by Aaron Weiss
When describing an ailing relationship, one of the words that gets tossed around a lot is resentment. Resentment can be described as a negative emotional response towards an event or situation when you felt mistreated or slighted by someone else. Resentment also arises somewhere down the road of envy when someone discovers that the key to their limited sense of happiness is awkwardly tethered to the misery of someone else. Resentment promises relief but delivers more pain. Resentment hollows a person out over time. To quote a great psychologist and mentor of mine, Dr. Randy Johnson; resentment needs to be addressed because “you cannot resolve what you resent.”
In an effort to serve you and briefly address what is one of the most troublesome realities when working towards repair in ailing relationships, I want to offer a helpful image for resentment so that you might reconsider your connection to resentment.
Simply put, resentment is a cage of our own creation... We fashion iron bars and thick walls made of thoughts overtime. These bars are built up by our negative feelings, hostility, bitterness, and negative self-talk. We ruminate in thoughts, like, “if only he changed, then I wouldn’t feel this way.”
Resentment embodies blame, builds in patterns of avoidance, and grows stronger through passive-aggressive behaviours. However, because resentment causes us to feel as though we are trapped unless that other person changes, gets punished, or comes to their senses, we essentially lock ourselves into our cell and throw away the keys. In fact, while locked in resentment, we throw the keys at the feet of our perpetrator, thinking, “if she really cared, she would set me free.” Or, “I will feel free when he knows what he has done.”
The painful irony of prolonged resentment is that it ultimately locks you in a dungeon of your own design from all the joys of life while setting your perpetrator free. Through resentment, we convince ourselves that we are building a prison for someone else, all the while inhabiting its walls as its prisoner.
While the initial reflex of anger towards an injustice is the appropriate emotional response, it also needs to be addressed and managed accordingly. Feelings of resentment, therefore, may be telling you that you are attempting to hold someone else accountable for their words or actions through unhealthy means. In other words, feelings of resentment may alert you to an oppressive situation that you need to remove yourself from or find appropriate means to address. To circumvent the early warning system of our anger which prompts us to pursue more constructive thoughts and actions, increases feelings of resentment. Instead of slowing down enough to see the bars and walls being built around us, we hide within them as self-destructive means to address our pain. To stretch the analogy, one might find some utility in their self-imposed cage as, albeit a miserable place, it has become both a familiar place where the perpetrator cannot reach them and is fantisfully held accountable for their crimes in the lived pains of the one imprisoned by resentment.
How are we released from resentment? At times, resentment is the result of many offenses heaped up over time. When it comes to our closest relationships, resentment may be a byproduct of “negative sentiment override.” (Gottman, 2011). Imagine wearing a pair of glasses that causes us to evaluate someone in a negative light because, after many offenses, we can no-longer see them in a positive light. Like operating in relational overdraft, we treat that person like they owe us something they refuse to pay back. In this state, resentment reigns and we begin to see our closest relationships in an adversarial way. We are up when they’re down, and down when they’re up. It’s backwards and counterproductive to resolving conflict and repairing relationships.
So, how are we released from resentment?
Here are three keys to pick up and unlock the cage of resentment: stop comparing, try gratitude, and embrace forgiveness.
How Are We Released From Resentment?
1) Stop Comparing. Theodore Rosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Resentment diminishes the sources of joy in our lives because we simply do not pay much attention to them. Comparison allows all the goodness in our lives to fade into the periphery while something else beyond our grasp occupies the whole of our attention. In a sense, this is an invitation to shift your focus onto what is life-giving. Again, if resentment is akin to locking oneself away and throwing the keys at our perpetrator’s feet, the unhealthy focus becomes one of aggravation - “don’t you see how you’re hurting me?! Why do you get to go free while I am left here to rot in my resentment?!” By stopping comparison, we begin to give our attention to that which will begin to set us free from our self made prisons instead of that which will only cause them to grow.
How Are We Released From Resentment?
2) Try Gratitude. If resentment invites us to play a zero-sum game of evaluating our successes through the knowledge of another’s loss, even the greatest gifts of our lives become unreliable sources of joy because we cannot simply enjoy them for what they are - gifts.. Gratitude is the antithesis of resentment. Gratitude serves as a 180 degree course correction to begin practicing the posture which will begin rewiring one’s focus towards appreciation that has been negatively shaped through resentment. This takes practice to see, savor, and share all that we are grateful for; but it is the sort of activity which knocks down walls one at a time.
How Are We Released From Resentment?
3) Embrace Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the act of removing or canceling a debt. Resentment can be the result of experiencing real offences and an awareness of injustices that have incurred an unpaid debt. It may sound counterintuitive to suggest releasing the other person of that debt, whether that is a relational wound or emotional cost; but, by embracing forgiveness, one begins to understand that the experience of resentment is one of paying down the debt of an injustice over time through the experience of being locked up in the cage of resentment. Forgiveness frees the forgiver from having to set the record straight. Forgiveness does not ignore injustice, but forgiveness does relinquish one’s right to be the judge. Unlike a hung-jury, the act embracing forgiveness allows those trapped by feelings of resentment to go free.
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by Carey Stevens
As Christians, prayer isn't something we seek to avoid. It's something we probably really want to do. Even so, not many are satisfied with how much time they spend in prayer. So, why is it so hard?
Here are 3 reasons, and hopefully some tips, to grow in our prayer life.
1. Praying can be boring.
If the words 'prayer' and 'boring' seem intertwined in your brain, remember that you aren't the problem but your method is. Many Christians pray the same things while praying about the same things. Being persistent in prayer isn't the issue, rather, thoughtless repetition can quickly turn into empty prayers.
Most people pray about the same 6 things: Family, future, money, work, church concerns, and a current crisis. This is totally normal. And they're good things to pray about because those things are all a part of life. Keep praying about those things! But when we pray about the same things, in the same way, of course prayer will seem boring. And that's when our desire to pray in any heartfelt or focused way decreases.
To address this, the solution isn't to add more fluff, or to use a thesaurus. Jesus warns us about that in Matthew 6:7-8:
"When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him."
Remember that prayer was designed to be simple. God calls each of His children, including actual young children, to pray! There's no magical formula or rules. It's simply talking to God.
An easy way to get out of the rut of 'boring' prayers is to pray the scriptures. If that's a new concept to you, the best place to start is the Psalms. Read through a Psalm and pray to align your heart and mind with God's, as His Spirit leads you.
Here's a quick example for Psalm 1: Ask for a greater delight in His Word. Repent of too quickly following the ways of sinners. Praise Him that He is the One who does the planting, and that He gives us all we need in order to bear good fruit.
Another simple way is to flip through some of Paul's prayers in his letters and pray along with him. There are many prayers written in the letters to the Thessalonians, Colossians, Philippians, Romans, and Ephesians. All worth the time and effort to pray along with Paul. When we do this, we will be praying in line with God's Spirit-inspired Word. In line with His will. We will realize that God's heart for us isn't as concerned with our physical comfort, but for our holiness. He has a heart for justice, rather than our ease. He will provide all we need, and with Paul we can say, " For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)
Our need isn't to be so full of physical comforts, but to be emptied of our dependence on the things of this earth, fully satisfied with Christ. When that's our focus, and when we use God's own words to pray, our prayer lives will become exciting and vibrant.
2. We like being independent.
Prayer is really an expression of dependence and that's the opposite of what a lot of us grew up valuing. Most of us like doing everything on our own, in our own strength. We fall into the trap of thinking that there's no reason to pray since we've got things all figured out on our own.
Someone who is aware of their need for forgiveness and help from God is someone who will spend time repenting, confessing and who will bow their knees before the King. Do you live in a state of rightly viewing who you are before the King? We all need the reminder that we are utterly dependent on the utterly undeserved. And that the Father, our Creator, wants to hear from you and give good gifts to you.
"God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, submit to God." (James 4:6-7)
You were made to be dependent. You were created to worship Him. And if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, knew he needed to pray, then what of us? Prayer reminds us of who we are , and who our Father is. And that leads us to our next hang up.
3. Our view of God is too small.
We are prone to think too little of who God is, what He's like and focus solely on our aspirations. We need to think on His wisdom, His glory, His power. Often when we do think about God, we only want to think about His love, without understanding our need for His holiness. If we don't, we're praying for His blessings or power, without praying for more of Him. It's like a shallow, loveless relationship, where one gives His all, and the other just asks for the credit card. Growing and knowing the King rightly, and having a big view of God will transform how we pray and make us eager to exercise the privilege of talking to the King. It's all too easy to ignore a God we don't know, or One we keep shuttered away in a dusty Bible on the shelf. Praise the Lord: Our union with Christ will never fail, he's promised that, but our communion and prayer life with him can seem distant and dreary if we keep a small and wrong view of who He is. Growing in our knowledge of God will increase our fervency to pray. When we know our God is a good and faithful Father, we will trust Him with our cares and concerns and delight to bring Him praise.
Books we recommend on the subject of prayer:
by Trevor Rysavy
Friendship is a subject I’ve thought a lot about in my lifetime. Of all of the earthly things I possess, it’s my friendships that I value the most. Here are some of the principles I have used to develop these precious gifts.
1. I invest in friendship when it doesn’t seem to matter, so I have them when it does.
Those who have complained to me about their lack of friends seem to do so only when a friend could have made a significant difference. All of my valuable friendships have been acquired the same way a rock is polished smooth; consistent activity over a long period of time. It is similar to depositing funds in a savings account. One cannot deposit funds for one month and expect to have sufficient wealth to make a dream purchase. Money must be regularly deposited over a number of weeks, months and years to provide the wealth sufficient to make large purchases. Similarly, friendships require constant ‘deposits’. Friendships that attempt large ‘withdrawals’ without ‘deposits’ suffer the same consequences as an empty bank account: the end result is ‘insufficient funds’.
2. If I want to be in my friends’ lives, I have to let them in.
Most of my close friends know how I’m feeling or doing when I am with them because I let them have insight into my good and bad times. If we share only the high points of our lives, we will attract ‘acquaintances’ or ‘followers’. If we share only our lows, we will attract ‘counsellors’. If we share both, we will have friends.
3. I don’t draw from one well.
Too many people think the waters of friendship are only best shared with one. I have found that the more friends I have, the more of my personality gets shared because one person alone is not enough to draw it all out. C.S. Lewis wrote in, ‘Four Loves’, that, ‘In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.’ Some of my friends bring out my sarcastic side, because they reward my sense of humour with laughter often. Others make me more articulate because they are more intellectually advanced than I am. Some are better at challenging me in areas of personal belief because they doubt more than I do and are good question askers. Some friends I see primarily in group settings, while others rarely experience my personality in a group setting. Each friend not only brings a different contribution to my life, but like a magnet, draw certain qualities to the surface that others would not. Having a number of different friends doesn’t dilute my experience of friendship in any way. In fact, it makes it richer. I’ve learned not to be satisfied with one great friend, but to find as many as I can. I’ve never regretted it.
4. If I want more friends, I meet more needs.
Too many people pursue servants rather than friends. The cultural mantras of the day encourage us to seek friends for what we can receive rather than telling people to find friends to serve. In this way, friends are one of the primary opportunities for us to obey the ‘one another’ commands that we see in the Bible. What we may not realize however, is that these commands are ‘rigged’ with the side benefit of developing friends in the process. Millions of friendships have begun by helping an acquaintance build a fence, run an errand, shingle a roof or finish a project. If we lack the friendships we are looking for, we should take an inventory of the needs of those we would like deeper friendships from. Then, we should meet those needs as best as we can. Meeting a need may lead to your next greatest friend.
5. I assume that my friendships will inconvenience me.
None of my friends have moved when I had extra hours to spare. Few of the important conversations I’ve had with my friends have ever come at a time when there was nothing better to do. I once asked a man who was part of a motorcycle club what the attraction was to being part of such a community. He explained that a primary attraction was, at any given moment, any member could call on his brothers and they would drop what they were doing to attend to his needs if necessary. Sounds attractive to me! Imagine if all our friendships operated under a similar code. We all want friendships like this when we need our vehicle boosted in minus 30-degree weather or need our children picked up from school and we can’t leave our meeting at work. If you made a list of all the people you trusted who would never question an inconvenient favour in your dire need, that would likely be a list of your closest friends.
6. I swallow my pride to gain real friends.
True friends are not too afraid to admit their need for others to battle loneliness, sin or a variety of other troubles that we experience regularly. James 4:6 says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’. You could almost say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives friendship to the humble.’ While it is true that pride will thwart almost anything, it is especially true that it prevents deep friendship. Pride can prevent you from asking for counsel when you really need it and can also prevent you from taking it seriously when it is given. It can prevent you from requesting prayer and from sharing your weaknesses. As love covers a multitude of sins, so pride prevents a multitude of friendships.
7. I make sure there is no conversation that is off limits.
One of my best friends commented recently that he was grateful that, ‘no conversation is off limits.’ What struck me about his comment was not only that I value that as well, but that it also was a determiner of the depth of my friendships. True friends are not afraid to ask what I think and are even less afraid of my answers. Those closest to me ask about my marriage, my sin and whether or not I actually like country music for real. I tell my friends what makes me angry and what prayers have not yet been answered. I’ve rode in silence because my friends have my permission not to have ‘their best self’ when we’re together. I have never regretted it. A real friend needs to know they can cross a boundary without trespassing the friendship. If your friendships have sharp boundaries around humour, opinion, doubt and issues of the heart, then it might be time to find some deeper friendships.
8. I have friends because I work at being one.
Too many times I have heard a person complain that they ‘just need more friends’. It is similar to a speaker who complains about having no listeners. People don’t listen to someone who doesn’t offer much in what they say, and people who are terrible friends rarely have them. My experience has always taught me that those who have friends know how to be friends. Many times, the starting point for developing friendships is to ask the question, ‘What would I want in a friend?’ The second step is then to start acting like the friend that we want. As people who are more assimilated into the culture than we care to admit, we are used to blaming others for the lack of true friends. If we are the kind of friend worth having, then over time we will have exactly that, friends.
9. God wanted friends not servants.
The gospel tells us that God sent Jesus as a sacrifice so He could reconcile friendship with the people He created. Jesus said as much. ‘I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.’ (John 15:5) Jesus’ greatest treasure is the relationship with His Father and He wanted us to experience everything that was His. He wanted it so badly for us that He was willing to give up His life in order that we would possess the most important thing to Him. Not only did He purchase back our friendship, but He showed us what true friends are like in the process. If we look at this pattern, we see a perfect pattern for developing friendships. He listens even when He disagrees with us. He initiates. He’s generous with His time and His resources. He’s gentle when we need kid gloves and firm when we need discipline. He says the hard things softly and the soft things repeatedly. He endlessly forgives. He kindly reminds us that He loves us and shares our burdens when no one else will. He prays for us. He never fails. We could have easily been made his slaves. In fact, we should have. Instead, He chose to make us His friends. Never forget that as much as you may desire or need friends, you can never do better than Jesus. He’ll be your best friend for life, and even your afterlife. It doesn’t get any better than this.
1 C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. 1960, p. 92
by Aaron Weiss
The gathered church is a culmination of biblical instructions, cultural expressions, local preferences, and faithful traditions that can be helpful while also being problematic to who and what the church is supposed to be all about. Despite moving towards an increasingly post-christian culture, the concept of church still carries with it a fair amount of baggage and misconceptions. For many, the church is that old building grandma went to on Sundays and hosts community events during the week. If it’s not a building, the church is seen as an institution for others who recall fundraising campaigns to pave expansive parking lots and who knows what else. To others, the church has ecumenical baggage - representing a sort of top-down authority to keep people morally in line.
The original Greek word assigned to the church was ekklesia, which translates as an assembly or gathering. Not a building. Not an institution. Not an ethereal authority. For the New Testament, the church is represented as both the local gathering of Christian believers as well as a reference to a broader group of believers within a city, region, or throughout time. The church is a people who have come together in common faith and common purpose - to praise and honor Jesus. Understanding this is crucial to understanding who the church is ultimately for and disbanding the misconceptions which cripple the effectiveness of its community.
Here are a few of those misconceptions and their remedy.
The church is for you.
This is a timely word for a consumerist society which has wrongly made the experience of church a consumeristic one. Consider how fortunate and oblivious we’ve become to embrace the phrase “church shopping” in comparison to the first century church?! Our attendance and financial support to the gathering of our choosing has propagated an incorrect perception that the church is meant to satisfy me…
As a follower of Jesus, the church is not meant for you - you are meant for the church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul refers to the church like a body functioning as a whole with many parts. No individual part can stand alone and hold its value. What good is an eye if it cannot share its seeing with the body? What joy is there in the body when the eye shares its sight? Believer, you are made for the body of Christ.
The church is for others.
This promotes an evangelistic bent that has merit while still missing the mark. For decades, this perspective has produced various forms of attractional methods intended to draw outsiders inside. Albeit well-intentioned, the aim of the church is not to make church more approachable or palatable to outsiders. If our first point describes an individual consumerist mentality, this poses a communal consumerism prompting the problematic question amongst believers, “how do we make church more enticing to unchurched people?” At times, the church functions like a bad cable provider offering free TV’s for first-time customers while virtually ignoring its long term customers for the sake of being “relevant” and “missional.” This may be an acceptable business model for some, but the church is not a business…
The church is not built with unbelieving attendees, it is built upon believers who have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to God’s marvellous light. That doesn’t mean that onlookers cannot watch from the shadows, but we cannot suggest that this advances or grows the church. The mission of the church is to be a light in the darkness which is rendered less-effective when we utilize spiritual dimmer switches to tone down the brilliance of Christ at work in his people.
The church is for everybody.
This misconception feeds upon a desire to be inclusive that wants to say there ought to be a little bit of something for everyone in church. This misconception totes balance - just enough bible for the bible-thumpers, visible tattoos for the next generation attendees, and religiously nondescript community groups for everybody else. When everybody is happy, everybody wins…
The church is not for us, the church is meant for Jesus. Scripture refers to the church as the bride of Christ - the church is for him. No-one attends a wedding and sees the bride, thinking, “it was nice of her to dress up for me… for others… for everybody else…” No, the bride is for her groom. Our gathering is for Jesus. Our going is for Jesus. Our growth is for Jesus. Why? Because the bride is for the groom as the groom is for his bride. The church is for Jesus because Jesus is for his church!
The next time you gather, put aside these misconceptions for the remedy that makes being part of the church as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day - the church is for Jesus because Jesus is most clearly and definitely for his church.