RELATIONSHIPS: Winning Over Resentment

We’re on the home stretch of our ELEVATE series. How has it been to evaluate your VISION, your INTEGRITY, your FAITH, your MONEY and your GODLINESS? As I evaluate my own life in these areas, I’ll tell you what I know to be true – God blesses obedience. Evaluating these areas has caused me to ask, “How can I position myself for God’s blessing by being a more obedient servant?” How about you? What have you learned about God during this time of evaluation? What have you learned about yourself?

The next self-assessment on our journey through Joseph’s life brings us to the topic of RELATIONSHIPS. Getting good at relationships isn’t brain surgery. In fact, it may be harder! Kidding aside, the key to good relationships is not a mystery; it can be understood, specific, and clear. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of what Joseph assessed to be important with regard to relationships:

  • Build boundaries.
    • Joseph needed to figure things out and determine where to draw the line regarding Potiphar’s wife.
  • Beat bitterness.
    • Joseph’s brothers beat him and sold him into slavery. Many people become bound by bitterness for far less.
  • Avoid anger.
    • Don’t fall into the anger trap. Remember that what people mean for evil, God can – and does – use for good.
  • Resist resentment.
    • Joseph could have become resentful toward the cup-bearer for reasons including rejection, disrespect, being forgotten, overlooked, minimized… But he chose not to.
  • Repeat respect.
    • Despite the awful way he was treated, Joseph consistently showed respect: to Potiphar (and his wife!), Pharaoh, the baker and cup-bearer, his brothers, and the list goes on.
  • Convey care.
    • Joseph showed concern for the people around him, rather than focusing on what ills had been perpetrated on him: the prison guards and his fellow prisoners, the people of Egypt, where he ended up enslaved, the people of Israel, and many others. He showed compassion, concern and care for others and their needs.

Understanding how to have good relationships is the easy part. Putting what we understand into practice becomes the hard part. Thankfully, that is where we can – and must – rely on the Lord to help us. Make it your daily prayer. Seriously. Have a daily quiet time where you “lock in with the Lord” and work through some stuff in prayer. Too often our prayers are a bit mindless or done on the fly. What about locking in with the Lord and working on a checklist of items that you want Him to help overhaul in your life? Try it. I know you’ll be pleased with the results.

The relational quality that stands out the most to me in the life of Joseph is forgiveness. That is the key to overcoming resentment. Let’s be honest, forgiveness can be hard. Joseph was good at it and he is our example. Jesus was great at it and He is our Lord. If you can’t get on top of resentment and forgive, you lose. You die on the inside. You don’t beat it, it will beat you – and it will beat you down. It will dominate your mind and spirit and life, and it will ruin you. Corrie Ten Boom, whose family was imprisoned in concentration camps during WWII, said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.” Like Joseph, she had plenty of reasons to be bitter and resentful, but she saw the value and freedom in choosing forgiveness.

We need to get good at forgiveness. Joseph was very good at it. We see it in his life and we know it to be true in our own lives that forgiveness is important in all of our relationships. We need to forgive at home, in our extended families, at school, at work, at church, in our neighborhoods. And what’s the opposite of forgiveness? Resentment. Using Joseph as a guideline, let’s look at 3 keys to ELEVATE above resentment.

Resentment is REAL: It must be confronted.

  • Life will throw more than one experience your way that will cause you to be resentful. Consider Joseph:
    • Genesis 37:20 — His brothers decide to kill him.
    • Genesis 37:24 — They threw him into a cistern instead.
    • Genesis 37:28 — Then they sold him for 20 shekels of silver.
    • Genesis 39:17,18 — He was falsely accused.
    • Genesis 39:20 — After being falsely accused, he was thrown in prison.
    • Genesis 40:23 — Then he was forgotten in prison.
  • Joseph could have been resentful toward:
    • His father — Why did you show favoritism and alienate me among my brothers?
    • His brothers — Why did you throw me in a pit, threaten to kill me, and then sell me into slavery?
    • His slave-owner, Potiphar — Why should I be forced to work for nothing?
    • Potiphar’s wife — Why did you falsely accuse me when I did nothing wrong?
    • The prison guards and his fellow prisoners — Why am I here? I’m not like you.
    • The cup-bearer — Why did you forget me?
    • At God — Where are you?
    • At life — Why does everything have to be so unfair?
  • How about you? Are you facing potentially resentful situations with:
    • A spouse — Have they said or done hurtful things? Have they been unfaithful? Messed up on finances? Do they not make enough time? Are there communication issues? Respect issues?
    • An ex-spouse — Are you dealing with messy divorce proceedings? Custody battles? Financial battles?
    • A business partner — Did they rip you off?
    • A family member — Has someone close to you been very cruel and mean?
    • A promise that was stolen or ruined?
  • Resentment is real. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had the opportunity to become resentful. But left unchecked, resentment can:
    • Ruin relationships, wreck homes and families, destroy lives and derail future dreams.
  • Resentment is a toxin that poisons your joy, hope, outlook and your ability to get on with your life.
  • Resentment runs deep and permeates your whole life. And Satan wants to use it to destroy you!
    • He wants to take your joy, your hope, your future.
    • Resentment is Satan’s tool. It is his playground and he wants you to play there forever, wallowing in your pain, self-pity, anger, rage, hatred.
    • Resentment is a toxicity that will kill you…literally. It causes ulcers, high stress, migraines, mental illness.
    • Satan wants you to live there — but you have a choice!

Resentment is a CHOICE: Choose against resentment and bitterness.

  • You have a choice to live in resentment or to overcome; this is a choice that only you can make. It’s what I call a Decision Moment:
    • Am I going to stay in the pit of resentment or get out?
    • Am I going to stay in the prison of resentment or get out?
    • Am I going to stay in the chains of my pain of being falsely accused or break free?
    • Am I going to stay in the grip of my brother’s rejection, hatred, and injustice or am I going to get on top of it and overcome it?
  • You have a choice. I have a choice. Joseph had a choice. Jesus had a choice.
    • What are you dealing with right now? Who has wronged you? How is it affecting you?
    • Why do you think you can’t get over it? What are you going to do about it? Are you sure you want to stay where you are?
  • Resentment is a toxicity, but you can get clean, be healed, overcome, and be victorious over your pain and anger and bitterness!
    • You can win over resentment but you must choose to do so.
  • It’s Decision Time.
    • You need a Decision Moment where you say “Hey, I’m not staying here. I’m not going to let Satan use this tool of resentment against me. It is only hurting me. It is paralyzing me. It is imprisoning me. I want a future and a hope. I want to be free from this!”
    • Joseph had a choice. He said, “I’m not going to be beaten by resentment. I’m not going there and I’m certainly not going to stay there.” So what did he do? He literally and figuratively:
      • Climbed out of the pit.
      • Got out from behind the prison bars.
      • Left his bad feelings of how he had been mistreated behind.
      • Looked ahead.
  • Dale Carnegie wrote a book entitled “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” In the book he shared a story about two men in prison: “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw stars.”
    • Sometimes we need God to help us when we are in the mud — to lift our eyes and see stars. To see a future. To find hope in Him and through Him!
    • Joseph said “I’m in prison now but I’m not staying here. I’m leaving my prison.”
  • How about you? It is time to leave your prison:
    • Physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally, financially, emotionally?

Resentment can be BEAT: Trust God to help you overcome/forgive.

  • There is only one doorway to freedom and joy: Forgiveness.
  • Joseph emulated forgiveness, even after 21 years!
    • Genesis 42:8 — Joseph recognized his brothers.
    • Genesis 42:24 — He turned away and wept.
    • Genesis 43:30 — He was deeply moved at the sight of his brothers. He hurried out and looked for a place to weep…
    • Genesis 44:2 — He put silver in Benjamin’s sack of grain then accosted them and accused them of thievery.
    • Genesis 45:1-2 — Joseph broke down weeping and finally told them who he was.
    • Genesis 45:14 — Joseph threw his arms around Benjamin and wept and kissed all of his brothers.
    • Genesis 50:20 — Joseph was able to see the big picture: “What you meant for evil, God turned into good.”
  • Joseph could have stayed imprisoned in his pain and become an extremely resentful man. You could certainly understand it.
    • He had been mistreated, unjustly minimized. He had been the target of hatred and treated with a total disregard to His personal well-being.
  • Joseph chose forgiveness.
    • He saw the big picture and said “God is not finished with me. God is bigger than this. And God can make me better than this.”
  • Forgiveness will set you free.
    • When you forgive, you choose to no longer keep score.
    • You are free and you set others free.
  • To forgive is to be like Jesus.     
    • Luke 23:34 (“Father, forgive them…”)
  • You must forgive if you want to be forgiven.
    • Matthew 6:12-15
  • Forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you.
    • Colossians 3:13,14
  • Joseph did not let his personal pain and resentment hold him down. He pressed through it and beat it by forgiving.
    • As a result of Joseph choosing forgiveness, God’s purpose for Joseph’s life was fulfilled and God’s people (Israel) were saved.

HOW TO FORGIVE

We see these in Joseph’s example and in Jesus and throughout scripture.

  • Believe in Jesus and aim to obey Him in all things.
    • I John 2:3-6
    • Matthew 18:21-35
    • Matt 6:9-13; 14-15
  • Trust in the Lord to meet all your needs.
    • Proverbs 3:5-8
    • Philippians 4:13, 19
  • Pray and receive God’s peace.
    • Philippians 4:6-8
  • Realize how resentment imprisons you – and not the other person.
    • Romans 12:17-21
  • Focus on the future and not the past.
    • Philippians 3:13-14
  • Become bigger and better, not bitter.
    • James 1:2-4
  • Know that God is more than sufficient to help us in all we experience.
    • Psalm 46:1-11
  • Give it to God and be free.
    • I Peter 5:7
  • Live a life of love.
    • John 15:12-13
    • John 13:34-35
    • I Corinthians 13

My prayer for you this week, for all of us, is that we live in freedom as we choose to lay bitterness and resentment aside and win over resentment. I pray that we walk in the forgiveness that comes with salvation, and with the freedom that comes in extending that same forgiveness in all of our relationships.