and coping people. A careful study of God's word enables us to recognise our problems and find freedom from them. 1. LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR STRESS.
Resentment is a cause of inner stress, and stress can kill. But stress can be controlled. The Bible has great teaching in Matthew 5 and Philippians 4. I re-read "STRESS IN MY LIFE" by Dr Hans Selye, the famous endocrinologist. He knows about stress. He said his research internationally shows our attitudes to life have a great deal to do with our general well-being and our health or ill-health. He declared that people with negative attitudes to life - specifically worry, resentment, frustration, fear, jealousy, depression, and revenge, adversely affect their physical system. On the other hand if we have a positive attitude to life and emphasise such things as kindness, consideration, love, patience, forgiveness - these will positively enhance our physical well being. Dr. Selye said that "gratitude to God produces serenity and hope, trust and faith and peace, and all of these work together for human well being." You can find freedom from resentment by learning to control your stress.
2. LEARN THAT GOD BLESSES OTHERS.
Jesus taught that "many that are first will be last and the last first." The disciples wondered why they, as poor fishermen, were chosen by Jesus when an educated, willing and rich young ruler was rejected. They could not understand that principle by which God works. Neither could the Pharisees understand why ordinary people were being blessed by God when they could not find the same blessing. They resented these uneducated people having precedence. But Jesus taught that God in His grace is willing to give equal pay for unequal work, the best seats to the least deserving, blessings upon people who do not deserve them. For God turns our values upside down and rewards on the basis of His grace.
3. LEARN TO FORGIVE.
Nothing dilutes resentment like forgiveness. Our forgiveness is dependent upon the way we treat others. Our forgiveness is unlimited, but conditional upon our forgiving others: "This is how my heavenly Father (said Jesus) will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Forgiveness must be given when a person repents and requests it, and forgiveness to others determines whether we in turn are forgiven. Dr Michael Green says: "God puts his precious gift of forgiveness in our hands - but only if we open them up to him, not clench them in anger against our brethren. Resentment has to be repented of. It utterly blocks us from receiving and enjoying the forgiveness we long for. How can God forgive you if you will not forgive?'" Resentment is best beaten by forgiving others.
4. LEARN TO USE SUNDAY CREATIVELY.
Journalist Julie Nance, wrote in the "Sydney Morning Herald" that families are discovering Sunday again. "In theory, Sunday is supposed to be a time for leisure, togetherness and "quality time'. But for many couples frazzled by the week just past, Sunday turns out to be a day of reckoning. Relationship experts say differing expectations by men and women on how they want to fill these precious hours often lead to friction and resentment. While the woman may view Sunday as a chance for her partner to share the burden of housework and child rearing, the male wants nothing better than to switch off and relax. While men consider the weekends as time off to be planned for and enjoyed, women view the time ahead as the only time to clean the house, do the laundry, organise the shopping, cook something special, have parents over, and fit in going out."
At Bondi, Martin and Maree Enright agreed Sundays must be set aside in a bid to save their marriage. He owns two gourmet takeaways and a cafe. She is a litigation lawyer. Six-day weeks filled with stressful workloads were taking their toll. Martin says, "A year ago we were not communicating. We reached a crisis point in life. What's the point of living together if you don't talk together? We decided to make some fundamental changes and one of those was to try to leave Sundays blank." Maree says "I know quite a few couples who hardly ever see each other and do their own thing weekends. Martin resented having a schedule for the weekend, but that is now our way of life. The big key is communication." Families need time to be together and to communicate with each other. That is the wisdom of going to worship each Sunday. You break the work cycle. You learn to communicate with God and with each other. You build a Christian family by having a sabbath, by communicating together, by being together, and that defeats resentment.
5. LEARN TO COMMIT YOUR SELF TO CHRIST FULLY.
Many follow the teaching of Jesus still harbouring in their hearts selfishness, self-pity, jealousy, resentments and the like. They are Christian in belief, but not in behaviour. They have not yet committed themselves to Christ wholly. Some attitudes have not yet been baptised. They still hold sub-Christian thoughts and feelings. Hence, at the beginning of a new year it is good to have an act of renewal of the covenant we made with God. We re-dedicate ourselves to His service and to growing more mature in our Christian life-style. Resentment is one of those self-centred jealousies that can be just cut out of your life by a determined commitment to walk the Jesus way.
REFERENCES USED IN THIS SERMON:
STRESS IN MY LIFE Dr Hans Selye McClelland & Stewart
CASUALTIES OF CHANGE: THE PREDICAMENT OF YOUTH IN AUSTRALIA. R Eckersley 1989.
JODIE'S STORY J Grant-Thomson Anzea 1991
MATTHEW FOR TODAY M Green Hodder 1988.
SELF-ESTEEM: OVERCOMING INFERIORITY FEELINGS C G Osborne Abingdon 1986
THE HEALING OF PERSONS P Tournier Collins 1965
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