Reflect on God’s Word
In the classic Alexandre Dumas story The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès lives a seemingly perfect life, which causes three of his so-called friends to become wildly jealous of him. Because of their jealousy, they hatch a plot to have Edmond unjustly accused of treason and imprisoned. Edmond spends the next two decades of his life plotting revenge against his enemies. When he is finally able to escape from prison, he sets out to carry through his plans for revenge, throwing in some kind deeds along the way.1
Can you imagine spending more than half your life focused on getting revenge on those who have wronged you? Maybe you can, because you know how it feels for that desire and drive to weigh you down until you don’t know how to get out from under it.
The desire to take revenge can be powerful, but it can also be so dangerous. It can cloud our judgment, penetrate our thoughts, and leave us bitter and miserable as we try to do something that God never intended for us to do.
Most often, revenge comes back to bite us, as psychotherapist Beverly Engel describes in an article from the Washington Post:
“When someone persists in revenge fantasies, over time they can develop anxiety and remorse, as well as feelings of shame,” says California-based psychotherapist Beverly Engel, who treats clients who have been abused and often struggle with vengeful thoughts. These feelings can also take up important cognitive resources, depleting you of time and energy that could be better spent on healthier, more constructive ways of dealing with anger, such as learning to accept the injustice, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes or acknowledging that you, too, may have hurt someone in similar ways.2
In Romans 12:17–21, the apostle Paul cautions,
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Heap burning coals on their head? That sounds like a form of revenge, doesn’t it? But that verse is from Proverbs 25:21–22. The entire proverb is a collection of sayings that deal with interactions between people. Don’t sing songs to a person in mourning (v. 20), hearing good news is like drinking cool water when you’re weary (v. 25), relying on someone who is unfaithful is like walking with a lame leg or eating with a broken tooth (v. 19). In a society that depended on fire for cooking and keeping warm, burning coals were a gift of sustenance if one’s fire had gone out. And God says to not just give them one to get it going again, but to heap burning coals on them. Go above and beyond in kindness.4
Our desire for vengeance comes from our desire to see justice done. We forget so easily that justice has already been done. The person who hurt us will pay for what he or she did, either by receiving forgiveness from God and allowing Christ to take the penalty for their sin, or by spending eternity separated from God because of their sin. Either way, justice will prevail. And when we think of justice this way, our hearts can soften toward the person who hurt us.
If you wrestle with wanting to have vengeance, remember that God has the situation under control. If you begin to feel destructive anger burning inside of you, allow Christ’s healing, life-giving water to quench those flames as you focus instead on His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy. Remember, God loved you long before you saw your need for Him (Romans 5:8), and He loves the person who wronged you just as much.
Release Your Anger
Take a long, deep, slow breath. Hold it for a moment, and then release it very slowly. Do that again. Feel the release through the power of the Holy Spirit as you continue to breathe deeply and slowly. With each exhale, release your pain and anger to God. With each inhale, feel his healing love flow in.
- How would your life change if the desire for revenge lost its grip on you?
Rather than pursuing vengeance, give that care to God and ask Him to soften and expand your heart with love for others. God’s love can bring healing and soften that grip.
Imagine a desert. For each painful feeling you carry inside of you because of others — mistrust, fear, anger, hate — picture a crack splitting the dry ground into deep, sharp crevices. Now, picture a gentle rain falling on the dry land, gradually softening the hard ground until the crevices fill and merge back into the earth. Feel a gentle breeze and warm sunlight as plants begin to emerge from the now-tender earth. As this image fades from your mind, pay attention to how your heart feels. How do you relate to the image of the barren desert? How do you relate to the field bursting with life?
Now picture your desire for revenge smoldering inside you. Feel the burning pain of it. And then picture your heart healing as Christ’s Spirit quenches those flames with life-giving, healing water. Then rest in the comfort of His arms. Breathe in deeply once more, reflecting on how the just God you serve knows your pain and wants to heal you and use you in the lives of those around you.
Lord, it’s hard sometimes not to let anger consume me, especially when people hurt others, including me. I know You’ve forgiven me, but sometimes I’m so angry at others I’d prefer revenge to seeing them come to know Your forgiving love. Forgive me for this. Heal and soften my heart. Thank You that new life is possible through You, that deserts can become pools of water. Thank You that no one can force fear, anger, or hate to live on in me. Each day, help me know more deeply that Your love is stronger than anything anyone can do to me. Show me what it means to walk in true love and freedom. I long for Your love, justice, and beauty to fill this earth. Until that day, help me find peace in your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
JOURNAL PROMPT: How have you seen your desire for revenge affect your relationships? What effect has it had on your health? Journal about how your heart can find the healing it needs to be free from this desire for revenge.
1.“The Count of Monte Cristo Summary,” LitCharts, accessed August 10, 2021, https://www.litcharts.com/lit /the-count-of-monte-cristo/summary.
2.Jennifer Breheny Wallace, “Why Getting Even May Make You Feel Worse in the Long Run,” Washington Post, November 11, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost .com/national/health-science/why-getting-even-may -make-you-feel-worse-in-the-long-run/2017/11/10 /a314d54e-b440-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story .html?utm_term=.14a1bc29a25e.
Excerpted with permission from Cast Your Cares copyright Carpenter’s Code, Inc.
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Are you struggling with wanting revenge on someone who has hurt you? Can you let God’s Spirit quench those flames inside you? He is in total control of your circumstances. Trust Him! ~ Devotionals Daily