Written by: Joanne Beckley
“There is no way I’m going to forgive her!” “This world is so evil. How can a Christian ever win?” “People will always disappoint/hurt me.” These are painful words that reflect deep grief because the pain is seemingly too strong and deep to bear. These words also hide hidden anger that is unresolved; a resentful spirit that refuses reconciliation. Included in the pain is loneliness, sadness, even depression, that can destroy our will to rise to a new day. This bitterness will also cause feelings that no one knows and understands and accepts us as we are. Yes, every one of us has at one time or another faced the danger of becoming bitter.
Life does not mold us, but rather our own positive/negative attitudes toward what we face develops our heart. The fact of the matter is, the older we grow we see and recognize sin more and more for how truly evil it is, but we also may fail to face the strong reality that bitterness within ourselves is also sin–harboring anger, feeding it, eating our very soul. The longer we nurse our anger toward situations we personally cannot change, the anger becomes bitterness. No longer are we able to give and receive. Life revolves around me. Self-pity takes over and we are of no use to our Saviour.
What is bitterness? Robertson defines it as “an embittered and resentful spirit which refuses reconciliation.” Another writes of bitterness: “the temper which cherishes resentful feelings.”
When we become bitter, we are actually trying to live separated from God. We are trying to do what only belongs to God. It is God who will judge, choosing His own time. Why would we dare to think our anger is righteous??? What an empty effort–and soul destroying.
While on earth Jesus had every chance and seemingly every right to become bitter toward his situation, the hypocrisy and anger surrounding him–yet he found love to pave his way, while maintaining contact with his Father in heaven. We can and we must do the same.
Let us remove the conviction that we have the “right” to hold anger in our bosom. Memories of what was, disappointments, hurts, and fears–all contribute to a wrongful guarding of our hearts. When a heart is closed off, anticipating possible future hurts, we cannot be open to one another and to God. We are in fact living in the past and thus cannot be totally honest in our thoughts and actions.
There are solutions that can aid us in getting rid of bitterness.
1. Recognize the three sources of unrighteous anger: 1) anger resulting from selfish demands not being met; 2) anger resulting from demanding perfection and it not being satisfied; 3) anger that results from being suspicious of another’s anger.
2. Verbalize acceptable anger in love, Mat 5:21-24; Eph 4:26. Why? Because verbalizing helps us to be aware that we are angry. It helps us to forgive and therefore allows God to use us to convict our brother of sin. Verbalizing our anger toward him/her also helps us to avoid telling others (gossip).
3. We must be willing to forgive our parents, ourselves, our mate, those in authority over us, and any others. If we do not, we will repress our anger and bitterness will develop. Above all we must work through any anger we have toward God.
4. Leave all vengeance up to God. Never allow the desire to get even with anyone. Vengeance is in God’s realm. It is God’s decision whether to extend grace or punishment. It is none of our business, Rom 12:17-21. We must truly “let go and let God” be our pilot.
5. But it is a lack of faith that ultimately causes us to stumble into the area of becoming bitter. We must open the Bible with the view to personal study, not just to have our lesson papers answered for the upcoming Bible class. Reading, study, meditating on the words of God is the only way to build our faith, Rom 10:17.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).
When our faith grows, we will live our faith, a stronger faith, rejoicing in all things, Philippians 4:4.
6. Reach out and serve. Looking to the needs of others releases us from being self-centered. "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). What a fine picture this creates in our minds! Just as the clothing had to be secured with a belt or band in the days of Peter, so we too must “tighten the belts” of our minds. Growing spiritually requires grit and determination. It is just plain hard work. And the work never ends, until we breathe our last breath.
A study of the following examples of Bible men and women who had trouble with bitterness might be helpful:
Gen 27:34 - Esau toward father/brother
Col 3:19 - husbands toward wives
Jam 3:14 - bitter jealousy
1 Sam 1:10 - bitterness of soul - Hannah
Job 7:11; 9:18; 10:1 - Job bitter toward his situation
Prov 14:10 The inward griefs and joys of mens hearts, are not known to any but a man's self.
Prov 17:25 A mother’s deep grief toward her son
Isa 38:17 Hezekiah sick, great bitternes. Thy love has gone down to the pit, and drawn me out from it. The "pit" is here simply death
Acts 8:23 Simon learns of his sin “in the gall of bitterness” - poisoned by bitterness NKJV - Deut 29:18 “heart turned away...root that bears gall and wormwood”
Rom 3:14 mouth full of ...bitterness
Eph 4:31 put away...bitterness...do not give the devil a foothold
Heb 12:14,15 pursue peace, not lagging behind but a very strict and severe inspecting themselves lest we develop a root that can ONLY bring forth bitterness. Deal with it boldly!
Remember, joy in the Lord doesn’t develop accidentally. Daily living with joy in our heart can be renewed. May each one of us clean out the old leaven of hidden anger, give what we cannot control into the hands of God, and be at peace.