There are moments when I can feel as though I have been treated unfairly. Sometimes these moments pass and I’m able to quickly let go. At other times they linger and when they do my heart is in danger of becoming embittered. It stirs something familiar, but not pleasant at all. When others fall short of my expectations it can cause disappointment that’s unintentional but still stir bitterness. Bitterness is another word for resentment and the definition of resentment is indignation at having been treated unfairly.
Pv 14:10 (NIV) “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”
Timothy Keller writes,
“When the compassion and love of another person help you deal with your suffering, when someone’s unconditional approval and encouragement transform your fear into resolve […] to neutralize your anxiety and give you hope […] trouble makes you wiser, deeper and stronger instead of bitter, hard and joyless.”
Keller describes worship as the means to gaining this perspective. He describes worship as, “foretastes of that embrace God is going to give me someday”. As I endeavored to worship God during my quiet times this week, I noticed I wasn’t connecting with Him. As my week unfolded God revealed some bitterness that had been in my heart for a while.
I started to see my reactions and responses with one particular person were really strong and would stir up anger. I couldn’t figure out why I was reacting so strongly to this individual and not to others. If someone else had acted similarly toward me, I would not have had such a negative response. Through some friendly insight I realized that it was because I felt hurt by this person in our interactions that I responded so strongly. I wanted them to hurt the same way I felt hurt by them. In my mind this person was not meeting my expectations and that in turn hurt me. Subconsciously, I was looking to punish them.
So, what does this have to do with worship? Everything. For me, in this particular situation, the wrongdoing I felt wasn’t something the other person could change. It’s just part of who they are. Their treatment of me isn’t malicious, it just is. In order to not take their behavior personally, it fell on me to protect my heart against any bitter root. Wanting fairness or justice placed me in the center. I became self-righteous and wanted to change the person and control the situation. Yet through worship, through experiencing God himself, I have been able to let it go. I am able to see that it’s not personal.
I can focus on pursuing God in repentant helplessness and enter the state of worship when I see that I need Him to help me and Him to complete me. No one else can do this. Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of others because we desire comfort from them that only God can give us. We seek it in spouses, children, friends or significant others but they cannot live up to our expectations. One thing is guaranteed, those who we care for most will hurt us the deepest.
Heb 12:15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
This person’s treatment of me wasn’t malicious. Sometimes people just fall short of our expectations; at other times our expectations may have just been too high. In order to be able to not take the behavior personally I needed to protect my heart against any bitter root. The way I can do that is to protect my worship by putting my faith in Jesus and not in myself or others. The heart of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power and pouring out resources and serving. Through worship I am anchored in Christ to meet my needs in such a way that allows me to let things go more easily when others don’t meet my needs the way I would want them to. When others fall short of my expectations, I can, and need to, seek comfort in God.
Ps 119:57,66,76 “You are my portion O Lord; […] Teach me knowledge and good judgment […] May your unfailing love be my comfort…”