Thank You, God, for a Husband Who Is Willing to Tell Me the Hard Stuff
My husband shocked me one night this week when he told me about some bitterness that he saw in me that I totally thought I had resolved. At first, I was speechless. I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to say that I had totally taken care of all of that and that he was surely mistaken. It was about some very old issues that I thought I had laid to rest.
Then, I decided to listen to my husband’s wisdom and not argue. Maybe God is speaking to me here through my husband’s leadership. I better be careful not to quickly dismiss something if my husband sees it. So, I thought some more and realized – you know, maybe he’s right. Maybe he can see something I can’t see.
I don’t LIKE being called out on my sin! But – I am a pretty experienced sinner and I have a long history of deceiving myself - so I decided to really think and pray about what he said. And, I soon realized – HE WAS RIGHT!
I am SO thankful that my husband had the courage to tell me what he saw. I need a man like that! I have blind spots. What a blessing his leadership is to me.
I want to really search out everything about bitterness and forgiveness and get to the bottom of the root so God can help us tear the whole root out and we won’t continue to be stuck with the debilitating consequences of bitterness in our lives. I am on a crusade to end bitterness – with God’s Spirit and truth working in us!
WHAT IS BITTERNESS?
It is a hanging on to wrongs suffered. It is holding on to anger. It is a desire for revenge or justice against the one who has wronged us. It is a refusal to forgive.
We all have many reasons to be bitter. We all have family members, siblings, husbands, friends, church members, neighbors, in-laws, coworkers and random strangers who are sinners who have sinned against us. It is not wrong to be angry when we are sinned against – but, in our anger we are not to sin.
Bitterness and unforgiveness is HUGE sin. In Matthew 18, Jesus talks about a servant who owed his master millions of dollars and the master forgave him and had mercy on him. Then the same servant refused to forgive his fellow slave who owed him a small amount of money. The master said to the unforgiving servant, “You WICKED slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?”
Bitterness/unforgiveness = wickedness
Bitterness and unforgiveness are MY problem. It shows a faulty understanding on my part of God’s character and sovereignty. It also shows my character and reveals any area that I am lacking the power of God’s Spirit.. There is no exception given to us where we are exempt from the command to forgive those who sin against us.
MANY of you have had to forgive MUCH MORE than I ever have. But we are all commanded to forgive, regardless of the wounds we have suffered. None of us can do this on our own. We need the power of God’s Spirit to do this!
It only takes the SMALLEST amount of bitterness to grow into a huge, destructive tree that produces deadly fruit and poison in my life.
WHY IS BITTERNESS WRONG?
- Jesus commands us to forgive so that God will forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).
- it is a gateway sin that leads to MANY other sins.
- God commands us “not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:30-31
- “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 Bitterness cannot lead to holiness. It cannot lead to peace. It also defiles MANY. One person’s bitterness spreads like poison among many.
- “‘In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26. Holding on to anger, nursing a grudge – creates a place for Satan to enter into our souls and lives. Even holding on to anger over night creates a place for Satan to attack and hang onto us. Bitterness is progressive. It is a process. It grows over time given a nurturing environment. It spreads and becomes stronger and begins to consume our whole lives.
FROM THE EXCELLENT WIFE by MARTHA PEACE…(this is an awesome section on bitterness!)
Common Signs of Bitterness
1. Gossip and Slander
Gossip and bitterness defile many other people. YIKES!
2. Ungrateful and Complaining
3. Judges motives
4. Self-Centered – victim
5. Excessive Sorrow
6. Vengeful – looks for ways to avoid person. Leaves, pouts, gives the cold shoulder
7. Brooding – plays the wrong suffered over and over
8. Loss of joy – sin of bitterness> intense emotional pain and misery
9. A critical, judgmental attitude – focus on what other did wrong, not self
The doctrine of bitterness
– it grows when you take into account a wrong suffered. Thinking about the bad thing feeds bitterness. dwelling on the wrong suffered greatly intensifies emotional pain, making it seemingly unbearable at times
no strength, no happiness, no peace, no hope. The emotional pain intensifies and sin will likely begin to multiply
– more sinful thoughts, anger, wrath, clamor, slander and possibly malice. At this point, the other will be unable to do anything right in your eyes, even if they are trying.
– bitterness hurts your children
bitter feelings improve as you clear your conscience and begin to make second mile investments
- doing something extra special nice for the person, going above and beyond the call of duty.
– don’t return evil for evil but give a blessing instead
– the more intense your hurt, the greater the need to give blessings instead – eventually your emotional pain will abate and in the meantime you will be glorifying God immensely if your motive is to obey and please God.
– put off the bitterness by putting on kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving thoughts Ephes 4:31-32
– keep a brief log of your bitter thoughts. each time you feel hurt or resentful, write down your thoughts word for word. Then take the time to go over each thought and convert it to a kind, tender-hearted or forgiving thought. Take each thought captive in obedience to Christ.
Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing.
Bitterness destroys love. It stirs up overwhelming hurt feelings. T he sin of bitterness spreads and hurts other people. It is, foremost, a grievous sin against God. The key to repenting of bitterness is to take every thought captive, replace those bitter thoughts with kind, tender-hearted and forgiving thoughts and go the second mile. Truly there is nothing that your husband has done that you cannot forgive, If your husband is not trustworthy, he can re-earn your trust. Regardless of whether your husband is a failure before God, you do not have to be.
I used to try to get rid of my bitter thoughts, but didn’t understand that I needed to REPLACE them with kind, tender-hearted, forgiving thoughts. No wonder I struggled so much for so long!
SOME PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS FROM MYSELF AND SOME OF MY PRAYER PARTNERS AND READERS:
Causes of Bitterness -
- PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE – I am better than that person. I am more spiritual. I am more mature. I would handle things so much better than they did. I would NEVER do X like they did. I don’t deserve what happened to me. How dare that person treat ME that way
- unmet expectations
- idolatry of someone’s approval – then when they don’t approve or try to control, we are UPSET.
- idolatry of self
- trying to control others instead of allowing them to be responsible for their own decisions and emotions (idolatry of self)
- trying to make other people responsible for my emotions, happiness and contentment (idolatry) instead of setting my heart on Christ
- being different from another person and not understanding where he/she is coming from
- being sinned against but handling my resulting anger sinfully – or undealt with sin against me
- disobeying God’s Word for handling conflict in a godly manner (not lovingly confronting someone when they sin against me, trying to ignore it. Sin CANNOT be ignored! It must be paid for! I have to pay for it, or they have to pay for it – or, if I am in Christ, His blood and sacrificial death can pay for it. But it will hurt.)
- unforgiveness – cherishing my anger more than my relationship with Christ and His forgiveness of me
Signs of Bitterness
- feeling tense about that person, anxiety about seeing them
- depression, insomnia (if you are thinking and thinking and obsessing about the wrong suffered) – other things can cause depression or insomnia, too, but bitterness alone can be a cause, or it can be a contributing factor.
- lack of self-control – yelling, swearing, cussing, hateful tone of voice, sarcasm
- broken, dysfunctional relationships
- chronic pain can be a sign of bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment and can be made worse by lack of forgiveness. Bitterness changes our body chemistry and makes us more sensitive to pain, it also reduces our immune system measurably and makes us more prone to infections. The increased cortisol and adrenaline can cause a host of illnesses- headaches, ulcers, insomnia, irritability, heart problems, increased blood pressure, digestion problems, IBS, and many more! (All of these health problems have possible other causes, too. But bitterness can contribute to or cause these things.)
- wanting to avoid the person
- wanting vengeance
- fear, lack of faith in God (without faith, it is impossible to please God!)
- wanting to gossip about the person
- not praying for the person
- replaying the wrong over and over
- making hateful jokes about the person, with a prideful attitude of superiority and conceit
- withholding physical intimacy (in marriage), withholding affection (in relationships with children/parents/extended family, refusing to hug or shake hands.
- refusal to smile at the person and greet them
- fear – fear of confrontation or fear the person won’t care about my feelings, fear of conflict or someone else’s control or abuse
- focus on person or self and not God’s character and sovereignty
- being annoyed by everything about the person
- hatred and evil intentions
Fruit of Bitterness
Bitterness starts out small, but grows and strengthens and can totally consume a person’s life. It leads to greater and greater sin and contaminates many others with its poison..
- hatred, malice, contempt, rage, plotting evil, major disrespect, screaming, cussing, yelling, hateful words, destruction of relationships, resentment, wanting the person to be dead, violence, murder, war
- gossip, slander
- separation, divorce (bitterness is not always the cause of these things, but it is often a huge part of the cause)
- adultery (out of a desire for revenge, or because bitterness causes a spouse to withhold sex from the other, this can lead to temptations for both spouses)
- anxiety, worry, overwhelming fear, dread, depression, possibly even suicide if left unchecked
- pride, arrogance, condemnations, judging the other with evil thoughts
- a critical spirit, complaining, arguing, discontent, lack of gratitude
- division, disunity, factions, arguing, fighting, yelling, loss of self-control, loss of temper
- idolatry of self/pride/anger/bitterness/unmet expectations
- an inability to put any faith or trust in the person, vilification of the person
- lying, dishonesty, deception
- feuds, bullying
- a seared conscience eventually, that can no longer hear God’s voice
- vengeance and revenge, wanting to make the person pay, not depending on God to handle justice and vengeance
- a desire to take anything good from the person, stealing, arson, attempting to sabotage the person and his/her livelihood/income.
- separation from God, the grieving of God’s Spirit, the loss of God’s power and all of the fruit of the Spirit – no joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.
- a huge stronghold of Satan, sin and the flesh
- attempts to cause other family members, friends, coworkers, church members to hate and turn on the person, also
- total loss of influence and witness for Christ, smearing the name of Christ in filth (if we claim to be His followers), others may be turned away from the gospel, especially our spouse and children
WE ARE JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE ON THE TOPIC OF BITTERNESS!
You are welcome to leave comments, insights, wisdom and resources that have been helpful for you on this topic!
We will explore more about overcoming bitterness and unforgiveness and how to begin the process of forgiveness with God’s power in the next few posts!
I am praying God will release us all COMPLETELY from every trace of bitterness that we might live in His glorious light, freedom, truth, peace and joy! He is perfectly able to give us complete victory over bitterness and empower us to forgive as He does!