How to Diagnose and Recover from Bitterness

Written by Jeffery Carlson on . Posted in Local

bpIf there is one emotion or attitude that can destroy someone's life it is bitterness. Bitterness is a monster that has destroyed marriages, families, churches and even nations. When a bitter spirit is loose somewhere there is no telling the damage and havoc it can bring about. The heart of bitterness is rooted in an unforgiving spirit toward someone or about something that happened to us in life. Bitterness is often easier to see in others, but very hard to see in ourselves.

If you went to a doctor for checkup, the doctor might check our blood, take our blood pressure, and measure our height and weight against standard targets. A number of tests and measurements could be taken. But is there a test for bitterness, hidden anger and resentment? While there may not be a specific test, there are some signs. Here are a few: Do we experience a loss of energy on a regular basis? Have we dropped out of things we used to enjoy doing? Do we spend less time with people? Do small things really bother us? Do we resent hearing sermons on grace, forgiveness and the Cross?  Do we share our faith with others?

The above list could be longer, but all the questions above deal with the same foundational issue, forgiveness. You see, if we are angry about anything and fail to act on the issue, we tend to bury the resentment and hide it from ourselves or others. That hiding of emotional and spiritual pain takes valuable energy from our lives. As our energy drops we lose our excitement and zest for life. As these unresolved issues fester over the years, it often produces some sort of depression. Most counselors will tell you that depression is often related to anger and resentment turned inward.

These roots of bitterness often start early in our families. We often learn from our parents or caregivers how to handle pain and problems. Some families are very healthy and open to work things out, while others tend to hide things, hold grudges and keep a number of secrets. Sometimes these secrets can make us sick and that is surely true when it comes to bitterness. So when people are abused, attacked by authority figures and a number of other things these lifelong patterns of bitterness start to be wired into our DNA.

Now when the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, He came to us through the Virgin Mary. Mary was chosen because her name in Hebrew means "bitter". Our Lord came to save and rescue the bitter spirits of this world, which can be all of us at one time or another. And finally, when our Lord was betrayed by Judas on Passover, just before the Cross, He took a piece of bread from the Passover Table and dipped it in a bitter herb and gave it to Judas to eat. It was our Lord's fulfilment of the original Passover in Exodus 12:8 that included bitter herbs. The betrayal by Judas or anyone close to us is a major issue that can and has made multitudes bitter, angry and resentful.

Perhaps the best Biblical picture of bitterness and its antidote is seen in Exodus 15:22-25. Moses has led the Children of Israel out of Egypt through the Lord's mighty power toward a new life in the Promised Land. But as the journey gets started, the people become bitter because they can't find fresh, drinking water. The people end up stuck in front a pool of bitter waters at a place called Marah. That name in Hebrew means bitter. Life didn't go their way and they blamed Moses and the Lord....they got bitter. The location they were stuck at represented the real state of their hearts....bitter. When Moses cries out to the Lord for help, the Lord told him to throw and piece of wood into the waters and they immediately became sweet. The Lord antidote to bitterness is the same then as now. Only a piece of wood, called the Cross, can save us from our bitter waters and make life sweet again. God's grace, forgiveness and love are the ONLY antidotes to bitterness and an unforgiving spirit.

As we draw closer to Good Friday in this Lenten Season, it is a GREAT time to stop and reflect about our lives. Bitterness is a wonderful thing to give up as we embrace the Cross and what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us. As our lives are filled with that kind of love, we can forgive others and ourselves. We can turn over those who have hurt us and sinned against us to the Lord for His judgments, not ours. We can find a new life and begin to enjoy the sweetness of redemption. We can celebrate the power of the Cross and the Lord's love in ways we never dreamed.
Author Information
Jeffery Carlson
Jeff Carlson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. Jeff came to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as a college freshman through the witness of a campus evangelist. He graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois with a degree in engineering and worked in the corporate world for several years before his call to ministry. Following graduation from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California Jeff came to Oakhill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he currently serves as pastor. Jeff has a tremendous passion to teach, preach and communicate God's Word in simple and clear ways that the average person can understand.

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