Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bitter or Better?

From the moment we are born till the moment we die, things are constantly happening to us. A former pastor of mine used to say quite often; “Difficult circumstances will either make you bitter or make you better.” That's a scary thought but I have found this to be true in my own life and have seen it to be so in the lives of those around me. Bitterness is something we all have to struggle with. Such an easy pit to fall into when our world seems to fall apart!

The word bitterness can mean “ to fester”, “to be sarcastic”, “to be jealous”, “to rankle”, or “to be hard”. We’ve all had times in our lives when things happened that made us have some of these feelings. Sometimes bitterness can be a secret sin. Someone does some kind of wrong to us…we get bitter….but we want to appear as good in the eyes of our friends so we try to not let this bitterness show. So it doesn’t hurt the one we’re mad at….it only hurts us. Isn’t it ironic that in wanting to hurt someone else, we end up only hurting ourselves?

On the other hand, sometimes bitterness is extremely obvious. Let’s say that a mother has lost a son to death and she blames God for all her sorrow. She may curse God and never set foot in a church again. It is very obvious to all who know her that she is a bitter person. There may be another mother down the street who has lost a child, too, but she has continued to be faithful to God and has used the compassion she has found through the death of her own child to become a comfort to other grieving parents. This latter mother has become better through her trial instead of bitter.

The only “good” definition of bitterness I found was “to show sorrow.” In Zechariah 12:10 the Bible says, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” This verse paints a picture of how we should feel when the grace of God has been applied to our lives and we realize that it was our sins that “pierced” the Son of God. Then we should be in “bitterness”, or in other words, show sorrow for our sins.

Yes, I have found it so very easy in my own life to become bitter but it is so much more rewarding to take my problems, my disappointments, my losses, and my pressing cares to the One who can make all things right. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

While studying to write this article, I came across a quote by Harry Emerson Fosdick that I thought summed up the contrast between bitterness and its opposite, which is love. Here is the quote:

“Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.

Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it.

Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it.

Bitterness sickens life; love heals it.

Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes.”

My prayer is that both you and I may have the power of the Love of Christ in our lives “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” (Hebrews 12:15 b)

May God help me to be better.....not bitter!



Leah said...

Great post! Bitterness will absolutely paralyze and render a Christian ineffective. Lord,keep us from letting bitterness take hold of us.


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Just today I had to confront some bitterness in my own heart toward another person. It involves an occasion that happened over two years ago...a situation involving my pastor husband. It was such an offense at the time, that it involved our entire family, causing us much sorrow and grief.

It's hard when the offending party never comes around to realizing their sin. There have been occasions when I have been that offending party and knew I needed to try and make things right. Rarely has it ever gone perfectly. Still and yet, we are called to do this.

So when the other party doesn't, it's like a slap in the face to have to be in some type of fellowship with him/her. That's where I found myself today. In fellowship and hating most every moment of it (just keeping it real here).

Thanks for this timely post. I know I have some work to do before my Father in the matter.


Joyful said...

Marilyn, I'm fighting bitterness in regards to all that has happened to my Dad. Hate that my heart is feeling this way. Asking the Lord to dig out the root of bitterness and replace it with His love.

Thanks for this truth to my heart,

Marilyn in Mississippi said...

Elaine and Joy, I can identify with both your situations and can see how bitterness can certainly take hold. You know my name actually comes from the root "Mara" which means bitterness! And it's strange but it seems to "suit" me! Not saying that I like it but I am a person who is easily turned toward bitterness. One of my biggest concerns is that I get hard and bitter and of no use to God or anyone else.
Thanks for sharing your hearts!

Love ya'll,

Rachel Smith said...

I really enjoyed this post!

I LOVE the picture at the top of your blog!

Kay Martin said...

I am quick to forgive. God gave me this truth on bitterness in my youth. I have worked for years in the medical field and my husband was a physician. I saw people literally shriveled up from bitterness. You could see it in their faces, hear in their voices and see it in their bodies.

I noticed some folks had actually been betrayed worse than others.
The forgivers did well; the resentful ones got hard and sick.

Great usual.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

I needed this today. I have a situation that has come to the surface after about 7 years. i am trying hard not to be bitter, but to let God work and for me to just let Him do it without my help!


karin said...

I, too, needed this today. I write poems and prayers to express my feelings and experiences - probably because I have no one I want to burden by speaking out loud the things that cause this feeling. I tried once or twice to share my thoughts and feelings about a circumstance and my response to it, and I found that no one truly wanted to listen - as they quickly steered the conversation to their own problems or issues. Once, when I was welcomed to share what was on my heart, I found that I had been relieved but the person I confided in still seemed to carry the concerns and my burden much longer than I did. That incident has made me reconsider sharing with others. It is hard to fight against the feelings of bitterness and cynicism, but I know that is what the Lord wants me to continue to do. He's still working on me --- and He will achieve His purpose in my life. Thank God for that.