Planes fly in holding patterns; humans do, too. Bitterness is one of those holding patterns. It’s time to land that plane!
(12) Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.
Bitterness begins as righteous indignation. We have been offended! We either strike out at the person or we withdraw our fellowship from that person. A simple apology may not be enough; we want retribution! Bitterness, when fully formed, turns into hate, which leaves no room for the love of God in our hearts.
Jesus dealt with this attitude in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, (3) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust [a person’s weakness] in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank [of self-righteousness and judgemental attitude] in your own eye? (4) How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (5) You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
A big problem with harboring bitterness in our hearts is that it affects those around us. We become cynical, rude, and hateful. We lose our joy and our hearts grow cold toward the Lord and others. Bitterness is also an attitude that can spread to our spouses and our children: (17) Whoever heeds discipline [the Lord’s way] shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction [stubbornly refuses to let go of the root of bitterness] leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17
Children see through us because they live with us and know us–sometimes better than we know ourselves. They watch to see if our words match our actions, our faith matches our preaching, and if our walk matches our talk. They may even reject our faith because they do not see us living what we say we believe. They conclude that it must not be real. We MUST deal with our bitterness and hatefulness, people!
God is very clear about what to do with bitterness:
(30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:30-32
It really comes down to trust: Do we trust the Lord enough to know that He will take care of the situation? Do we allow the situation to drive us to His throne for comfort and fellowship with Him? Instead of staring at a person’s wrong, do we lift our heads to gaze at His face? Only HE can give us the strength and courage–and even the desire–to forgive. Pray for compassion. We are most like Jesus when we are compassionate.
(36) When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd [and these were the people who would eventually kill Him]. Matthew 9:36
We don’t get a “by” on this one, but we do get a second chance. All we have to do is turn to the Father and say something like, “Lord, I give you this situation. It wasn’t fair, nor was it right, but I am letting go of it and handing it to You. Give me love and compassion in the place of bitterness and hurt. I know it may take a while for me to feel the change; it is enough to know that You are working in me to effect that change. Thank You for Your love for me and Your patience with me. Amen.” Just know that you may have to pray this prayer each day for a year!
If we allow our struggles to whisk us to the throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16), we have effectively transformed our potential fellowship-breakers into worship makers!
(16) Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16