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Bitterness is Contagious and Toxic!

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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 12:14-15

WHAT IS IT ABOUT ONE PERSON’S BITTERNESS THAT DEFILES MANY?

In this passage – there is a TON of spiritual meat!

  • it is impossible to live in peace with others and be bitter
  • it is impossible to be holy and be bitter
  • it is impossible to see God without holiness
  • it is impossible to grasp the grace of God and be bitter
  • bitterness grows to cause trouble (in the church, in families, in businesses, in neighborhoods, ANYWHERE)
  • bitterness yields a toxic harvest that contaminates many people

1. My bitterness may lead others to become bitter towards the same person/thing I am bitter about

When I am bitter – I am seething with unforgiveness and a sense of justifiable anger.  I am fueled primarily by PRIDE – pride that I don’t deserve this treatment and that I am better than the person with whom I am bitter, that I ought to be sovereign instead of God, that I know best for myself and for others, that I should decide and dole out what the punishment for sin against me should be… LOTS OF PRIDE.

I cherish my grudge more than my relationship with God.  My bitterness leads me to more sin.  As the bitterness tree grows – it takes over my heart, my life, my thoughts, my words and my actions.  The tree begins to develop fruit.  Fruit like – hatred, avoidance, lack of love, lack of faith in God, deceit, lying, being divisive, gossip, possibly even violence or adultery – depending on my situation.  And the fruit drops into my life and the lives of those around me, rotting and allowing the small seeds of bitterness to spread and germinate in other places.

When I am bitter, I WANT to gossip about the person with whom I am bitter.  I WANT to run them down.  I WANT to hurt their reputation and try to build myself up by stomping them into the ground.  Gossip defiles my listeners.  And the people listening to me may become convinced to become angry, unforgiving or bitter towards the target of my bitterness, too.  Or, at the very least, they will lose respect and regard for the target of my bitterness or for me!  This happens at work, in extended families, in the church and especially in the home.

Children who have a parent who sets out to turn them against the other parent often develop great bitterness and unforgiveness themselves towards that other parent – not realizing until they are adults how much they have been defrauded by the bitter parent.  They can literally be robbed of the love of one parent and a relationship with that parent by having a bitter parent try to turn them against the other parent.

2. Others may become bitter towards me because it is HARD to love a bitter person.  My bitterness is so obnoxious, foul and toxic.

When I am bitter, I become more and more consumed with my anger, my justification of my own sin, my pride, my rights, my desire for revenge, my needs, my purposes, my will, MYSELF – that I can hardly see anything or anyone else around me eventually.

There is certainly no room for Christ to co-exist in my heart with a tree of bitterness.  Even a tiny seed or root of it offends His holiness.  I have to choose – Christ or bitterness.

It is HARD to love someone engulfed in bitterness.  They are sharp and prickly.  They practically develop a force field around them that love bounces off of.  It is exhausting to be around them.  They are depressing and draining.  They are an endless pit of need and negativity.  It is EASY to begin to develop bitterness towards a bitter person.  Of course, Jesus can give us to power to continue to love them  – but if we start reacting in our own flesh, we can be very tempted to be bitter with one who is bitter.

3. Bitterness can become my idol.

I can become completely entangled if bitterness continues to grow unchecked.  My very identity becomes BITTERNESS toward a person, an event or even God.  The tree of bitterness, and many generations of offspring trees that grow from the seeds of the fruit of the first tree – produces a FOREST of sin in my life that is inescapable.

If I am a very bitter person, I only want to talk about one thing – my bitterness.  (Bitterness grows in stages and is progressive, so it may start out only consuming a portion of my attention, but if given plenty of fuel and a  nourishing environment of continued anger, pride, rebellion against God and unforgiveness – it will completely take over my soul.)

It can become my IDOL.  I want to wallow in it and luxuriate in the mire of it.  I want to run the other person down – or run God down.  I wants the world to know what a victim I am and how powerless and wonderful and innocent I am and what justice I have been denied.

Bitterness blocks my view of God’s sovereignty.  When I am bitter, I cannot accept God’s grace for myself or for my offender.  I cannot receive grace.  I cannot give grace.  I cannot forgive.  So God will not forgive me.  It is a dark, depressing, lonely, cold, miserable prison.

If I am bitter with a person – I am ultimately also bitter at God.

For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, CANNOT love God, whom he has not seen.  And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother.  I John 4:20b-21

We don’t understand that God counts the way we treat other people as if we are treating Him that way.  The person to whom I show the least amount of love is the way I love God – that is how He judges me.

Whew!  What a scary thought that is!

The whole book of I John is an incredible study on NOT living in bitterness and hatred, but living in the love of God.

Idolatry destroys my fellowship with God and destroys every facet of my life – my soul, my relationships, my finances (eventually), my health, my emotions, my family…  Idolatry has a steep price – it causes discontentment, an insatiable desire for more that cannot satisfy, frustration, anxiety, worry, lack of joy, lack of peace, misery and sometimes even death.

4. Others may become bitter with God because of my bitterness

If I am bitter – I won’t forgive.  I won’t accept God’s grace for myself and I won’t extend God’s grace to others.  God says I am wicked if I refuse to forgive as I have been forgiven (Matthew 18).  I am a slave to sin and the flesh, and I can’t have God’s power or His Spirit or the fruit of His Spirit in my life.  I don’t see the sovereignty of God to work through this situation for my good and His glory.

So – I cannot shine for Christ.

In fact, if I call myself a Christian but am holding on to bitterness, I convolute and distort the image of Christ that I am projecting and will REPEL others from the gospel and the truth of God.

Why would anyone want to come to Christ if living for Him looks like ME – living in bitterness?

Especially my spouse and children will be affected.  If they are not believers, my horrific “witness” will erect a massive stumbling block for them to come to Christ.  I am an awful billboard for Christianity and for Jesus when I live in disobedience to Him.  If they are believers, my poor example will influence them greatly towards ungodliness, too.

My sin will trip others and entangle them.  They may resent God and be bitter at Him, too.  Because my bitterness is contagious and because I can make it hard for them to see the sovereignty of God, the love of God, to accept the grace of God.  And, I make it REALLY hard to love me.  And if they don’t love me, they can’t love God.

THANK GOD HE HAS PROVIDED VICTORY FOR US IN JESUS!

If Jesus is not your Savior and Lord – you can pray and ask Him to be.  Check out the post on my home page about how to have a relationship with Christ!

For those of you who have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord – here is what we can do when we are convicted of sin:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:8-9

PRAISE GOD!

The blood of Jesus is strong enough and more than sufficient to cover any sin we might commit.  We can ask for forgiveness.  We can agree with Him that what we are doing is sin.  We can turn from our sin and decide we want to walk on God’s narrow path that leads to life.  And then we need HIS power to be able to obey Him.  So that means, we allow Him to remove all the sin in every corner of our hearts.  We abide in Him – we stay in His Word often.  We pray continually through the day.  We seek His will, His wisdom and His glory and we lay down our own selfish desires and our wisdom .  We long to obey Him in everything.  We ask Him to fill us with His Spirit.  We are still and listen for His voice and read His Word with a deep hunger.  We want HIM more than ANYTHING in life.

Precious sisters in Jesus,

The bitterness has to go!  I am looking at myself first.  We cannot afford to hold on to this destructive sin anymore.  How I pray that God might speak to each of our hearts and tear out every trace of bitterness -replacing it with His Spirit, the fruit of His Spirit and His abundant life!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

RELATED POSTS:

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

We Are Always Wretched Sinners on Our Own – We Never “Arrive”

A Peacefulwife VIDEO about nonverbal disrespect

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

Today’s post is a guest post by my dear sister in Christ, Selena, at www.joyfullysubmitted.com.  Thank you, Selena, for allowing me to share this post!  I pray that it will bless and edify many for the glory of God.

For the past week, some friends and I have been experiencing what it feels like to have our hearts turned inside out and upside down.  The Lord has used the isolated experience of one as an amazing tool to cleanse the hearts of us all, of some known, but mostly unknown and unrepented of bitterness and ghastly unforgiveness!  We have had the sinful contents of our bitter hearts, ever so gently shaken loose, so that we could choose to either acknowledge the presence of sin and repent of it, or continue to ignore its contents and go on growing more and more removed from God.  For some of us, the existence of bitterness was no shock! We had a moderate awareness on some level of its existence.  But for others, this revelation broke our hearts, and brought agony to our souls as these evils were revealed under the all illuminating light of God’s Word…

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For most of the week, I have remained silent…reading the emails that have gone back and forth as one thing after another was revealed or exposed…as one realization after another pierced the hearts of those of us impacted.  What God revealed to one, He revealed to another, and with each revelation of the depth of the darkness still lurking in our hearts, we prayed all the more…and with each prayer came another level of confession and repentance… and the more we confessed and repented, the more healing took place.

UNEARTHING BITTERNESS

The biggest hurt/most humbling thing for me was realizing that I had NOT forgiven as I thought I had.  Or rather, that I had not forgiven at all.  And that bitterness is just the tip of a very evil, ugly iceberg!  The root of bitterness is unforgiveness…and the root of unforgiveness is and has ALWAYS  BEEN PRIIIIIDE!!!!!! (That was me yelling at myself) Foolish pride. Evil pride. Ugly pride. God offending pride.  And after all of the years that I have known the Lord, it is still found in me… in my heart.  Some may ask why is this such a big deal, after all, we’re only human right. Wrong! We are women of faith! And not just a faith but THE faith. We have placed our faith in the One True and Living God and in His Son Jesus the Christ! We have been changed … trans-formed! (This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Cor.5:17)  Because we are His we no longer desire the things of this world!!! We no longer want to be like the world!!! And we no longer are ok with the world being in us!!! We want it out!! Out of our hearts!!! Out of our minds!!! Out of our families!!! When speaking of people of the same Faith that we profess, the Book of Hebrews said the following;

“How much more do I need to say? … They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” Hebrews 11:32-40

This experience…this full recognition of the evil pride that repeatedly spawns bitterness in the hearts of Gods people everywhere, including in my own heart, has worked to revive the fight in me.  Hebrews has reminded me of the spiritual stock that we all come from…of the cloth that we’re cut from.  We are ‘more than conquerors’ (Romans 8:37), and that means that we can, by the power of the life-giving Spirit that now abides in us, conquer even bitterness…pride… envy…jealousy…and all of their ugly relatives!!!!

The healing that began in the hearts of our small prayer group is just the beginning!!! We are able to overcome bitterness, and through our testimonies, help others to overcome and experience healing too!!! God’s mercy has empowered us to not “just pretend to love others. [but to] Really love them. [to really]Hate what is wrong. [to truly]Hold tightly to what is good. [to] Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… [to] Bless those who persecute [us]. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think [we] know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead,“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:9-21)

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BITTERNESS YIELDS POISONED FRUIT

You see, pride says that I deserve better…in my case, that I deserved to be treated better than they treated me, 20 years ago as well as off and on throughout the years. Unforgiveness sets in because I want God to punish them and to do it quickly and visibly, where I can see that they got ‘in trouble’ for wronging wonderful me!! Bitterness sets in over time when the punishment never seems to come, and the wrong never seems to be made right.

Over time these evil emotions begin to feel normal, and comfortable, and we begin to feel justified, and pride begins to grow and gain strength.  And eventually, our refusal to forgive becomes justifiable, and bitterness becomes our friend. We don’t even realize that we are now living in a prison of our own making, and while pride has convinced us that we are right, its true evil is camouflaged…hidden from our view, and the absolute distortion of the image of Christ being perfected in us is now all that is visible. Bitterness makes us unattractive…it manipulates us, our responses or reactions.  Where we should be acting in the love of God and displaying His mercy, when bitterness takes our hearts captive, we become the puppets of the enemy of our souls.  And the name of our God is defamed….

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

CHRIST WON’T LEAVE US IN OUR SIN

I am going to wrap this up with one more thing that I was reminded of this week; Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ not only loved the church, but that he

“gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” 

This past week my beautiful prayer sisters and I experienced that ‘washing of water by the word’, and it was painfully glorious!!! Bitterness no longer reigns in the most holy place of our hearts! We now know what it looks like and smells like and sounds like…and how it feels!!! And we know most of all that it is an overwhelming offense to the presence of our merciful, forgiving and gracious God.  More than ANYTHING we want to honor Him!!!! More than ANYTHING we want our lives to bring Him glory!!! More than ANYTHING we want to hear Him say ‘Well done!’!!!!! We are choosing daily to forgive. we are choosing daily to love. We are FIGHTING MINUTE BY MINUTE to remain humble.  And by the power of His life-giving Spirit we will be VICTORIOUS!!! Won’t you join us??? Forgive today…resist the self-imposed prison of bitterness that the enemy is trying to sneak into your hearts under the guise of justifiable anger or wisdom…choose today to love with Gods love, and let it heal our hearts together….

Finding God’s Victory over Bitterness

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Yesterday, we looked at many of the causes, signs and consequences of bitterness – if you missed that post, you can find it here.

I have discovered that I have to dig down deeply and examine all of my angry thoughts, write down exactly why I am upset and then compare my thoughts to the truth of God’s Word and trash the things I am thinking and believing that aren’t true. (But I need to throw away the list of wrongs I have suffered after I have examined them!)  I also need to identify all of my sinful reactions and repent of each individual sin towards each individual person and memory that contains the smallest root of bitterness.  I realize now that even old memories from long ago need to be uprooted and inspected for hidden traces of bitterness to get all of that before God and remove even the smallest particles – or it will fester.  I lay still before God on the operating table as He opens up my heart and examines every dark crevice. I need God to renew my mind by the power of His truth and His Word.  I must take each thought captive for Christ and allow Him to examine my heart and mind and extract every offensive way in me.  I desperately need time in His Word daily and time in confession of my own myriads of sins daily and time praising and thanking Him. I pray we will be sensitive to God’s Spirit and able to hear His voice:

  • pride – “I am better than so and so.”  “I would NEVER do what he/she did.”  “I am so much more spiritually mature than him.”  I have to ALWAYS be on the lookout for pride.  God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  James 4:6 Pride is a HUGE source of fuel for bitterness in my heart.  “I deserve better.”  “I know better than her what we should do.”  “I am not that sinful.”  “He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.”  “I am above THAT sin.”  “He/she is SO spiritually weak to fall into THAT temptation.”  “That is unforgivable.  I will NOT forgive that!”
  • ungodly motives – I am VERY SINFUL and wicked on my own.  I am in desperate need of Jesus! I have to constantly check WHY I want to do things and allow God to expose sin, pride, desire for glory for myself, selfishness, and many other sins!  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9  I can easily be blind to my own sinful motives.  I need God to show me my sin, and other believers and other people to tell me the sin they see in me.
  • unforgiveness – Jesus commands us to forgive so that God will forgive us.  Matthew 6:14-15  Unforgiveness is HUGE sin in the  sight of our holy God.
  • gossip – usually born from my pride and wanting to prove how much better I am than someone.  MORE PRIDE!  Gossip is part of the fruit of the flesh, it is NEVER of God!  What are my motives when I am sharing stories about others?  Am I looking out for their best and for God’s glory?  Or am I trying to make them look bad and make myself look wise,  am I trying to hurt the person and ruin his/her reputation and turn others against them or using their sins/errors for entertainment?
  • fear – I need to think about God’s Word and that perfect love drives out all fear, and that the only One I truly need to fear is God – “what can man do to me?”  If I have God’s power in me and His Spirit filling me, He will give me the strength, courage and wisdom to handle another person’s sin in His way for His glory.  I don’t have to be afraid of another person’s attempts to control me, their disapproval, their unkind words, their anger.  If I am paralyzed by fear, I am not trusting God.  I have a lack of faith in His sovereignty and power to work in my life.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6  I don’t have to be swayed by sinful attempts of others to control me.  I don’t have to get upset or react sinfully myself.  I am no longer a slave to sin!  Now I am a slave to Christ!  I may calmly respond in the power of the Holy Spirit and refuse to cooperate with sin and ask God to give me His love for them. (If someone is violent towards you or threatening you physical harm, please do not trust your safety to them.  You may need to get away, may need to involve the police.  Please find godly, local, experienced counsel if you are in physical danger!)  I can forgive, but I don’t have to trust until the person earns my trust back.  But I need to desire to work towards reconciliation as far as it depends on me and God working in me.
  • idolatry – wanting people’s approval, wanting to please people, wanting people to think I am perfect, expecting other people to make me be happy, demanding things of others, insisting on MY will, MY way, MY desires, MY goals, MY needs, MY feelings of being loved…  If I am giving other people power over my emotions and feelings and believing evil things they say, but ignoring what God’s Word says – I have a big problem!   It is what GOD says that matters – not what others say!  If their opinions and statements and condemnation don’t line up with scripture – I don’t hang onto their words! Just because someone says something about me, does not mean it is true.  It is up to me to take that statement to God and His Word and examine it.  There is no reason to blindly swallow poison from other people. If that person could act in spiritual maturity, love and wisdom – he/she would!  But right now that person may be held captive by sin or by the enemy – and may not be able to be the person God desires them to  be.  God may want to use me and His Spirit in me to show His love, mercy, kindness and grace to that person who is acting hatefully to draw him/her to Himself.  When others mistreat me – God is watching carefully!  There are many tests of my faith each day.  I pray we will hear God’s voice and honor Him!  My reaction to others’ sin reveals my character.  Other people cannot MAKE me fly into a rage.  God’s  Spirit is to be in control of me – not my sin nature!   If I am not seeking God’s will, His dreams, His goals, His presence, His righteousness, His Word, His power and His pleasure – I may be dealing with idolatry.
  • undealt with sin – if someone sinned against me, but I didn’t go to them in love and truth and tell them that they hurt me, I was wrong.  It is my responsibility to tell someone (calmly) if they wrong me.

Martha Pearce in The Excellent Wife has a chart  of Bitter Thoughts and Kind, Tender-hearted, Forgiving thoughts to replace the bitter thought.    This same concept can be applied to ANY relationship.  What a fantastic place to start!

She lists many of  the bitter thoughts wives think, and replaces it with a truth from scripture and with a kind thought.  What a  GREAT way to counter bitterness and find victory in Christ!

Verses she used for the godly thoughts:

Matthew 18:32-33, Matthew 19:6

Romans 8:28-29

I Corinthians 4:4-8, I Corinthians 6:11, I Corinthians 10:13

Colossians 3:2, 14

Ephesians 4

Philippians 2:3-4

I Peter 3:9

James 1:5

I John 1:9

SOME INSIGHTS FROM A FRIEND THIS WEEK:

I realized several things:

1. I am SO quick to get angry
2. My anger and bitterness toward them is not just about this one incident-this is just one more incident that can be added to the long list of wrongs that I’ve been keeping 🙁
3. The beauty of Christ cannot be seen in me if I’m pouting and angry
4. I need to forgive these people and treat them kindly
5. I have absolutely no desire in my flesh to do that right now
6. I desperately need the Lord to bring me to that place!
April, I think your right in saying bitterness is progressive, and just recently learned that forgiveness can also be progressive. In Tim Keller’s Galatians study, there’s chapter on forgiveness. This has been very helpful to me, and I think it can be applied to bitterness as well since they seem to go hand in hand. He states:
  “When someone has wronged you, it means they owe you; they have a debt with you. Forgiveness is to absorb the cost of the debt yourself. You pay the price yourself, and you refuse to exact the price out of the person in any way. Forgiveness means you free the person from penalty for a sin by paying the price yourself.
  
   Realize that forgiveness is granted (often for a long time) before it is felt. Forgiveness is not primarily a feeling, but a set of actions and disciplines. Forgiveness is a promise NOT to exact the price of the sin from the person who wronged you. This promise means a repeated set of ‘payments’ in which you relinquish revenge. It is hard, and (for a while) constant. If this promise is kept actively, eventually the feeling of anger subsides.”
 
   He goes on to quote Dan Hamilton from his book Forgiveness: “Forgiveness is to deal with our emotions by sending them away- by denying ourselves the dark pleasures of venting them or fondling them in our minds.”  “Once upon a time I was engaged to a young woman who changed her mind. I forgave her…but only in small sums over a year…They were made whenever I spoke to her and refrained from rehearsing the past, whenever I renounced  jealousy and self-pity, whenever I saw her with another man, whenever I praised her to others when I wanted to slice away at her reputation. Those were the payments- but she never saw them. And her own payment was unseen by me…but I do know that she forgave me…Forgiveness is more than a matter of refusing to hate someone. It is also a matter of choosing to demonstrate love and acceptance to the offender…Pain is the consequence of sin; there is no easy way to deal with it. Wood, nails, and pain are the currency of forgiveness, the love that heals.”
 
WOW! How powerful is that??? Sisters, I just wonder how quickly the bitterness we’re harboring would fade away if we would begin absorbing the costs ourselves. To refuse to dwell on past hurts, to take every thought captive the moment they pop into our head, to release the offender from our high expectations, to not find our satisfaction in the approval of men, to choose to show love to those that hurt us, to remember Christ absorbed the costs of our debts… There are so many ways to make payments…and it’s so HARD! But freedom awaits us on the other side of it! I pray that the Lord will soften my heart and bring me to the place where I am delighted to make the payments, where I LOOK for ways to do it, because I know there’s no way I can do it in my own power!
FROM PEACEFULWIFE:
We will explore more about forgiveness and victory over bitterness tomorrow!  I am SO excited to share God’s wisdom and His path to freedom, joy, peace and abundant life!

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

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This is Part 1 of a series on Bitterness.  (Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4)

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.

YUCK.

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.)
  • selfishness
  • unforgiveness – cherishing my anger more than my relationship with Christ and His forgiveness of me
  • jealousy

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.
  • DISRESPECT
  • 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
  • worry
  • 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
  • jealousy
  • 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
  • jealousy
  • 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!

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