Bitterness is a sin that is far deeper, more prevalent and destructive than most realize. When we sense it in ourselves we must immediately cry out to God for grace to root it out. When we sense it in others we must lovingly confront the matter in hopes of seeing this sin destroyed so that it does not destroy either the one harboring it or others. Bitterness is associated in the Scripture with anger. Ephesians 4:31, Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice... There is a kind of anger that is reactionary, that is not deep rooted. It is quickly dealt with and there is no long-term impact. There is another kind of anger that flows from a heart that has been conditioned to think and feel a certain way. This is bitterness. It is a disposition of mind that is cultivated by a wrong way of thinking. These thoughts are usually emotionally driven and begin to distort facts leading a person to misinterpret, as well as reinterpret, many events and words or actions of others. Bitterness is a root that burrows deeply, and if left to grow will eventually bring great disturbance to one’s self and others (Hebrews 4:15).
CAUSES OF BITTERNESS
Bitterness may spring from and be nurtured by a number of other sins. Pride is certainly a primary source that feeds this destructive root. When we think too highly of ourselves and begin to consider ourselves as deserving of certain treatment, we are prime soil for the root of bitterness. Pride lifts us to a certain level of expectation. If our expectations are not met, then we harbor thoughts produced by hurt feelings, which nurture the root of bitterness. In such cases we begin to think thoughts and dream up scenarios that are not in keeping with truth, but are guided by those hurt feelings. Pride will keep one from addressing the real issue and a room is constructed in the mind for evil thoughts to be stored. This room becomes the storehouse to feed the root of bitterness.
Unbelief is perhaps the greatest sin that produces and nourishes this root of bitterness. Think about it. Someone does or says something to you or about you that "really hurts." God says you are to forgive. You say, "I cannot forgive." God says, But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:15) If you really believe God, then you would do as He says! You would never yield to any impulse of the flesh that would lead to separation from Him. So unbelief, not taking God at His word, leads to harboring anger and ill feelings, proudly defying God’s instruction to forgive, and therefore feeding the destructive root of bitterness.
Unbelief will separate us from the appreciation of the forgiveness that we have from God in Christ Jesus. When we lose sight of His gracious forgiveness, we are prone to withhold forgiveness from others. When we do not cherish the work of Christ on our behalf and the expression of love from our Father in forgiving us all our sins, then we open ourselves up to harboring feelings against our "offenders", which will only feed the root of bitterness.
Unbelief also produces a lack of trust in the care that God has promised to give to His children. Sometimes events occur in our lives that are hard to accept. A sudden loss of a spouse, parent or child is devastating. A catastrophic injury or a financial disaster may lead to difficulty in our spirit and thinking process. There may be thoughts of God that are not worshipful during these difficult times. Harboring such thoughts, rather than chasing them away, will lead to bitterness toward God. God could have ordered matters differently. God could have prevented that horrible tragedy, but didn’t. Unbelief wants to lead you to question and harbor ill feelings, feeding the root of bitterness against God. This is perhaps the worst kind of bitterness as it opens the door for deeper expressions of sin against God.
EVIDENCES OF BITTERNESS
Sometimes bitterness exists in our hearts and is not identified as such. There are some obvious signs that indicate its presence. Consider the following questions honestly as you examine your own heart.
- Is there anyone in particular that you think about regularly with ill thoughts?
- Is there anyone that you try to avoid?
- When certain persons come to your mind or are brought up in conversation do you get a bitter feeling inside?
- Do you find yourself always viewing certain persons in a bad light, with negative feelings?
- Do you resort to sinful pleasures to cover up sour feelings stirred up within you? (Note the connection between the root of bitterness and fornication in Hebrews 12:15,16.)
VICTORY OVER BITTERNESS
If you have identified bitterness within you, what should you do about it? That you see it is a huge step! Many have this root growing within them who are oblivious to it. If your eyes have been opened to see this sin within, praise the Lord! Now you need to confess the sin before God and claim the forgiveness He promises to you. Be very open before God about this sin. Let Him know what this sin has done to you. Cry out to Him to remove it. Become angry at this sin that has gained a grip upon your life. Believe that there is power in the gospel of Jesus Christ to rid this sin from your life. Cast yourself upon Christ for deliverance.
You also need to call upon God for the fruit of love and kindness that will replace this evil root of bitterness. The Spirit of Christ is in you, if you are a Christian, and therefore you have within you all that is necessary to produce good fruit. Claim His promises as you memorize and meditate upon His Word. Remember Ephesians 4:31,32, Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. As you dwell upon what God has done for you, for Christ’s sake, you will be given motivation to treat others in the same way.
If you say, "I can’t", then you are really saying you do not trust the grace of God. It may be that you are condemning yourself, for Jesus said if you cannot forgive, you will not be forgiven! If you really understand that you have been forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, how can you withhold forgiveness from one who has mistreated you?
Perhaps the issue really is about worship. If you worship yourself, then you will forever hold grudges and justify yourself in your bitterness. You will think that you deserve better than you have been treated. But if you are truly worshiping God in His sovereignty, then you understand you deserve nothing but condemnation, and will be enabled to accept that your Father intends good for His children in every circumstance of life.
Search your own heart. Is there any bitterness? Deal with it quickly and severely before it grows into a plant of unbelief that separates you from the living God! The fruit of bitterness is ugly and immoral. Root it out when you first sense that it is growing!
Kyle White, Pastor
p.s. Send us an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will send you a booklet entitled, How to be Free from Bitterness, by Jim Wilson. This little booklet will greatly help you understand and properly deal with this awful sin.