HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE – Part 2 (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on October 14, 2017)

How to handle toxic people - Abidan ShahMy last article, “How To Handle Toxic People,” drew more responses than any of my pervious articles! Evidently, it touched a nerve and God used it to meet a real need. Thank you for all the words of appreciation! Some of you raised a question that I feel the answer may benefit others as well – “Daily we go through minor toxic encounters that leave us feeling upset to one degree or another. Does that mean that for each of those incidents we have to go through the same process of praying for 20 days until we are free of the toxin?” Of course not. Toxic people and minor toxic encounters are two different things. The first are individuals who perpetually cause us to feel miserable and the second are chance happenings that inject just enough toxin in us to ruin our spirit. Although the latter are not as harmful as the former, don’t assume that they are completely harmless. If left untreated, those emotional fender-benders can cause us to ruin others’ spirits as well. Let me explain below.

Imagine several scenarios: a kid at the drive-thru messes up your order; someone cuts you off on the freeway; someone fails to thank you for your hard work on some project; and you wave at a friend who doesn’t wave back with the same energy. Or, how about the big one: You put a post on Facebook that you think should go viral and only 3 people like it…What do you do next? Each of those encounters have the potential to initiate an unhealthy conversation within you. For the kid at the drive-thru: “Kids these days are so disrespectful.” For the person who cut you off: “I hope he/she gets caught.” For the friend who didn’t seem that excited to see you: “I’m looking the other way next time.” For those who failed to appreciate your hard work: “I am not appreciated.” And yes, for Facebook, one of those: “If you are my true friend, you’ll comment below and repost.” Such negative self-talk will surely ruin your attitude and keep you from living up to your potential. Unfortunately, such unhealthy conversations don’t stay locked inside for long. Sooner or later they spill over on to the unsuspecting individuals in your lives. In other words, your quest for justice will not rest until someone is convicted, sentenced, or punished. Since you cannot prosecute the original perpetrators, you will substitute those innocent, weak, and docile individuals in your life. Your kids, your husband, your wife, your church family, your neighbor, and your best friend will pay for a crime they did not commit.

What is the solution? First, recognize when your spiritual equilibrium has been disturbed. In other words, acknowledge the gnawing feeling that some wrong may have been committed against you. Second, immediately take charge of your internal conversation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us that we should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” A runaway thought is like a runaway train. There will be casualties. Third, refrain from judging the motives of others. 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” Ultimately, only God knows the true intents of each human heart. Fourth, pray for that individual. Nothing will neutralize hate and anger faster than sincere prayer. Follow the example of our Savior: Luke 23:34 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Don’t misunderstand. There may be situations where more than prayer is called for but there’s a big difference between restitution and retaliation. Fifth, practice the lost art of the unsent angry letter. Abraham Lincoln would often write his “hot letter” but postpone sending it until he had cooled down. He never sent most of them.

 

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

When God Forgives by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD FORGIVES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodforgivesIntroduction: We have reached the 6th message in this series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today’s message is titled “When God Forgives.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This is probably the hardest line in the Lord’s Prayer, if not the whole Bible. “God – show me the same mercy that I show others.” Just when we are tempted to justify and rationalize our bitterness, resentment, grudge, and spite against someone, Jesus comes back with a P.S. (Post script) in 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Why did Jesus feel that it was necessary to add this comment? Because Jesus knew the human heart. He knew that this petition would be ignored, compromised, altered, and, flat out, disobeyed. R.T. Kendall said – “this petition has made liars out of more people than any document in human history!”

Here are some questions: Is there unforgiveness in your heart? Who in your life deserves to pay for what they’ve done to you? Do you understand the forgiveness that has come to you through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? It is hard as it is to forgive others as a Christian, but it’s so much harder to forgive when you haven’t received God’s grace.

2 things we will consider in this message on forgiveness and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will fill your heart with forgiveness – from God and towards others.

I. THE DEBT OF SIN 

12 “And forgive us our debts…”

Background: What is interesting is that when we look at the parallel passage in Luke 11:4 on the Lord’s Prayer, it says, “And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Here we find the words sin and debt used interchangeably. To complicate matters, the P.S. in Matthew 6 says, 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Here we find another Greek word used for sin. Some of you may be thinking – “I don’t care about any of this. Just preach to me on forgiveness.” These things matter because when our young people go off to their colleges, these things are thrown into their faces and they’re told – “your Bible has contradictions. How do you know what Jesus really said?” We have an obligation to give them solid answers so that their faith may not be shaken.

So what’s the answer? Keep in mind that Jesus preached in Aramaic and more than likely He used the Aramaic term “hob,” which can be translated as both debt and sin. Matthew is directed more towards the Jewish people, who understand sin as debt but Luke is towards the Greek audience who don’t have the same understanding of sin.

Why would sin as debt connect with the Jewish people? When we study the concept of sin in the Bible, we find some powerful metaphors. In early times, sin was described as a stain that had to be washed. If you remember the prayer of David in Psalm 51:2 “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.” Then there was the idea of sin as a burden that had to be lifted. Again, David writes in Psalm 38:4 “For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” There are many more but these are the two main ones. By the time of Jesus, another metaphor had become prominent – sin was being referred to as a debt that had to be paid back. Where did this come from? You see it all over the book of Isaiah. If you remember, the people of Judah had rebelled against God. You could say that they had become spiritually bankrupt and God offered them a deal. Isaiah 1   18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword…” What was their answer? No deal. We’ll be fine. God sent the Babylonians against them who dragged them into exile and they lost their land, Jerusalem, and the temple. Now they were in debtor’s prison.

But God showed Isaiah the future and said in 40:2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” Meaning: God not only retrieved His sin debt from His people but He charged them two-fold. That seems so unfair! Why would God make them pay double for their sins? He didn’t. By the way, can we pay for our sins? No. They were disciplined for their sins but they didn’t pay for their sin. Who did? Isaiah 53   4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. Here’s the point: The Jewish people didn’t pay their debt but the Messiah would one day. What could they do? Isaiah 55   1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” The Jewish people knew that they were feeding on God’s nourishment at the Messiah’s expense. I’m not suggesting that all of them realized that but they were supposed to. Isn’t it beautiful how Jesus picks up on this very imagery and reminds them that their very existence was by the grace of God?!

Here’s the point: Sin is a debt that none of us can repay. It cannot be written off because that would compromise the holiness of God. Someone had to pay it and that someone was Jesus. Like that old song – “He paid a debt He did not owe. I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song Amazing Grace Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.”

Application: Has your sin debt been wiped clean? Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Have you received the gift of God? Do you realize what Christ went through to pay your debt of sin?

II. THE CANCELLATION OF DEBTS 

12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Background: While the first part of the petition has zero problems, the second part – “as we forgive our debtors” or as Luke puts it “For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” – this is where the problem comes in. Is Jesus implying that our forgiveness from God is contingent/dependent on our forgiveness of others? Just when we try to move along to the next topic, Jesus drags us back in with the P.S. – 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Does this mean that we have to forgive others before we can receive God’s forgiveness?” “Will God hold back his forgiveness towards us until we forgive others?” Typically, conservative scholars and commentators try to make sure that we don’t make forgiveness of others a condition to receive God’s forgiveness because that would remove grace out of the picture and make salvation “work-based.” So, they do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to prove that Jesus didn’t really mean what He said.

What did Jesus mean? To understand what Jesus meant we have to understand the context in which He said those words. To start with, the idea that God’s forgiveness for us is somehow connected to our forgiveness for others was nothing new among the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. In fact, a Jewish wise man, scribe named Ben Sira wrote two centuries before Christ – “If you forgive someone who has wronged you, your sins will be forgiven when you pray. You cannot expect the Lord to pardon you while you are holding a grudge against someone else.” The Jewish people didn’t have a problem with what Jesus said because it was not about eternal forgiveness but temporal. It was not about judicial forgiveness but relational.

Agriculture in Israel1

Agriculture in Israel1 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Agriculture in Israel2

Agriculture in Israel2 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

To understand this we need to maintain the debt metaphor that Jesus used. Most of the Jewish people at the time were under heavy debt. They could not survive without borrowing money at high interest rates. If there was a bad harvest, drought, illness, death, it was pretty much over. To make matters worse, the creditor could change the terms and it would become even worse. God in His word had established certain restrictions on usury. Exodus 22   25 “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. 26 If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. So also, God had instituted the Year of the Jubilee, every 49th or 50th year. Leviticus 25   13 “In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession. Meaning: You have someone’s land because they couldn’t pay. You made a lot of money out of that but now return it so that family can have a chance to stand again. 14 And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another… Meaning: You still have your wealth. Your family can buy more but don’t be mean.

Bottom line: You have to forgive their debt:

  • Regardless of how you feel
  • Regardless of whether or not they’ve asked you to
  • Regardless of how much they owe you
  • Regardless of how much you had planned on doing with what they owed you
Agriculture in Israel3

Agriculture in Israel3 (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

What if you refuse to forgive their debt? 17 …but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God. 18 “So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety. If you refuse to forgive their debt –

  • You will not dwell in the land in safety
  • The land will not yield its fruit
  • You will not eat your fill
  • And you will not dwell their in safety

Here’s the point: This petition is not about going to heaven. That has been covered under our judicial forgiveness. This petition is about how you live on earth. It has to do with relational forgiveness. This has to do with God’s blessing in your life. If you refuse to show mercy to others in this life, God will not show mercy to you in this life.

Whose debt do you need to cancel today? Who has failed to pay up to you?

This is so hard because we judge ourselves by our motives and others by their actions.

By the way, you don’t have to go far to find these people. They are right around you.

Let me warn you – it matters how you cancel their debts. Don’t go and tell people – “I forgive you” – unless they need to hear that. Most of the times when people do that, they are using forgiveness as a club.

Jesus gave the best demonstration of debt cancellation on the cross. Luke 23 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

Loving the Unlovables – Part Two

LOVING THE UNLOVABLES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
unlovables2

Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our message – “Loving the Unlovables.” It’s easy to love people who love us. It’s easy to love people who are just like us. But, it’s very difficult to love people who hate us and want to hurt us. If I may say it, it’s impossible to love them without the love of Christ in our hearts.

Matthew 5   43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Overall Background: The passage we just read is the crescendo of the Sermon on the Mount. R.T. Kendall, a famous Bible teacher and one time pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, said (I’m paraphrasing), “If the Sermon on the Mount is the Swiss Alps (beautiful and majestic mountain ranges in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France) of the Bible, then the passage we just read is the Matterhorn or the highest peak in the Swiss Alps.” The other passages are important but this one is the most difficult of all. Listen again to verse 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies…” It goes totally against our visceral nature, our natural human tendency. Let me repeat what I said earlier – “It’s easy to love people who love us, but it’s very hard to love people, be kind to people, do good to people who do not love us or hate us, or even want to hurt us. Our natural inclination is to payback, to fire back, or to return hate for hate.”

Question: Who comes to your mind right now? Is there someone in your life who is difficult to love? Do they seem to bring out the worst in you? Do you wish that if this person were not in your life, it would be so much better? Again, please don’t misunderstand – this passage is not about bombing terrorist hideouts and fighting back when someone threatens your life, family, or country. This passage is about loving people who are difficult to love. The Holy Spirit has brought you here for a reason. Are you saved? If not, you are an enemy of God. Christ came to reconcile you.

3 questions we will try to answer from this passage on how to love the unlovables:

I. WHO CAN BE OUR ENEMY?

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies…”

Background: First, who is our neighbor? According to Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Neighbor was anyone who was part of the family of Israel. You were obligated to love them. Enemy was anyone who was not part of the family of Israel. They were outside your blood family or religious family. In other words, you’re not going to see them at family reunions or church service. You are connected to them because of some obligation or need or some situation. You may see them at work, neighborhood, or community but other than that you have no bond with them.

Let me clarify – not everyone who is not blood family or church family is necessarily our enemy. There are people we come across with daily that we get along with. Here’s a positive example: In our flight from New York to Tel Aviv, we got stuck because of the snow. When you are around the same group of people in the same situation for an extended period of time, you develop a bond. I sat next to an orthodox Jewish man and we talked and laughed and got along well. It was positive. But here’s a negative example: On our way back from New York to RDU, our flight was delayed about 7 hours because of the snow. Finally, when we got on board, the airhostess had a very bad attitude. She had a scowl on her face and she snapped at everything and everyone. If I’m not wrong she even called me a name under her breath. She was the enemy. I had no obligation to her. I didn’t want anything from her. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane and get away from her and even report her.

By the way, on a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a 2. But, the enemy could be much worse. A 10 is someone who wants to kill you. Hopefully none of us have any 10s in our lives! When Jesus said those words I can almost visualize hands going up – “Do you mean that I have to love these Romans who desecrate our holy ground, who kill our people, who control our lives?” “Do you mean that I need to love these filthy Samaritans who harassed our ancestors, who don’t believe like we believe?” “Do you mean that I need to love these immoral tax collectors and prostitutes who corrupt our culture, who have no regard for God?” You can almost visualize the crowd thinning out. “I can’t do that. That’s too much. No one can do that.”

Question: Who comes to mind right now? Who do you wish was not in your life? Is it a neighbor, co-worker, someone you came across at the grocery store. Is it because you come from a different cultural, geographical, political, or theological background? Is it because you have different skin pigmentation? Is it because they are envious over your looks? Is it because they are envious over why you keep getting blessed and they don’t? “Why do you have a better life, better education, better job, better home, or a better car? Why does it always work out for you and not for them?” Let me flip that around – Whose enemy are you? Who considers you as a thorn in their side? Both situations are just as sinful – to have an enemy or to be an enemy.

II. HOW SHOULD GOD’S CHILDREN RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES?

44 But I say to you, love your enemies…

Background: How do people typically respond to their enemies? Our basic response to our enemies is to retreat – just get away from them. Just like I felt towards that airhostess. I couldn’t wait to get off the plane. Sometimes people just try to repress it. Or sometimes it is retaliation. We want to give them exactly what they give us. If they curse us, we want to curse them back. If they hate us, we want to hate them back. If they spitefully use us and persecute us, we want to do the same to them. Sometimes we even apologize but it is false reconciliation. I like to call it “disguised retaliation.” You apologize to someone but add something like this – “I’m sorry for whatever I did to you.” It’s another way of saying – “You are being over sensitive.” Or, like this man who sent me an email – “I just want to tell you that I have forgiven you for all the hurt you caused me.” Then he threw in a couple of verses, preaching to me. The problem is that this man was still angry over a decision I had to make against him. He was still retaliating. I was still his enemy and he was paying me back. The only time you ever say “I forgive you” to someone is if they need to hear that from you.

So how should we respond to our enemies? Listen to what Jesus said – 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”

In other words, you cannot ignore them, avoid them, argue with them, gossip against them, or use disguised retaliation against them. You show real, genuine, godly love towards your enemy by blessing them instead of cursing them, doing good to them instead of hating them, and praying for them instead of spitefully using and persecuting them. That’s easier said than done!

Who is your model? Your Father in heaven! Listen to verse 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Meaning: God is not just a holy God but He’s also gracious. We are to be like Him.

Application: How do you respond to your enemies? Ironically, I was on this passage when this airhostess was being rude. The Holy Spirit convicted me and reminded me to put this into practice. It was hard. First, I had to pray for her. Next, He told me to speak to her on the way out.

III. WHY DOES IT MATTER HOW WE RESPOND TO OUR ENEMIES? 

48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Background: The Greek word for perfect is “teleios.” Some people argue for sinless perfection but that’s not the meaning here. In fact, James 3:2 counters this very well – “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” In other words, “We all sin but if anyone can avoid sinning by words, he is a perfect man.” The meaning of the word “teleios” is also mature. What Jesus is saying is that when you begin to love your enemies instead of hating them, bless them instead of cursing them, and pray for them instead of paying them back, you will be like your Father in heaven and be more spiritually mature.

The airhostess was being immature but it was up to me to prove my pedigree. Will I be just like her or will I be truly spiritually mature and prove that God is my Father. The plane landed and the Holy Spirit told me once again to speak to her. So I turned around with a genuine smile and asked her if she’ll be able to make it home. She replied – “I can’t. This one-day trip has turned into a five-day trip. Now, I’m looking for someone to watch my kids.” I wished her well. Thank goodness for this passage or I was planning on reporting her. I’ve been praying for her ever since.

Sometimes things are not that easy. Some years back an individual broke my trust and went on a rampage against me, talked trash about me, and just hurt me. For a long while I was carrying this heavy load. It affected my personal life and spiritual life. One day I was talking to a friend of mine and he told me if I want to be set free from this. I said – “Of course I do.” Then pray for him. “Of course I do. I pray that God will convict him and lead him to repentance and all that.” He said that’s not what he was talking about. “Pray that God will bless him.” It’ll be hard but that’s the only answer. I tried it and guess what it worked! It took 3-4 weeks.

This is what Jesus did on the cross. He prayed Luke 24:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” G. Campbell Morgan once remarked that he expects to see in heaven the very men who nailed Jesus to the cross. After all, Jesus prayed for their forgiveness.

Invitation: Whom do you need to pray for today? Could it be that you are blessed because your enemy has actually prayed for you? Are you saved?

Taking Resentment Out of Marriage

TAKING RESENTMENT OUT OF MARRIAGE – Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

This morning we are in part 2 of the miniseries HEALING MARRIAGES and our message is titled – TAKING RESENTMENT OUT OF MARRIAGE.

Matthew 5   31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Overall Background: Listen to verse 31 again, “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ Why would God allow divorce? Doesn’t it say in Malachi 2:16a, “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence…” Meaning: Divorce is as bad as murder. Actually, God didn’t allow divorce but Moses did. Why did he do that? The Pharisees asked Jesus that same question in Matthew 19 7 “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Listen to what Jesus said in verse 8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. Meaning: Divorce was the product of hardheartedness. In God’s original vision of marriage, divorce was not in it. But because of hardheartedness, bitterness, and resentment, Moses allowed it.

Listen carefully – “Hardness of hearts” is at the root of all marital problems. It happens when people become closed off to each other, bitter and resentful to each other, and even refuse to hear what God has to say. In that situation, God allows them to do whatever they stubbornly want to do.

Question: Is there hardness of heart in your marriage? Is there bitterness in your home? Is there resentment in your marriage? Have you turned towards God to set you free? Are you willing to let grace flood through your marriage? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this message that will teach us how to take resentment out of marriage:

I. WHAT IS HARDNESS OF HEARTS? 

8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives,

Background: To understand this, we have to go all the way back to why Moses originally gave this command to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 24   1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, 2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, 4 then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; What in the world is going on here? Among many pagan cultures the wife was considered the husband’s property. He could do whatever he wanted to with her. If he got tired of her or if he was mad with her or if he was in debt, he could sell her off to someone else. Later, if he got over his anger or if the debt got paid or if the second husband died, he could get her back. God said, “Absolutely Not!” – “for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.” What God was saying is – “I see through your scam. Don’t try to fool me. I know what you’re doing. You are copying the world and that is an abomination to me. It is lowdown, disgraceful, and shameful.” Human nature kicks in – “But what if there’s something unclean in her?” God said, “Fine. Give her a certificate of divorce but you cannot get her back. I’m not going to let you make a mockery of marriage.”

Jesus refers to this as the hardness of hearts. If there were true love in the marriage, this would not even be an issue. Either the man was just a lowdown jerk or something terrible must have happened in this marriage for him to stoop to that level. It must have been something so terrible that his heart was hardened forever towards his wife. It could also be that the wife was not so innocent. She must have done something repeatedly or bad enough to drive him to that point. At the end of the day, either their hearts or at least the man’s heart had become hardened, bitter, and resentful to treat his wife like livestock that he could barter or trade or sell.

When hardness of the heart gets in a marriage, men and women treat each other like livestock. They do things that are unbelievable. Question: Are you treating each other like livestock? Is there hardness of heart in your marriage? Some example of this is talking down to your spouse. Then, there is talking down to your spouse in front of the kids. Also, talking down to your spouse in front of others. It includes putting your needs above their needs. Divorce is the ultimate but there are many other things that happen before that point. What has happened to your marriage that your heart has become so hardened, bitter, and resentful?

II. HOW WAS MARRIAGE IN THE BEGINNING? 

8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Background: What beginning is Jesus referring to? He is referring to beyond Moses and the Law to the beginning of the creation. How do we know that? Because in the gospel of Mark the same incident is recorded and it says in Mark 10   5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation…” How does Jesus know how it was in the beginning? Because He was there! As Colossians and Hebrews tell us, the Son created the world. It means Jesus created Adam and Eve. He brought Eve to Adam and saw the childlike excitement in Adam’s eyes. He saw Eve as she walked towards Adam. It was love at first sight. Jesus must have looked up and saw the smile on the Father’s face and the Spirit was all over them. Then there was perfect intimacy. Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” You can picture the angels high fiving each other and the Father says – “Boys, give em some privacy.” They were in love. She respected him and he lead her lovingly.

Marriage in the beginning is awesome! Like the French proverb says – “All beginnings are lovely.” In that “Velcro stage,” as someone called it, everything is “honey” and “sweetie.” I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. I hadn’t slept a wink the night before. Nothing crazy. No bachelor party or nothing. My groomsmen were a bunch of losers! I want to Photoshop them out of the wedding picture but Nicole won’t let me. I was nervous but excited. “I am getting married! So awesome!” Then I saw Nicole walking down the aisle and she was beautiful! Then the vows – Nicole cried the whole time. I gave my vows to her dad. I looked at him the whole time. I didn’t want to mess up. Bottom line: we were in love! When in love, marriage is amazing! It’s a glimpse of heaven on earth.

How does hardness of heart get in a marriage? In every marriage there are certain expectations. When these expectations are not met, it leads to disappointments, hurt feelings, and anger. When these are left unresolved, hardness of the heart or resentment sets in. Some examples:

  • Unrealistic understanding of marriage –people enter marriage with rose-colored glasses. He makes me happy. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.
  • Broken promises and lost dreams – “I’ll be home by 5 today. I promise.” “I’m sorry I had to deal with a phone call. It’ll be 6:30 before I get home.” Then you hear things like – “He was never there for the kids.” “She’s always there for the kids but nothing for me.”
  • Unresolved hurts from the past – When we carry old baggage from the past into marriage, we tend to push it on the unsuspecting partner. Things like childhood abuse, parental failures, broken relationships, broken marriages, and other crisis.
  • Trauma or crisis – Health troubles, accidents, job loss, financial troubles, etc. are unfortunate. They can draw us together or tear us apart.
  • Depression and other emotional and physical struggles – In the beginning of a relationship, certain chemicals in the brain can offset depression for a while. But, after the newness has worn off, the old creeps back in and with it hardness of the heart and resentment. Sometimes it is chronic sickness and health decisions.

I can go on and on but the point is this – “hardness of the heart” can enter through the expected and unexpecteds of life and destroy the joy and the fulfillment in marriage. Because people cannot forgive, forget, let go, move on, turn the page, make amends, step in the other person’s shoes that something as beautiful as marriage needs a certificate of divorce.

Application: What expected and unexpected of life has caused hardness of the heart in your marriage? Are you bitter towards your spouse? Do you resent your mate?

III. WHAT IS THE CURE FOR RESENTMENT?

Here are the steps to cure resentment:

  1. Recognize the danger of hardness of heart/resentment/bitterness.

Hebrews 12   14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: Resentment will obstruct your view of God. 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; Resentment will spread to those around you.

  1. Confess your hardness of heart/resentment/bitterness as a sin.

Ephesians 4 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

  1. Accept God’s plan for your marriage and family.

Colossians 3 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

  1. Repeat the above daily.

Illustration: Sunday evenings at our home are very uneventful. After a long weekend, we’re usually crash in the living room; watch a show or a movie. Then it happens – 9 pm and it’s time for the younger kids to head to beds for school next morning. Then either Nicole or I will remember – “Trash pickup on Monday morning!” “Whoa! Before you got to bed, please take out the trash.” We will usually get things like – “We’re tired. Can we do it in the morning? I got some homework.” Our answer – “We have to cause if we don’t it will stink. I’ll have to take it in my truck and it will be messy. We have so much going on this week, if we don’t do it now, we won’t get to do it later.”

Same with hardness of heart/bitterness/resentment – daily you have to take out the trash. If not, no wonder your marriage and family is reeking.

Are you saved?

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