I squeezed my finger hoping the increased pressure would force the foreign object to the surface. Strangling my digit increased the pain but nothing more. I changed tactics. With a needle, I dug around like a ferret dispatched to flush out the prey. But there was no catch. The sliver was hiding below the skin where it kindled a growing flame of infection.
My mother declared a ceasefire in my battle against the enemy splinter and applied a poultice. Like a platoon sergeant, she drilled me not to disturb the paste of warm bread that surrounded the inflamed finger. I obeyed her orders and waited. When she removed the compress there poking out of the reddened skin was the sliver, exposed and defenceless. As if picking a blossom from the garden, my mother plucked the root source of my infection. Healing was quick to follow.
Vengeance and resentment act like a sliver in our soul. Their presence is foreign, and if we do not eliminate them, they will infect us and cause great harm. The author of Hebrews writes,
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Heb 12:15 NLT)
We will find no lasting comfort if we treat only the symptoms of our bitterness. Just as with the splinter in my finger, the root of bitterness must be exposed and removed for us to experience healing and wholeness.
Repentance is the poultice that lays bare the sliver in our soul. Just as in the physical world, the soul sliver is the result of impact and injury. Someone has offended and harmed us. The transgressor has wronged us and not made it right. To be sure, our repentance is not a denial of our hurt or pretending their offence was without consequence. Rather, our repentance is acknowledging that we have elevated our condemnation of the wrongdoer above God’s mercy. We have usurped God’s judgment and have taken his place in seeking our vengeance (Ro 12:17-19 NIV).
Bitterness is idolatry in which our personal feelings have the last word in how we will relate to the offender. But even when someone has wronged us, God’s way must prevail. His word to us is to forgive, to release the transgressor from our resentment and anger (Mt 6:14-15 NIV) and make room for divine mercy.
If a friend of yours was struggling with resentment toward someone who had offended them how would you encourage them?