hard to bear; grievous; distressful; causing pain; piercing; stinging; hard to admit or accept; resentful or cynical (dictionary.com);
distasteful or distressing to the mind; accompanied by severe pain or suffering (merriam-webster.com)
Bitterness comes when you focus too much on the things that didn’t go the way you wanted. A failed relationship, an unexpected death, an unfulfilled dream, someone telling you that you can’t have all your dreams come true, expecting God to act as a “genie in a bottle” answering all your wishes and making your dreams come true. Truth is, God isn’t a genie. And sometimes we resent that He isn’t when we think we know exactly what we want and He doesn’t provide it. It’s okay to get upset every now and then, it’s okay to vent sometimes. What’s not okay is when we think about these “failures” or “vacancies” all the time to the point that we become obsessed. When you dwell on the bad things too much, they become like the clouds blocking out the sunshine. Every now and then happiness and hope peek in, but you let these worries, these obsessions, block the good out again. I do not believe this is what God wants for His children.
The Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4 the things to rid yourself of that you might walk with Christ. In verse 31, Paul writes this (NASB version), “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” This tells me that bitterness has no place in my walk with Christ. Bitterness, much like anger or fear, can suck the life out of you. It can drain your passion, joy, and peace. It can leave you tired (mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally) and leave you feeling empty. When your bitter towards God, you are unconsciously (sometimes consciously) not allowing Him to fill your cup. Bitterness towards God can lead you to not spending enough time with Him. If your not focusing on God and are focusing on all that’s gone “wrong”, where is your source of joy and peace? Where will your soul find rest when it’s weary? Where will you take comfort for your heart? What will you use to fill the emptiness inside? You can let your bitterness turn to anger. You can try to take comfort from all sorts of worldly things…alcohol, friends, tv shows and movies, music, your passion (even if you’re not feeling particularly passionate about it at the time), drugs, violence…the list goes on and on. Some of these worldly things (spending time with friends, investing in a passion like music, etc.) are good things…but eventually you start to realize that your soul is not comforted, you still feel empty, broken, restless. Here is what I’ve been pondering on. There is no comfort like that provided by God. His peace passes all understanding. He fills you when you feel like you can’t go on, He gives you strength. He grants you rest, expands your passion, gives you joy that can weather anything. But you have to welcome Him. He won’t force you to accept what He has to offer. The thing is, we have to trust that what He is offering is what we need and more so have the faith that He will provide what He is offering. Those dreams that your longing to fulfill? He knows about them. That test you failed? He knows and can help you gain the knowledge you need to succeed. That relationship that fell apart? He understands your pain and is there to comfort you, and maybe help you learn something from it.
I guess my point is this: bitterness can become an idol. By this I mean that it can take God’s place in my heart. When it pervades my entire life so that I can’t focus, so I get depressed or angry or feeling empty, it distracts me from my calling. Things like bitterness are shadows that try to block out the Light of the World. Overcoming bitterness is an act of the will. It takes lots of faith, trust, prayer, and choosing to turn to the One who loves me most, the One who can turn a bitter and hard heart into a tender one that is filled by God, directed by the Spirit, and follows Jesus.
I find encouragement in Hebrews 12:1-2b, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (NIV, italics mine)
God bless and thanks for reading.