Have you ever said to your children, “We should go _________ sometime (to this place or to do that fun thing)?” Have you mused out loud about something that sounded kind of interesting or maybe you’d like to do it someday? Am I being too vague? Well, maybe this scenario sounds familiar: Daddy comes in the door after work and the children run to meet him at the door with excited news, “We’re going to go to the Science Museum and then we’re going to go get ice cream and Jimmy and Susie are going with us, and…” Mom’s brows furrow as she tries to figure out what they are talking about, and then suddenly she remembers: they were talking earlier today about some ideas of fun things to do. But the difference is, Mom thought it was just talk! And they were just Ideas!! But the children thought she had made a promise, and now they will be angry, disappointed, perhaps bitterly so, when she explains that it’s not going to happen, at least not in the near future (cost, distance, etc. etc. prohibiting).
In the seminar this week we heard about some of the causes of bitterness and what to do about it if you have let a root of it (bitterness, that is) spring up in your life. I mentioned sometime earlier in another post that people often don’t realize that they’re bitter. And we often don’t realize when we do things that make others bitter (like creating expectations in our children that we never fulfill–and maybe had no intention of fulfilling.) This is convicting to me–is it to you? This can happen not only with our children, but with our husband, and even with other family and friends! The answer isn’t to fix their perceptions of what has been said, but to try to fulfill what they think you said, if possible.
But , back to not recognizing bitterness in ourselves: One of the signs that we might have some bitterness is: going over and over in our minds something someone has done that has hurt or offended us. Another sign is, well, let me express how it felt years ago when I, unbeknownst to myself, had become bitter. We all kind of have this little house that’s “me.” Sometimes the windows are wide open, with a beautiful warm breeze wafting through the open windows, lifting the curtains in jubilation. It felt like I was living emotionally in my little house, but in order to “protect” myself (which I rationalized was perfectly natural and normal) I went around my little house and “closed all the doors and battened down the hatches.” I closed all the shutters of all the windows. When you do this you have closed yourself off from the person who offended you, and you think that now you are “safe”. But it’s dark and lonely and you can’t breathe very well in there. And, though you’re closing yourself off from the person who offended you, you’re also closing yourself off from others as well. What happens little by little is that you become very hard, and cold and unloving and well, more bitter.
In the Seminar, Mr. G. lists four steps to overcoming bitterness (or whatever you call what you are feeling; it took a long time for me to acknowledge that I was bitter)–to simplify this post, however, I will call it bitterness.
1. Confess the sin of bitterness. (or confess to God your deep hurt or how offended you feel–whatever you have been calling it). 1 John 2:9–“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” But, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
2. Ask God to regain surrendered ground. (I will explain how to go about doing this in more detail in an upcoming post.) For now, suffice it to say that when we get bitter we give satan permission to harass or “torment” us and we will have a battle in our soul (our mind, will and emotions) going on . Doubts, fears, depression, surges of anger, pride (I deserve better than this) are some of the things we may be tormented by.
3. Tear down strongholds with truth. Though God has to regain the surrendered ground, we have weapons to fight with to tear down strongholds that satan builds. A stronghold is a false idea from the devil. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (like retaliating), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 You will have to fight against the lies that satan tries to tell you if you have let yourself become bitter! The method we use to do this is to build up “towers of truth”! Read God’s Word (“Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth” John 17:17), memorize God’s Word (“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalms 119:11), and meditating on God’s Word. And thrust that “sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” in for the kill by repeating God’s Word out loud (loudly)! when false ideas come into your mind.
Ephesians 6:11-18 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; (15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (18) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
4. Show mercy by forgiving your offender. Obviously, anyone who’s been bitter knows this isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible. Unless God gives you the ability to do it. Pray and ask Him to make you want to, first of all, then ask Him to make you able to, and then you need to “go the second mile.” I’ll tell you that story in my next post. But first, here’s some verses that have some “ouch” in them.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: (15) But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 18:33-35 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? (34) And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. (35) So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
“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.” Ephesians 4:31-32