the way things should be
“Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I remember hearing a pastor say this many years ago and thinking how foolish it would be to do such a thing. Then several years later, I realized bitterness was a problem in my heart and life. But how did I get there? I read my Bible, went to church, and was involved in Christian community. I thought I was doing all the right things for God. So how did I wind up dealing with a heart full of bitterness and anger toward others?
Bitterness is “anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.” I don’t know about you, but I have a very good idea of how I think things should go in my life. There are expectations and dreams I hold on to, sometimes with a fierceness that indicates my desperation for control.
Jesus told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We can know for certain that people will disappoint us. As long as we live on this earth, there will be brokenness and imperfection that threatens to steal our joy. We can rest assured that life circumstances will often not go according to our plans. So what do we do when our hopes and dreams are dashed by an unfulfilled longing or a broken relationship? How can we respond in the Spirit instead of reacting in the flesh?
During our first year of marriage, the Father chose to sanctify me in ways I was not expecting. Through a season of depression and frailty, He brought to light many lies I had been believing, carefully exposing them and helping me replace them with truth. By His grace, He allowed me to be a part of two pivotal Christian support groups that helped me understand my emotions and process pain from my childhood I had not previously worked through. While difficult (especially in the first year of marriage!), I look back and praise Him for drawing me closer to His heart and helping me see Him for who He truly is—loving, kind, and compassionate. One lie I believed for a long time was that I am a victim. I had unknowingly allowed several situations to pound that lie into my heart, and the enemy deceived me into thinking that I had no choice as to how these situations affected my thinking and my actions.
Through the kindness of my sweet Heavenly Father, I began to see that as His beloved daughter, I do, in fact, have a choice in how I respond to negative situations in my life. You see, when I lived as a victim, I did not believe that God could heal my heart and mind from all that I had walked through as a result of things done to me, said over me, or my own poor choices.
When I walked in unbelief, it was easy for me to be bitter toward people who had hurt me in the past. I felt justified in this bitterness, thinking that if I walked in forgiveness, it would excuse their actions toward me. It was also difficult for me to accept responsibility for how my actions played a part in these difficult situations.
The loving care of the women in my support groups was invaluable to me at this time. God created us to live in community with other believers, and I clearly saw that truth evidenced in this season. When I met with these women and opened up about the hurt I had previously stuffed down, I was able to see that I was not alone. Listening to their stories allowed me to see that each one of us carries the pain of hidden scars. Not one of us walks through life unscathed by the brokenness of humanity and the consequences of sin.
If we are in Christ, we have been given everything we need to live a life that glorifies and honors Him. While it feels easier to stay in our pity party, a life marked by bitterness is one devoid of joy. We cannot walk in freedom with Christ when we stay chained to feelings that enable an entitled and bitter spirit. When we are in Christ, we are new creations. As new creations, we can walk with Him in a spirit of grace and kindness.
2 Peter 1:3–4 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” Our Heavenly Father has given us the power of the Holy Spirit, which allows us to forgive the unthinkable and reconcile when we thought it impossible. He gives us a heart of grace and mercy when we would rather complain and justify our attitudes. He enables us to see as He sees, opening our eyes to help us understand how to love others when they are just plain unlovable.
Living in bitterness is like death to your soul. Walking in forgiveness brings life and light to your heart and eyes.
When I allow bitterness to creep in, my entire countenance changes. I do not want to be honest with others about the condition of my heart because I feel misunderstood and unseen. I am much more quick to be defensive and short with others because I am blinded by the seemingly obvious injustice of my situation.
These days, I am asking the Father to show me quickly when I am allowing bitterness to take over my heart. I would like to say that I have mastered this temptation, but it is still a struggle. However, I am so grateful that I am not where I was a few years ago. God has worked in my heart in ways that only He can to help me find my security in Him. Because, as a daughter of the Most High King, my mission is to honor and glorify the Father. Bitterness steals my purpose and my identity and robs me of my power as a witness of God. But when I choose to walk in forgiveness and humility, He always faithfully shows me His grace and allows me to see His mercy in new ways.
Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!