How to Heal from a Bitter and Resentful Heart
- Anne Peterson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2015 19 May
I lay in a hospital bed surrounded by new mothers. Wasn't it bad enough that I had just miscarried? Did I have to be freshly reminded of what I just lost?
In walks Pastor Jim. Will I be transparent, sharing my disappointment?
The short answer is no. Instead I wear an ill-fitted smile and white-knuckle it. After all, aren’t I a Christian who loves God? I quote him a verse or two to let him know I am fine. Except I am not fine at all. I lie.
I bundle all my hurt and disappointment together into one pile, stuffing it down inside of me.
A couple of weeks pass. My husband and I are on our way back to Chicago from Colorado where he was stationed. Maybe at home I can open up.
We’re about to take off when my husband Mike says to me, “Do me a favor? Just don’t talk about the miscarriage.”
I crumple up. I don’t feel free to talk about it at all, so I grab hold of it and stuff it down inside of me as fast as I can. Like I used to when I was a little girl.
But just because I push down my emotions doesn’t mean they stay there.
We’re in Germany now, at a fellowship gathering. The Chaplain I recently met approaches me and says, “I sense within you a rage.”
I narrow my eyes as the words seethe out, “You got that right.”
Bitterness. It’s something we’re all capable of. It’s what happens when we store our emotions instead of dealing with them. Eventually they turn into resentments. Resentments we take with us through life.
I sit with my 92 year old Aunt Jeanette. Once again she tells me the story of her sister who refused to give her the one dollar she needed to buy a pair of shoes. A story she repeated to me for most of her life.
Do I need to forgive?
With whom am I angry? Certainly not God. The one who has given me my son and so many other blessings.
But I am angry. And holding grudges is tricky, they seem to grow. When we’re upset about one thing, all the other reasons parade in front of us.
Resentments never resolve themselves.
Sometimes I am not even aware I am resentful. Joyce Meyer once said, “If you’re not certain if you have resentment, imagine the person who hurt you, walking towards you. Would you want to cross over on the other side of the street?”
The good news is, no matter how long we have harbored bitterness, it’s never too late to forgive.
Is my closet full?
Stuffed emotions are hard to sort out at times. But it is possible. One by one, I look at the offenses and try to make sense of them.
I need to make some observations as I remember past hurts. Am I getting tense? Do I want to defend myself? Are there tears?
Once I empty my closets I find I still have work to do.
If I don’t find a healthier way to relate, before long my closet will fill up again.
Am I honest with God?
God says in Ephesians 4:26 not go to bed angry. God knows how damaging it is when I keep score.
I learn I can ask for time to process hurts and then come back to them. It helps keep me from stewing. People were not made to stew.
At some point, I have to admit I am angry. Angry at God.
I once wrote the poem,
How Dare You, God
I stood before an empty sky
and shook my fist clenched tight,
I opened up my very soul,
and screamed with all my might,
How dare you, God, how dare you
take everything of mine.
While others all around me
seem so carefree most the time.
I’ve watched my loved ones disappear
from in my family,
and I can’t take it anymore,
so get away from me!
With silence all around me,
I wait for Him to leave
like others who have disappeared
when I would start grieve.
I feel his arms encircle me,
and hear Him gently say,
“I know that you’re upset with me,
but I am here to stay.”
The most important thing I learn is that God can handle my emotions. After all, he’s the one who made them.
Am I being fake?
Often I try to please others by acting the way I think they want me to act. I hide behind a mask not speaking my mind.
But if keep my mask on, no one will ever really know me.
I could have been honest with my husband when he asked me not to talk about my miscarriage. “I know you don’t want me to keep repeating this, but I need to talk about it with a couple of people to process it.”
There’s nothing wrong with admitting when I am disappointed or angry. Feelings are not right or wrong. They just are.
Do I tell myself the truth?
I remember what my Bible teacher, Lois Peterson, once told me. “Don’t let your emotions drive your train. They will always derail you.”
I need to believe what’s true.
God cares. Psalms 56:8 tells us what God does with my tears.
God loves me. When I’m hurting I don’t always feel loved, but it’s true nonetheless. Feelings cannot change the truth. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. Read Romans 8:38-39.
God’s not going anywhere. There have been times I’ve felt all alone. And yet, because I know God personally, he made me a promise in Deuteronomy 31:8.
God has never left me. When my mom died, when my dad died, and when my sister was killed. God was there when I watched my brother Gus as he was dying of pancreatic cancer four years ago and when we said goodbye to my brother Steve about two years ago.
And as I laid in that hospital bed with all those precious babies around me, God was there too.
God wants me to enjoy my relationship with him and with others. He tells me to put away bitterness in Ephesians 4:31. And I know if that’s what he wants, he will help me do it.
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker and published author of her memoir, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, and three children’s books: Emma’s Wish, The Crooked House and Lulu’s Lunch. She has also published 42 published Bible Studies and 29 articles with christianbiblestudies.com and Today’s Christian Woman. Visit her site at www.annepeterson.com, her Facebook Page, or sign up here for updates of Anne’s writing/upcoming books.
Publication date: May 19, 2015