I was reminded again recently that to give ourselves the opportunity to be healthy both emotionally and spiritually we need to guard ourselves against bitterness. A growing and stubborn bitterness is one option we have in the aftermath of being wronged or hurt by a specific person or group or even life in general. But this option does us and those close to us no good, especially our spouse and children. Hebrews 2:15 cautions, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” The poison of bitterness will rob us and those around us of the joy of life.
To guard ourselves against bitterness does not mean we pretend we were not wronged or it wasn’t such a “big deal” after all. Something did happen and we were hurt. But relentlessly holding on to it is not helpful. To feed and water it by rehearsing it over and over in our minds will only facilitate its growth.
Somewhere along the line we have to begin to at least neutralize our negative feelings toward those or the one responsible and eventually begin the process of forgiveness. And to do this does not mean we have to put ourselves in the position of being thumped again or completely restore the relationship. It means we have to prevent the root of bitterness from growing deeper and larger inside of us.
The Apostle Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4:31 connects bitterness with some of its frequent traveling companions: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander.” Bitterness often produces strong anger, harsh words, and slander in those who are bitter.
If you find yourself struggling with bitterness and can’t get moving forward in dealing with it I encourage you to get some help. Of course you need to get help from the Lord, but He may want to use a professional counselor or pastor or mature Christian friend to get you started and to encourage you along the way. If this is an issue for you, for your own sake as well as those you love, do something.
Have you ever needed to hear this challenge? Do you need to hear it today? Do you know someone who is bitter?
Adapted from Chapter 12 Preacher’s Pen Columns in the book “A Pastor and the People: An Inside Look through Letters”
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