I am currently reading a book by Charles Stanley called "Emotions". I have often thought and even said on occasion, "Why can we not just go through life without feeling anything- that would make things so much easier"? You know what I am talking about. There are times when emotions are not so great- a friend betrays us, someone talks about us behind our backs, we are not invited with all the others out to eat, etc.So being that Charles Stanley is one of my favorite pastors, once I seen this book I HAD to have it. Boy, have I learned so much about myself!
I never thought that I had a problem with bitterness but now I think it would be easy to not recognize. Allow me to quote a portion of Dr. Stanleys book and see what you think. I think that a lot of us deal with bitterness quite frequently but we do not realize it.
"Likewise, you will be tempted to assign responsibility for the hurt you experience. You may fault others because of the way they treated you and the heartache they caused you. You may condemn yourself for poor choices, past mistakes, or because of an inherent sense of unworthiness Or you may think that God is to blame for what's happened to you and question why He has allowed such painful circumstances in your life. Regardless of whom you hold accountable for the hurt in your soul, one thing is sure- if you don't let it go, you will continue to experience bondage." ("Emotions" by Dr. Charles Stanley;Howard Books, New York, NY 2013 p. 177)
OUCH! This description of bitterness really opened my eyes. Holding on to others hurting us, beating ourselves up for making mistakes and even getting upset with God are all signs of bitterness. I know we all hear about forgiveness and we can easily say we forgive someone but if we constantly dwell on the past hurt or outright avoid the person who offended us, that does not qualify as forgiveness. Furthermore, if we do not forgive ourselves we open the door to bitterness. We have to be careful that bitterness does not set up.
God tells us, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
"For if you forgive men their trespasses your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15
"See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." Hebrews 12:15
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32
It is easy for us to "justify" why we just can't let that one offense go. But we must question, where would we be if God picked and chose which sins He would forgive us for? Praise God, He does not do that to us! Although we deserve nothing but hell, He sacrificed His only Son for us as sinners. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
I do not know about you but this is something that I am going to have to constantly remind myself of and ask God for help with. I thank God that Jesus did not hold bitterness or unforgiveness against all of humanity while He was being betrayed by Judas or while He was being beaten or spit upon.(Matt. 27:30) Praise His Name, He even asked God to forgive man as He hung on the cross- "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
Friend, I can not tell you if you have bitterness in your heart or not but I encourage you to ask God to search your heart and reveal to you if something is there He wants you to weed out. As for me, I am going to be working on "Weeding out Bitterness!"