KEY SCRIPTURE Ephesians 4:31-32
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.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Why have I used such an odd subject to commence 2023? A bit morbid? Not really. More divorces occur at the start of the New Year than any other time. Bitterness, therefore, could play a big part in that, whether before the divorce discussions or after the divorce. Most divorces contain a great fallout filled with anger, pain and a palpable bitterness residing in a parent, parents, and/or the children.
An interesting article came through a few days ago about bitterness and forgiveness. It was timely, because I had been wondering why God put Colossians 3:19 in the Bible. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
There are many biblical references regarding bitterness. From Esau bitterly crying about his so-called losses to Jacob, to the bitterness of Israel's hard bondage in Egypt and the bitter herbs eaten at the Passover of their freedom, to the bitter taste of God's punishment. The term has been used in a variety of instances to help us understanding that bitterness is a consequence.
Things that happen to us cause mixed emotions. The negative ones can breed bitterness. Most bitter people don't realise they are bitter. They're unaware it has seeped in and is now a part of them, because it only shows its head in certain instances.
The thoughts of our heart cause bitterness, and if we leave bitterness unchallenged, it will reside within to become a stronghold of Satan. Because it's a consequence, we cannot be free of it without prayer and behavioural change. It's a decision-based outcome. So we need to identify the cause and mortify it—put it do death with no resurrection.
Anger, unforgiveness and one-sided harsh judgments lie just under the surface of our heart-lake. We hold onto hatred and conclusions about people and incidents, smiling on the outside while bitter inside. One stir of that lake—possibly something we disagree with, a hurt or revisit to a place in our past—and the acidity quickly rises to the surface forming our response.
If asked are we bitter, we would reply with a firm "No, of course not!" saying "I'm just angry and upset, and I have a right to be" or "I'm just making a point." But when we experience several situations we cannot resolve our way, the cap is unscrewed and the poison of bitterness leaks in. The one-off angry outbursts, emails or texts become more frequent showing us the bitterness is spreading.
We start off just being angry or discontent. Then, if we haven't resolved it the way God wants, bitterness commences and takes over our underlying feelings.
How do we deal with bitterness? The article said by forgiving others as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us, and letting go of our justified anger. That's the short version and correct. But we can add praying for others, earnestly repenting of all our indecent judgments, and humbling ourselves before Almighty God. We must continually face the fact that we are nothing at all—NOTHING AT ALL— if not for the grace of the living God and the selfless death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of our judgments are pharisaically based, and all those types of decisions about blame need to go.
Colossians 4:6 helps with Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. If our speech has been different to this at times, we have to face the fact that we’ve harboured stuff.
The term Bitter in Hebrew means angry, discontented, chafed (in spirit). In Greek it means constantly irritated. These are accurate descriptions, because with some things we ARE left angry, discontent, chafed inside, and feeling constantly irritated. But, James 3:11 challenges our motives, saying, Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and BITTER (angry, discontent, chafed inside, and feeling constantly irritated?) We need to remember, our hearts are harbours, and we are their harbourmasters, not God. (Proverbs 4:23). Harbouring old pains, arguments and wrongs is ungodly.
Don't wait to find the cause, just begin forgiving all and every person for whom we have ill-feelings. Later, when we identify the causes, we then mortify them—bury them and don't bring them up again.
Bitterness is one of the reasons God said don’t let the sun go down while we’re angry. (Ephesians 4:6). Whether we’re holding it in or not, it needs to be dealt with. That means we either discuss it with someone until it’s resolved or give it up to the Lord and permanently leave it there. We may find it wasn't as serious in God's big scheme after all.
Forgiving people, organisations or groups, and mortifying wrong deeds and thoughts disarms Satan. It also frees us to grow in Christ as we should, with a pure heart and innocent spirit. If we don't, we slowly but surely make bitter people of ourselves, strangling our faith.
PRAYER Dear Lord, last week I prayed about my early New Year's resolutions. But I do not want bitterness in me at all. Please show me if I have it, if it's a part of me, with the aim of getting rid of it along with anything else you prefer I would clean up.
Photo by Engin Akyurt