Bitterness is the silent enemy of the soul. In a flash, it can easily take root in your heart, especially when someone is unkind to you. The good news is that help is here. I have six practical tips to help you defeat bitterness.
Bitter Belinda was her name. Unforgiveness was her game. Only those who found pleasure in her folly wanted to be near her, but most avoided her like the plague. Her grown children could not recall a time when she exhibited evidence of joy, and only spent time with her when they had to.
She just would not forgive people who had wronged her in decades past, and you saw the unforgiveness in every harsh line of her face. Her pastor and friends lovingly pointed her to Christ who willingly went to the cross for the wrongs she was harboring in her heart, sharing how God intended to use these hurts for her good.
When her friends admonished Belinda for her unforgiving spirit and the possible consequences, she would not hear the admonishment over all the wrongs she was continually reviewing in her heart and mind.
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled. – Hebrews 12:5 (ESV).
Indeed, Belinda was treated unfairly lo those many decades ago. Because sin has marred the world, nobody will escape unstained and will at some time or another feel the effects of the fall from someone else’s actions. Also, know, you too will carry out these effects yourself as you sin against others. It’s going to happen.
While you can overlook many of the hurts you encounter in our broken world, it’s the bigger offenses where you stumble headlong into resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
Dear sisters, the answer is simply found in Jesus! “God with us” is here to help you! He understands mistreatment more than any other human, as others sinned severely against Him. Isaiah 53 gives us a glimpse into what that looked like:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.. – Isaiah 53:3-4 (ESV)
Christ alone can help you turn away from bitterness and experience forgiveness.
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. – C. S. Lewis
A bitter heart should serve as a reminder that you have forgotten how massive of debt you have been forgiven by God through the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ. By allowing bitterness to take root, you are essentially making an announcement that you do not need God’s forgiveness in your life.
Holding onto bitterness hinders the relationship with your Father, as well as brings cause for others to question your spiritual condition (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). God’s power in you gives you the ability to not only love Him but to love others.
We need our Father’s mercy every bit as much as His forgiveness. Everybody wants others to treat them in a merciful manner. Although we have offended our Father horribly, He mercifully forgives as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), and His mercies are new every single morning (Lamentations 3:23).
You must remind yourself of the reality that God will show “judgment without mercy to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13). Mercy is the mark of a woman after God’s own heart.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you God. – Micah 6:8 (ESV)
Walking humbly before the Lord is how you know you are most like God. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Dear sister, instead of acting as the judge, you must leave room for the Judge. Joseph, in Genesis 50, could have easily placed himself in the judge’s seat, but instead, he said to his brothers who had grievously wronged him:
Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? – Genesis 50:19 (ESV)
Rather than becoming like Bitter Belinda who had let decades of bitterness and resentment to take root in her heart and mind, you must release the offender from your judgment and entrust him to God.
For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. – Romans 14:9-10 (ESV)
Six tips for practical forgiveness
1 – Remind yourself of the Gospel
Only the good news of Jesus Christ can sever the roots of bitterness that are strangling your soul. Review the Good News daily. A great place to start is Matthew 18:21-35.
2 – Request Accountability
Seek to be honest in your need for applying forgiveness without maligning or bashing the offender. Set up a plan for the support with someone you trust, to be honest with you as you practice biblical change. A trained biblical counselor may be helpful to lend a hand.
3 – Exchange the old self with the new self
Put aside all bitterness. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ. – Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)
4 – Pray for the one who has hurt you
Ask God to change your heart by filling it with His love and mercy. Ask Him for wisdom in how to respond (or not to respond) to the offender. Ask God to make you more like His son.
Ask God to work in the heart of the one who offended you and pray that He would lead that person to repentance. Pray for others that may also be feeling the effects of the offender’s actions.
5 – Bless the offender
Look for ways to use your words to bless those who have hurt you.
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Proverbs 12:18 (ESV).
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29 (ESV).
6 – Display acts of kindness
Demonstrate the kindness of your God rather than repaying evil. As you pray for the offender, you may just be surprised by the creative ways the Holy Spirit will show you how to willingly and tangibly practice forgiveness.
- What are some practical ways to display a forgiving heart?
- How have you seen the kind work of God replacing bitterness in your heart with His forgiving heart?
- What resources have you found helpful in practicing forgiveness?
Also published on Medium.