I interacted with an acquaintance today, and when I arrived home something was bothering me. I couldn’t figure it out. Was I angry? Depressed? Jealous? None of those emotions fit. As I was folding laundry, I silently prayed because I was quite distressed. I wanted to resolve my problem and return to a state of joy and thankfulness. Suddenly, my prayer was answered. The word bitterness came to mind. At first I was relieved because I could name my problem and start dealing with it. However, when I started researching bitterness, I was convicted of the severity of the problem.

This person hurt my feelings multiple times and I’ll probably never understand why. I have to see the person regularly, as I did today. God can do anything, but at this point there is no resolution to the problem. I may never get an apology or an explanation. That is fine because, as discussed in my post about forgiveness, there are people in my life that I will never get an apology from, and I have to keep forgiving them over and over again. Clearly I need to keep forgiving this person in my prayers. However, I also want to dive into a study about bitterness so that I can understand it, resolve the problem spiritually between me and God, and hopefully prevent this from happening again.

Let’s see what the Bible says about bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31-32

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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Hebrews 12:14-15

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

In Ephesians 4:31-32, bitterness is equated with wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.  We need to deal with our bitterness before it has a chance to manifest outwardly as wrath, clamor, or slander. Harboring resentment and anger towards someone can result in wrath and clamor. These are outward manifestations of our feelings. Wrath is doing or saying something hurtful in anger. Clamor is when we make a loud spectacle of ourselves as we express anger. There are always going to be people who hurt us and then don’t care enough to apologize or make amends. This brings us back to forgiveness. It is for our own spiritual health. It is essential to keep forgiving people so that we don’t harbor anger or bitterness.

In contrast to bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice, Ephesians 4:31-32 offers alternatives. The verses tell us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” It is difficult to be tenderhearted towards someone who has hurt our feelings.* Our tendency is to toughen our hearts against that person to keep from having our feelings hurt again. The Bible clearly tells us to be kind to the person. For example, we might smile and ask how the person is doing today. We might bring up innocuous topics such as pets, the weather, etc. Finally, the Bible instructs us to forgive the person who has hurt our feelings as God in Christ forgave us. This is a reminder that Jesus died for our sins and God forgives us as we forgive those who have sinned against us. **

Hebrews 12:14-15 provides more instruction about avoiding bitterness. It says to strive for peace, grace, and holiness so that we won’t be defiled by a root of bitterness. Let’s think about how we can apply peace, grace, and holiness to the person that caused bitterness. As we continue to forgive the person, let’s have peace reign in our hearts. Let’s have our actions and words towards the person be graceful, and let’s show the person the same grace that God extends to us. We hear the expression “give yourself grace,” and that instruction could be applied here as well. We’re never going to handle everything perfectly, so let’s do our best and give ourselves grace. Let’s ask God for grace. When we’re around the difficult person we can call on Jesus in that moment to help us. We can ask God for grace and peace in the situation. We can strive for holiness by reading the Bible every day, turning from sin, forgiving others, and asking God for forgiveness.

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Romans 6:14  

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 11:6

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

James 4:6

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Hebrews 4:16  

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

Isaiah 26:3

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

I hope this article about bitterness helped you as much as it helped me to research and write it. If you read this and would like to begin a relationship with God, consider John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. If you are ready to accept Jesus as your savior and walk with the God who created you in your in your daily life, I invite you to pray to Him now. He loves you and is waiting for you. Talk to Him now and your prayer might be something like this: Dear God, I know that I need your help. I know that I have made mistakes and ask for your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for my sins, so that I may know you and have eternal life with you. I accept Jesus as my savior and ask you to come into my life so that I may be born again in Christ Jesus. Amen.

If you prayed such as prayer, congratulations! Get connected with a Bible believing, Bible teaching Christian church in your area and begin reading the Bible each day. There are many Bible reading plans available on the Internet. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Thank you and have a great day!

*In this article I am talking about hurt feelings. In no way do I approve of staying in an abusive relationship.

**Mark 11:25

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

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