What is Bitterness?
Bitterness is a state of mind similar to resentment. Implacableness, severity, keenness of reproach or sarcasm, arrogance, deep distress, grief, anger, contempt, slander, bad temper, lack of joy; are some of the ways that bitterness shows on our life. Bitterness cause trouble, ferments our hearts, torment us and it affects or contaminates those we are in contact with daily.
Why we become bitter?
Bitterness creeps in our heart without notice, if we are not careful, it can destroy us. There are inevitable, unavoidable, and painful situations that can cause bitterness and there are issues that are harder to handle because they have to be dealt within our own heart. Here is a list of situations that can embitter our lives if we do not deal with them on time:
- The death of loved ones.
- When experience abuse (physical or mental), hardship and ruthlessness.
- When the outcome of our own decisions are negative.
- Our own wrong doing to others.
I know we can add so much more causes to it, but I will leave it as is for now. I am a Christian and the reason I even try to write about this issue is because by my own experience I know we can overcome bitterness, there is hope! There is a story that spoke to my heart about this issue and I will use as an example. It is found on the Bible in the book of Lamentations chapter 3. Through this story I understood that I needed to make a change of mind and focus in my life, and that gave me the strength to get rid of bitterness.
Jeremiah is a prophet of God, he has done all that God asked him to do, but now he is experiencing persecution. He was put in prison by his own people, and now that the wrath of God has come over the people of Israel due to their disobedience; he is looking in anguish at the desolation in the country and to his own condition.
If you are read the story in the Bible you will notice, most of these first 18 verses starts with, HE, in reference to GOD (I am using the New International Version). Jeremiah knows that he is suffering because GOD allow it. Jeremiah is a servant of GOD, he is not angry with GOD, or in contempt with HIM, but he writes with resentment. If Jeremiah would have done wrong by a person of his equal status, like another prophet, he would probably demonstrate anger. Contempt, disrespect and despise are also reactions of bitterness for example: from a boss to a person under his/her lead.
Jeremiah writes, that he has seen affliction, hardship, bitterness, and he feels that he is walking in darkness, he prays and there is no answer. He feels hopeless, and without strength. He said on verse 17: "I have been deprive of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. V.18 : So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord".
Jeremiah could have said, I am not done any wrong, why me? Why I have to suffer along with those that disobey? Have you ever felt like this? , I had. We do not have to look hard to understand that Jeremiah is bitter, he even said so, all that is happening around him and to him is getting to be unbearable.
How bitterness affects you?
Bitterness will make us to be disrespectful, angry, depressed, rebellious, distressed, harsh, sad, full of an unending grief, it is like a bondage we carry; it could destroy relationships. Jeremiah looks at his condition, and he suffers for the people that has been taken in captivity, he said on v.19-20 (paraphrase ) he remembers his affliction, wandering, the bitterness, and the gall, and his soul is downcast.
This tells me that he keeps remembering all the pain and the problems around him. Jeremiah is feeding his mind with all that is going wrong around him, to the point that he loses the hope he had from the Lord. Now his soul is downcast, he is depressed. The more we think about that what make us sad, angry, bitter, the more sad, angry and bitter we will become, because we are not looking for the solution, we are feeding on the problem and is like a vicious cycle.
How can you overcome it?
When Jeremiah is on his darkest hour, when he had lost the hope from the Lord, then he remembers the goodness of the Lord. He understand his situation could have been worse than it is. There is still life in his body, he remembers the Lord’s promises, that HE is Faithful and Merciful. He looked away from his pain into something positive, and he found it, you can do it too. He could not find a person that will encourage him, but thinking about the love of God that he experienced before gave him hope. When we look to see the life of someone else, many times you will be surprised to find out that their condition is worse that ours.
Jeremiah made a decision that changed his perspective and the ideas he had bringing into his mind. He said on verse 24: I said to myself, The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him. Since he had been filling his mind with all the negative situations that surrounded him, now he encourage himself, talking to his soul, that the Lord is what he needs. Is the Lord Who is faithful and merciful, Who he hopes and wait on. If you are reading the chapter in the Bible you will notice how Jeremiah starts to talk about how good is the Lord to those who hope on Him, how good is to wait in silence for Him.
You see, he made the decision to look away from his troubles and trust in the unfailing love of the Lord. He decided to wait on the time when the Lord will rescue him from the situation he is in. He did not have control of his situation or anything else, he is in prison, so he decided to wait and not to complaint any more. He was saying this that is causing my pain, distress, depression, I cannot do anything about it, but what I can do, is let it go and find comfort in the Lord.
Bitterness, as I said before is a state of mind, we can change that state if we want to, is your decision. We may have to do as Jeremiah exhort us to do on verses 40-42: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. This is a call to pray for forgiveness“. Even Jeremiah had been resentful, and had lost sight of the promises and the hope in the Lord. Now he prays and bring to the Lord his condition, and when he cried out for the mercy of the Lord. When you are carrying a heavy load, it gets to the point that you cannot go any farther, and to find relief, all you need to do is let go of it. The same way bitterness is a very heavy load, it damages your soul, takes away your joy, your peace, it can blur your mind; and affect the way you relate to others; all you have to do is let go of it. You can do it!
What is the outcome? He writes (v. 57-58): “You came near when I called you, and you said. Do not fear. O Lord, you took up my case, you redeemed my life“. At this point you can see, the peace, trust, hope , and joy that Jeremiah has now. He is no longer a bitter man. He had to deal with his emotions, change the way he was thinking, and focus in the Lord. Now he is trusting the justice and faithfulness of the Lord. I may add that Jeremiah was eventually deliver from prison, The Lord is Faithful!
What to do?
There are three fundamental things we can learn from this story, and if you apply to your life you will overcome bitterness.
- Stop dwelling on the problem and feeding on it and yield to reason. Only when Jeremiah remember the love of the Lord, he recover the hope. If we do not have hope, is like our life is finished. Jeremiah stop looking at the problem and start to looking upon God as HE is his portion. Find professional help if needed.
- Make a decision, believe you will get through it. You need to encourage yourself, is your life, peace, and joy what you are fighting for.
- Let it go! Evaluate if there is anything you need to do personally to solve it, and do it. Test yourself, find what is the reason of your bitterness. Sometimes we may find out is our own fault, our own wrong doing, others you can understand somebody did you wrong. In both situations, I found out we are to forgive or ask for forgiveness, from the heart . Whatever is the cause you have to deal with it.
Eph. 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Jeremiah brought his problem, his distress, to the Lord, and he was freed of bitterness, even when the situation did not changed immediately. Whoever you are, there is hope for you. I pray you will find HIM!
As a Christian I like to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus with everyone. Read more articles by Edith A. Lee at Finding Life in Him