I’ve been blown away by Suranne Jones’ performance as the title role in Doctor Foster. I have to confess that I watched all five episodes in just two sittings- the joy of maternity leave!
Without giving too much away, Gemma Foster (Jones) finds out that her husband has been unfaithful and over the next five hours the audience watch her wrestling with conflicting advice from friends as she enacts her revenge. While there are many themes to be drawn out of the series, the thing that struck me the most was how Gemma wants everything to be within her control. Her reaction is unsurprising. She has just found out that her seemingly happy marriage was not as solid as she first thought. Her husband’s actions have left her out of control of her own life through no choice of her own.
She reacts in a surprisingly controlled, though I wouldn’t say cold, manner. The most telling statement she says is during episode two:
‘I want him to come in and see those suitcases and understand in that second exactly what he has lost.’
How many of us have felt like that? Not necessarily because of infidelity but perhaps because of some other betrayal.
Revenge is familiar emotion. It is not surprising that it is written about numerous times in Scripture. One particularly notable time is Romans 12: 19-21.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It can sound quite problematic for God to be vengeful. I’ve always understood this as God’s vengeance is not like mine, it’s not motivated by one-upmanship or selfish desires. Instead, it is motivated by justice.
God is just.
The questions is:
Do I trust God enough?
Do I trust in God’s justice enough to not pursue my own revenge? Sometimes not, and the temptation to see someone get their just deserts is too great. So often I too want to see the look in someone’s eye when their actions catch up with them. But any revenge I plot will only perpetuate the sin that has been committed against me. That’s what Paul is instructing.
In Christ, it ends here. The pain, the suffering, the hurt ends here.
This doesn’t mean that the pain disappears, though God can and does heal our broken hearts. What it means is, that despite my pain, I will love and bless those who have done me wrong.
Is this easy? Never! But, by God’s grace we have a better chance than if we went it alone.