Bitter or Better – You Get to Choose

Anger is an emotion we all have, and how we express it is very important. Uncontrolled anger quickly turns to rage, a form of abuse.

Anger, when properly controlled helps shape new ideas, it is a healthy mechanism used to set boundaries and keep us from over reacting to situations. You may recall Moses becoming angry many times, as he encountered difficult people, and God used those moments to help shape the man Moses, and indeed an entire nation of people.

Uncontrolled anger turns to rage, and rage is very destructive, often becoming addictive. Anger in and of itself, is not bad. When we are faced with a situation that causes us to become angry, we need to talk it out, find solutions, set boundaries.

Unresolved anger turns to bitterness

The Bible tells us;

Ephesians 4:29-32

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.

Did you catch that? “Get rid of all bitterness  . . .”

Let’s look at this word for a moment.

The root word used for bitterness is:

Pikros             pik-ros’          (piercing); sharp (pungent), that is, acrid – bitter.

Bitterness is a powerful explosive

I grew up in Cameron County, a rather remote area in North Central Pennsylvania, the heart of the Pa. Wilds. Residents are familiar with the term Picric.

Early in the settlement of Cameron County, there was an abundance of Hemlock; it was everywhere. The hemlock trees were debarked, and the hemlock bark processed to produce tannin, in turn used in the process of tanning hides.

Picric (bitter) acid helped pull the tannin out of the hemlock bark. Since there was an abundance of Picric acid, also used to produce the powerful explosive TNT, factories sprung up across Cameron County in the 1800’s.

So . . . “Pikros” or bitterness is a powerful explosive, and the Bible says to get rid of it . . . all of it!

Bitterness usually manifests in three ways, bitterness toward God, toward others, and toward oneself.

Bitterness towards God

Bitterness towards God can happen many different ways, and I have seen it happen many times. A precious loved one is taken away, and there are no clear answers.

Someone prays for a healing, and the object of his or her prayers is suddenly gone!

Someone is faithful to God, serving the church, generous in giving, yet end up losing their job, the house is now in foreclosure, and they are about to lose everything!

The natural question in situations like these are; “why would a loving God allow this to happen?

It is easy to fall into the trap and begin to question God’s love, His mercy, and His wisdom. Perhaps you have been there!

You begin to feel angry at God, and you begin to shrink back from Him. You see God blessing others but you feel cursed and wonder why God is passing you by. I have heard people say; “when is it my time to be blessed!”

Your anger towards God grows, and you become resentful, and question everything God does, you even begin to question the very existence of God. A prime example of this, is found in the Book of Acts.

Acts 8:9-23

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Simon had a bitter heart because he saw the real power of God being used in common everyday folks and he wanted it!

Bitterness towards others

The second way we become bitter is towards others. This usually begins with an offense and a hurt that is not forgiven.  Often this takes a lifetime to develop and can start at an early age. A child, abused emotionally or physically, finding no way to express the pain; become angry, and resentful to their parents or toward others.

I have seen families devastated when a cherished family member passes away. Heirlooms divided unevenly, the estate, managed improperly, and someone gets hurt, resentment sets in. As time progresses, the hurt festers, and bitterness of heart, overtake the person and they become toxic.

When a family lives with a bitter person, life can be almost unbearable! The bitter one cannot truly love, rarely if ever says the words “I love you,” unless spoken with an unhealthy dose of sarcasm.

The bitter person cannot find it within himself or herself, to express hope and encouragement to anyone, life revolves around them and their pain. The bitter heart always sees itself as the victim, the one who is always hurt, and if not hurt now, will most certainly hurt again soon.

The bitter person is almost always angry about something, works hard at producing guilt feelings in others, and when those they must live with distance themselves, more anger and guilt comes rolling out. A bitter person is full of poison and is toxic like picric, an explosion waiting to happen!

Bitterness to oneself

The last form of bitterness expresses inwardly, toward self. Some people see themselves as ugly, sinful, and disgusting. They have committed crimes against God and man, and simply cannot forgive themselves.

They feel as though God could never forgive them for the things they have done. I have encountered many a person with this affliction; when asked; they often say something like; “I hope God will forgive me.” They have not yet believed that God could, or would forgive them.

For this person, God’s forgiveness is just a bridge too far. Many times this person will do works for God, hoping somehow to earn His forgiveness and love!

Bitterness of heart settles in, and in the end, without forgiveness received, the person’s eternal life is lost; a sad end indeed.

The Bible warns us about bitterness;

Hebrews 12:15

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Bitterness will defile many if left unchecked and if you are reading this today, and you know you have the symptoms of bitterness; then let’s get healed of this disease today!

Get free of bitterness, once and for all

To get started, we deal with bitterness toward God. The first step is to realize that we live in a fallen world; a world full of sin and destruction. Remember, bad things happen to good people, and just because we are Christians, does not exempt us from the brokenness of this broken world.

The Bible does give us hope though:

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

While there will be pain and suffering in this world, God is working in ways we may not see clearly. In the midst of great pain and suffering, ask God to lead you, hold tight to His hand.

As we encounter painful experiences in this broken world, rather than despise God, let’s ask Him if there is anything that can be discovered from this? Not that God instigated the pain, but rather, can God help me through this and help me learn something too, perhaps something to help another.

Remember the Scriptures . . .

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Many reading this have been through tremendous pain and suffering, yet you still love God! Could one of the blessings be that there is a way for you to comfort others who may be heading into a season of suffering?

Do not become bitter toward God, He is not your enemy, He is your salvation, trust Him, fall into His arms and love Him, let your bitterness toward Him dissolve!

Secondly, let’s deal with the bitterness toward others. Remember to make your anger temporary; recall Ephesians 4:26 “. . . do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

Do not allow your anger to cause you to sin; make up your mind you will not do it!

Forgive and forget! Now I know this sounds simplistic, but it works. For someone reading this today, you have kept a running list of every hurt, every offense, and you have learned to nurse them; holding them dear, not realizing that the very thing you clutch to your heart is killing you and is a contagion to those around you!

First, forgive them. That means letting go of the right to retaliate! Give the outcome to God; let Him be the Judge, and the One who has the final say. In your forgiveness, be sure to get rid of all malice, give it up!

Stop wishing harm to those who harm you, stop it!

Once you have made up your mind to forgive; then forget. By forget I mean that you will never bring up the offense again.

A man was meeting with a marriage counselor and he said; “please help me, my wife is historical, she’s absolutely historical!” The doctor said; “Don’t you mean she is hysterical?” “No,” the man replied; “she is historical and is always bringing up the past.”

We will not forget the incident, and the scar may last for a lifetime, but when we forgive, we leave it alone and determine not to bring it back up.

One more thought on this; if you are in an abusive relationship and you have within your power the freedom to leave, then do so; God calls us to live in peace. I have known people who feel it is their duty to live in an abusive relationship, to suffer great pain and humiliation, only to end up bitter, resentful and lost; this is not God’s plan.

It is one thing to suffer for Christ and quite another to suffer for man; you must discern between the two, and make a decision.

Finally, let’s deal with bitterness toward oneself. To tackle this one, you need to believe God’s Word. If you do, then there is real hope, if you do not, then you will suffer a long life of bitterness and die without Christ.

Those who suffer bitterness toward themselves often wallow in self-pity. Many, who struggle in this way, have what we often refer to as a besetting sin, the one thing that always trips them up! They tend to live in a cycle of sin and self abasement.

The Bibles says something wonderful;

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Remember that God has provided everything you need for salvation, including the gift of forgiveness. If you have sinned, then confess it to God, tell Him about it! Once you do, then forgiveness comes, it’s over, and He will remember it no more.

Avoid not forgiving yourself, this makes you become as God in your life. Are you stronger, wiser and more powerful than God? I don’t think so! Let it go!

So, let’s get rid of all bitterness today! Make this the first day of a life without bitterness.

For those of you who have experienced bitterness of soul, this is not easy; it will cause tears and great pain. Bitterness has been part of your life, and living without it will be a frightful thing at first. However, to live with it, will cost you your soul, because there will not be one bitter soul in heaven and if you do not deal with it here, you don’t get to go there!

Time to cast bitterness into the sea

For some of you, you have accumulated a mountain of hurt, so much pain and suffering! You have carried it for years and years; it is time to bring it to God.

Mark 11:22-25

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

It is time to cast off the mountain of bitterness; when you, by faith, release this burden to the Lord, He will cast it away into the sea, and sweet water will begin flowing into your soul!

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