(Hello all: I’m sorry that I didn’t post my usual Love and Marriage post earlier today, but here is a partial repost of something I wrote months ago, but it is always good to hear again: how to stop being bitter.)
We often don’t realize that we’re bitter. One of the signs that we might be harboring some bitterness in our hearts is if we find ourselves going over and over in our minds that thing our spouse said or did that hurt or offended us. It’s a little like when you have a rough jagged edge on a tooth and your tongue keeps on finding its way over there and going over it again and again.
Let me illustrate another sign that you may be bitter. Imagine that we all have a little “house” that’s “me.” Sometimes the windows are wide open on my “house”, with a beautiful warm breeze wafting through the open windows, lifting the curtains in jubilation. I had a lovely little “house” just like that, but when I became bitter, it was as though, 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 windows. I battened down the hatches. I climbed inside and closed up all the shutters on all the windows. And now I was safe. Or so I thought. But when you close up to protect yourself, you may have “protected” yourself from your spouse or that person who offended you, and you think that now you are “safe”, but it’s dark and lonely in your little house, and you can’t see the Son (Jesus) and you can’t breathe the fresh air of the Holy Spirit very well in there. And, while you’re busy closing yourself off from the person who offended you, you’re also closing yourself off from others as well, and from God. You’re effectively saying to God, “You aren’t capable of protecting me, so I’m taking matters into my own hands.” Little by little you become very hard, brittle, cold and unloving. And, well, more bitter.
People who are bitter often say things like, “No, I’m not bitter, I’m just so hurt.” Or “I’m just very disappointed (or offended).” Whatever you are calling it, there are steps to take to overcome it. Because, Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15,
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
That’s pretty serious stuff. And I think Jesus knew that bitterness not dealt with, will eat away like a canker, and destroy the person who’s bitter, as well as their relationships. Whatever you call what you are feeling (it took a long time for me to acknowledge that I was bitter), here are four steps to take which will help you to open up the windows of your little house, and let the Son shine in and the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit waft through again.
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 any ground you may have surrendered to satan.
This is territory of your soul which you have allowed satan to get a foothold in, by becoming bitter. 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 which may torment us.
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, 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, (like insisting you retaliate) 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 armor 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 armor 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, without the power of the Holy Spirit. Unless God gives you the ability to do it, you can’t. Pray and ask Him to make you want to, first of all, then ask Him to make you able to. Here are some verses that have some “ouch” in them, meaning they tend to be convicting, to me, at least.
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
“Shouldest not thou also have had compassion
on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to
the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due
unto him. 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.”