What has you feeling really weighed down? The events of life bring many challenges, one of which is fighting the ongoing feeling of bitterness toward someone who has done us wrong – whether knowingly or unintentionally. Bitterness is a heavy burden that our minds, emotions, and our bodies were not designed to tolerate, but all of which are negatively affected.
No wonder the writer of Hebrews says to watch out for bitterness, as bitterness stemming out of unbelief, as is all sin, needs to be laid aside for the race in which we are running, a race called life. Because the added weight that multiplies itself as we travel on will only slow us down and cause undo strain in life.
Hebrews 12:15 (ESV) — 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
Hebrews 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Bitterness can be defined as that root of ongoing anger that stems from a refusal to forgive another person, or even God, as we like to blame Him when things don’t go our way.
Ephesians 4:31–32 (ESV) — 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
In dealing with the burden of bitterness, let’s first deal with our bitterness toward God. Our bitterness toward God is seen in the way we complain about our lot in life – everything from the weather, to the actions of government, to what seems to be unanswered prayer, on-going sickness, etc. We’ve all been there, and life becomes a heavier and heavier load as bitterness controls us.
What do you do?
Dump it all on God. Be honest with God and empty the entire load on Him. We have mentioned this principle in recent PowerBreak blogs as a lament of which there are many in the book of Psalms either as an entire psalm or as a portion of the psalm. A lament is basically a recognition of God, a complaint, a specific request, and a statement of faith that God who is sovereign will do what is right. Considering that, let’s look at a case in point from Psalm 77.
First, we see how the psalmist addresses God. We’ll notice how he gets right down to business in his complaint in the verses that follow but consider first the way he addresses God as a cry of faith, “… and he will hear me.”
Psalm 77:1 (ESV) — 1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.
Next, we see the psalmist’s complaint. The psalmist is not too happy about his situation that he feels God could have changed so he’s not too happy with God either. Notice how he empties the cup and notice how God begins to fill his empty cup with the blessing of a changed attitude.
Psalm 77:2–9 (ESV) — 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
When you feel bitterness toward God, recognized by a complaining spirit, then get alone with God and empty the cup and tell Him exactly how you feel. Be free to tell Him totally how you feel because He knows anyway so you aren’t going to surprise Him. Nevertheless, He expects you to admit it all before Him. Once the cup of your heart is empty, He will begin to overflow it with His love and grace.
The third point of a lament is the psalmist’s request in faith for God to rectify the situation..
Psalm 77:10–15 (ESV) — 10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. 15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
If God has answered prayer in the past, why should we not trust Him to answer prayer?
Finally, a statement of faith that God will do what is right.
Psalm 77:16–20 (ESV) — 16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. 18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. 20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
God has demonstrated His power and grace throughout the Bible so when we bring these things up before God we are acknowledging the fact that we believe His word and we are trusting Him to help the situation.
Psalm 77 is a great example of what we do about bitterness toward God, but what about the bitterness toward others? The Bible addresses the issue of being hurt by others with sound and practical advice that when followed will repel bitterness by nipping it in the bud, or at least give relief of the burden when applied even down the road from the time of the offense.
I would implore you to read Matthew 18:15-20 and Matthew 5:23-24 about the need to make tracks for reconciliation as soon as possible if you are the offended or the offender. Why? The longer something lingers the larger the burden of bitterness grows.
Let’s say you have done all that is possible and down inside you know you should forgive, for God has forgiven you. You also know you are not perfect; therefore you will need forgiveness from God and others as life goes on. So how do you forgive?
First, it takes the grace of God in helping you forgive another person so it’s important to seek for that grace from God. Secondly, Jesus has given us a step by step application of seeking to forgive.
Luke 6:27–28 (ESV) — 27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Love the person who has done you wrong, do good to them, bless (speak well of them), and pray for them. As you pray for grace to forgive and to be relieved or kept from the root of bitterness, then seek for grace to apply the action plan prescribed by Jesus. It may seem strange, but God has a wonderful way of bringing blessing into our lives when we simply apply His word through action. It takes His grace as we depend upon Him for the power and help to carry it out, but results await: Relief – from the burden of bitterness.