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Is Resentment Stealing Your Joy of Living?

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Posted: 3/15/16 at 12:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

Do you remember the Smothers Brothers? They became famous for their comedic routines, often emphasizing sibling rivalry. Tommy was always saying to his older brother Dick, that “Mom always loved you best.” It usually brought a laugh, because it struck a chord deep in the hearts of many viewers, who felt similar feelings.

Many of us live with the smoldering embers of resentment inside us.  It is echoed in the statement: “It’s not fair…” It’s not fair that I have worked so hard and have so little to show for it. It’s not fair that someone else got the promotion I should have gotten. It’s not fair that others are healthy and I am not.

Resentment is a smoldering anger that robs us of joy.

Resentment is a smoldering anger that robs us of joy. A resentful person is rarely happy. Often they turn down the opportunity to be happy in order to show “them” that I can live without “them.” Where does this resentment originate?

I know a person whose father’s life was full of anger and resentment towards God. Some of his anger originated with rejection he felt as a child. Some came from experiences he had after leaving home at a very young age.

This young man worked hard and eventually did quite well for himself financially. He had a new car, fancy clothes, and lots of “friends” who loved to spend time with him because he shared his bounty partying with his friends.

Then the Great Depression hit, and the man lost “the good life” that he had lived. He survived those years, but came out of them with a deep anger and ongoing resentment toward God for his misfortune. During my years of ministry, I have seen this kind of resentment in the lives of many people.

This is not just something that happens in our modern culture. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a father who had two sons. The older son was a man who lived his life to please his father and dutifully did whatever his father asked him to do.

The father also had a younger son, who decided that he had had enough of living at home with the family. The world was calling him. He demanded that the father give him all of his future inheritance right away. The younger son then took the money and left the father, family, and farm. He went out to spend all his money on parties and fun.

He gathered many “friends” who came to help him consume all his money and possessions. But when the party supplies ran out, so did the friends, leaving the young man friendless and penniless. He worked at menial and degrading jobs, and life became very hard.

At this point the younger brother came to his senses. He realized that his father was a pretty good guy after all, for even the farmhands on his dad’s property lived better than he now did. He decided to go home, admit he had made a grave mistake, ask his father for forgiveness, and ask to work as a farmhand.

In the meantime, the father was daily watching the road, hoping to see his son coming home. When he saw his son approaching, the father ran to meet him, and then threw a big welcome home party. There was great joy, music, and feasting.

When the elder son discovered that a party celebrating his brother’s return was in full swing, he became furious. The father came out to try to get him to come in and celebrate. The brother refused to enter the house, complaining that the father had never even killed a goat for a feast for him and his friends.

Then the zinger comes in Luke 15:30 (NLT): “Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!”

Resentment isolates one from the joy of life, from meaningful relationships, from being happy in the present, and from being hopeful for the future. Ridding ourselves of resentment begins by recognizing that we are resentful and that it is squashing the joy from our lives. Once aware of it, we need to ask God to remove our anger and resentment, and replace it with contentment and joy.

Celebration of life is just one decision away. Be thankful that God loves you unconditionally, will continue to do so.  Give up your resentment, and celebrate the joy of life!

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.