I don’t think anyone wakes up and decides to live a life full of bitterness. No, we dream of lives full of love, joy, and fullness. But somewhere along the way, those dreams get derailed, and pain begins to take center stage.
So where does it start?
Bitterness is merely anger unchecked. Usually, it starts with some form of offense, whether intentional or not, we allow to grow. Over time that hurt, when unforgiven, becomes anger evolving into bitterness.
It subtly grows with each conversation we repeat in our hearts and out our mouths.
“You don’t know what he’s done to me.”
“All they ever did was mistreat me.”
“No matter what I do, it’s never enough.”
We allow all that anger in our minds and hearts to spew out words of hurt to anyone who will listen. We nurse those “wrongs” causing us to miss out on the joys of life.
Before you know it, the bright light of love that once radiated from you is now a flicker hidden behind the darkness of your resentment and bitterness.
Do you want to be the person on the other side of bitterness? Do you want to live with your heart open again?
Here are three steps that can help you move forward to living a full life in Christ beyond bitterness.
One significant step to letting go of bitterness so you can live a full life of love is forgiveness. To take this step, you have to do the hard thing and face your pain. Bring the pain into the light so that it can be confronted, worked through, and healed in the presence of God. As long as all of that anger and bitterness stays locked within our hearts, it grows in the darkness leaving damage in every relationship in our lives.
Let’s be clear. Forgiveness is not saying what the other person did or did not do was “ok.” Instead, forgiveness is saying, “I choose to SURRENDER this situation, this person, this behavior to my loving God who is big enough to carry it all.” Forgiveness is the key to unlocking our hearts so that we can experience the fullness of Christ in our lives.
A part of forgiveness means going to God with our failures, fears, and shortcomings to expose where we have been misguided.
God receives no glory from our bitterness. Forgiveness may not change the situation, but everything changes within us. Our hearts shift from looking at our situation to focusing on the great sacrifice of Christ for us. We can experience freedom and restoration when we choose to surrender all that hurt, anger, and bitterness to Christ.
Bitterness distorts our vision. We hold others hostage for our expectations of what they should have done, could have done or failed to do. We see start to see life through the cloudy lens of our pain and rejection. Every area of our lives is impacted, including our walk with Christ.
When we allow bitterness to take root in our hearts, our willingness and ability to pray for others becomes limited. Bitterness will cause you to talk more about those who have hurt you instead of going to God on their behalf.
So pray, and pray often.
Praying keeps our heart open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Use scripture to guide your prayer time. What does the word say about anger, bitterness, and forgiveness? Instead of dwelling and retelling the pain, speak God’s truth in your life.
Make a list of those you feel have disappointed, offended, rejected or used you and bring them to God. Spend time praying for them. Luke 6: 28 tell us to, “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” Praying for others includes going to God on their behalf, believing God’s will for their lives, and transformation in their hearts.
Bitterness is a funny thing. It cannot exist in perfect love.
Choose love even when the moment is uncomfortable and when it seems hard. Love helps us to see the good in others before we are so quick to see the bad. Love helps us to extend grace when those we care about disappointment us dearly. Love changes our perspective so that we extend forgiveness more easily and freely.
Loving others is easier to do when you stop to think of how vast and how great God’s love is for you. We love because He first loved us. Love is easier when we understand Christ’s great sacrifice for on the Cross. Because forgiving often and praying often is just loving like Jesus. The more we love, we become more like Him and more aware of the gift He gave us through His blood on the cross.
So choose love!