Am I Bitter?

This past week I’ve heard some teachings on bitterness and the peril in which we place ourselves when we harbor it, feed it, and participate in sharing it with others. As you may know, I always ask the Lord for confirmation on what to share with others, and this one has come up many, many times over the past few weeks.

I have to admit that the first teaching I heard really convicted me because I realized I was doing all three things that I mentioned above – harboring, feeding and participating or sharing bitterness. If I can compare it to something, I would compare bitterness to a spiritual yeast dough. If you give it enough time and the right circumstances it will completely take over the bowl of your soul. I’ve also lately been increasingly distressed by the hateful attitudes, selfishness, and overt lack of concern for others, especially during this time of pandemic. I’ve mentioned more than once for us to put aside our political leanings and to love each other as the beautiful beings our God created and yet, I found myself getting worked up and feeling bitter over what people are saying (political and otherwise), especially when those people claim to be “Christian” brethren when what they’re sharing seems anything but something Jesus would have us share.

For those of you who might not know, I’m considered a charismatic Christian and I have a fabulous Pastor who only moves on the word/command/prompting of God. Lately he’s talked in several sermons and coffee talks about how and what are we doing to keep our Spiritual wellbeing guarded, nurtured, and healthy. He has mentioned several times for us to step out of the fray of world of negative politics, he said-she said bickering, conspiracy theories, social media, etc., as an easy method for managing our mental wellbeing. He’s encouraged us to focus on using this quarantine time wisely – to learn more about God and to press into getting to really know Him better.

It wasn’t until I found myself cursing out loud when talking about the news of the day (if you knew me, you’d think that pretty crazy) that I knew something wasn’t right with my soul. You know what the Bible says: the things that come out of the of mouth come from the heart, and out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak. (Matt 15:18 and Luke 6:45). So, you can imagine that if I heard myself cursing out loud, I must have some pretty toxic overflow going on. About the same time, I heard a teaching on bitterness and, as I listened, I thought, “Hmmmmm… I might have a real issue here.”

That’s when it hit me. The instructor said that when we hear about someone/something and the first thing that comes to our minds is something negative or unlovely, it’s a sign that we need to deal with bitterness. I was convicted. Ephesians 4:29-32 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” So, it’s pretty clear that outright bitterness must be suppressed. And yet, as followers of Christ, there are times when what we hear sparks righteous outrage that causes us to seek or administer correction. That’s the dilemma we face. I think the whole thing is settled by what you allow into your brain to begin with.

First, recognize how delicate and yet important the line can be between lashing out in bitterness and responding or even correcting with love. On the one hand, correcting is to be done out of love and encouragement. Bitterness, on the other hand, is a root that can destroy people, families, and even whole nations. Did you know that we actually defile ourselves and others by carrying it around? That’s because it is tied not to love, but to hatred. Because of this, we are advised in Hebrews 12:14-15 to pursue peace with all people and to be holy because without holiness no one will see the Lord. It says to see to it that we do not fall short of the grace of God to be sure that “no bitter root grows up” to cause trouble and defile many. These verses go on to remind us of the bitterness of Esau who sold his inheritance rights for a meal and then regretted it and wanted it back. Bitterness. Regret. They’re connected, and they can divide your family, too. So, we should constantly ask ourselves, “Is this thing I want to say out of love or something else.” Just asking that question will help rid us of bitterness.

Moreover, did you know that bitterness is treated like an open door for the enemy to lay siege to us or worse yet, for witchcraft? Why? Because bitterness, which turns people away from God, is sinful. Bitterness rarely acts alone, and often couples itself with judgment, jealousy/envy, unrighteous anger and finally, perhaps the worst yet, pride or self-seeking. If you’ve read the Bible, you’ve definitely heard about pride, as it’s mentioned some dozen times (and they’re always biggies) and implied about four dozen more, and never in a good way. We’ve at least heard that it triggers destruction (see Prov 16:18), and is usually mentioned in connection with judgement of ether Israel or Israel’s enemies. At its core, though, pride means relying on yourself and not relying on God. It’s a way of saying, “I know better,” at least when it comes to the folks that might find their way into your bitterness root camp. So, being prideful has to go if we want to be truly open to the fullness of the blessings and relationship with God. In short, consciously getting rid of pride will help rid us of bitterness.

I mentioned judgment, and that’s another thing that bitterness causes us to do. When we get so angry (like I was) at people that we start to judge them on their spirituality, their integrity, mental capacities/capabilities, that’s never a good thing. Empathy is a good helper when it comes to being non-judgmental. Think about something you’ve done, and then think about all the reasons for why you did it. I’ll bet there are plenty, and nobody else really knows what they are. Well, that’s the way we need to act around others. My husband said he used to get pretty peeved about things that an old friend of his would say, and then he learned that his old friend lost his only son that year to cancer. I think that’s why God makes it pretty simple to actually do the work of Jesus. It really only boils down to a few things, which include loving others and not judging them (for example, see Matthew 7:1-2). Once again, in short, consciously getting rid of any judgmental attitude will help rid us of bitterness.

And let’s not forget unforgiveness. Bitterness and unforgiveness go hand in hand, and yet forgiving others is a hallmark of the Christian faith. Indeed, the Lord’s prayer itself mentions it, and Jesus, when further explaining it, even says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6: 14-15). This may seem harsh to outsiders, but we followers of Christ understand what we call “the holiness of God,” which is a righteousness that is so extreme that it simply doesn’t allow sin in its presence. When we say God is just, we mean that he is the maximally great expression of justice – perfect justice – and you simply don’t allow anything sinful around that. Does it mean you’re not saved? Absolutely not, but unresolved sin like unforgiveness might be closing your communication to the Holy Spirit and thus to certain blessings; you know, like losing a signal from the supernatural radio. In short, forgiveness of the sort urged by Jesus will help rid us of bitterness.

Finally, Proverbs 10:18 says that whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. So, I know I need to stop posting things (spreading slander) on Facebook or other places that further my fleshly/worldly cause or justify my political position. I know that I need to remove myself from the fray of the deceit, lies, and overall time-wasting that goes on with that sort of stuff. I know that because it all leads to bitterness.
Now here’s the tough part. Sometimes you absolutely must – with a sense of righteous desire correct the church on something that really matters – say something that someone else might tell you reeks of bitterness. For example, I think some people looked at my last blog and thought “bitterness” simply because likely saw the word “Trump” at the very beginning and thus skipped through it. But my last blog wasn’t done from hatred or bitterness. It was done from love, and a sense that people in the church were propping up idols at the expense of God. It was warning about idol worship in all its forms, with an example that just happens to be in the news every day.

Like I said, it’s tough, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t cross that line between righteous correction and bitter rebuke.

First, stick to the Word. If you’re addressing action that is clearly unbiblical, then you’re on the right track. Along those lines, research it to determine Truth. Again, the Bible will help you immensely in this effort; for example, I didn’t have to go far to see the negative aspects of idol worship. Then try to make sure that whatever correction you give is rooted in love, encouragement, and exhortation. That’s a tall order (which I don’t always do so well), and writing stuff down automatically means that some people will likely take it the wrong way. But we must do our best. Finally, ask God what should be said. If you keep getting the same answer, then you better say it (or pray it; a lot of the time, you can just intercede through prayer rather than actually confront anyone). Sometimes God has you say stuff that just has to be said, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But whatever you say or do, try to visualize Jesus saying or doing it. Jesus – the one person who, if it were in him, could rightfully express the most bitterness – never did, going so far as to ask forgiveness for those who put him to death. If we all develop our empathy, we’re going to start seeing people the way God sees them, and that will automatically make us less bitter.

Ok, now what? I admit that I’ve lapsed into bitterness lately. I’m ashamed that I’ve allowed unwholesome things to take up time and space in my brain. I’m not happy that I was reading everything going on regarding the political situation and the virus, all of which was triggering deep, negative thoughts, including anger toward people I barely knew.

So, I repent of all that. I repent of the bitterness that I allowed to defile my soul. I repent for feeding the agendas of the world and basically repeating the ugly talk that is so prevalent in our world. I repent for showing pride by thinking that I knew what was really happening to someone and what was truly in a persons’ heart. I repent for being unforgiving. Finally, I repent for judging people and I now ask for every negative, unwholesome word that I have spoken against/about people to be taken back and removed from them. I ask for God’s abundant wisdom, mercy, and blessings to be bestowed to those people in place of anything sent their way by me with bitterness as its root. I also pray for all people to know our Lord and accept the free gift of salvation so they can experience the peace that I am re-claiming as well as the love of the one True Living God.

So, Saints, let’s check our hearts, and start paying close attention to our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s ask the Lord to reveal any root of bitterness, any related hangers-on (judgment, selfishness, unforgiveness, pride), and any strongholds put in place for bitterness we may have shown in the past. Let’s ask Him to remove that root and instead replace it with mercy, love, humility, and forgiveness. Finally, let’s thank God in faith for doing all these things that we know he will do whenever we humbly seek His guidance.

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