Monday, May 7, 2012


Oh man. Bitterness.

Bitterness is so tricky – it’s a fight that we keep having to fight. Paul and I were talking about this the other night - it truly is amazing the crap that can be in our hearts - even as we seek His glory! Yikes!

I find there are two main types of bitterness and unforgivenss that sneak into my heart – towards us and general. There are times when I’ve felt attacked or hurt and there are the other times where someones actions make me angry, even if they aren’t directed at me.

Growing up I had bullies that were hurtful. They would say horrible things about me. I was bitter at them. That is an example of the first type of bitterness.

The second type is often second hand – for example there was a women in town growing up who was hurtful and rude to my mom. This hurt me deeply. I had a lot of bitterness towards her. This is the second type.

Both types are bad. Bitterness will turn our hearts in ways we wish it wouldn’t. And both are only curable by God.

Now it is easy to say that the first type is justifiable. But they were hurtful. But they were rude.

BUT Jesus makes it pretty clear in the bible what he expects of us:

Mark 11:25 ESV 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 ESV For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, (15) but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Yikes. That’s pretty serious.

So we forgive so that Christ will forgive us?

If we expect forgiveness, then we must also offer forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-22 ESV Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Matthew 5:44 ESV But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Ephesians 4:32 ESV Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 ESV bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Proverbs 19:11 ESV Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Romans 12:20 ESV To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

So. We’re commanded to forgive.

Man. Some days that tough. Though I'll admit that loving someone hurtful and hearing that Romans says that actions heaps burning coals on their head can kind of help :p

My heart can feel angry and bitter. I can be SHOCKED at the filth that is there.

Many times over the years I’ve seen people I care about be hurt by someone – the rage that can fill my heart in those moments scares me.

Many times over the years I’ve been wounded by words people used against me – the anger I feel frustrates me – will I never be able to instinctively love and forgive?

Then I force myself to think about the people that I have hurt. The people that I have betrayed. The mistakes I’ve made. And I look at God’s forgiveness of me. I look at the forgiveness I have received from others. It is shocking to think that people have chosen to forgive me. That God chose to send His Son to die for me. What right do I have to judge in this face of that mercy and grace?

The bible says “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 NIV. If there is anger in my heart, it will be apparent for all to see. And if I want to live a life that glorifies God then I must deal with that.

When I am angry and want justice I have to remember the truth of God. Things like this Psalm really help Psalm 18: 1-2 “How I love you, Lord! You are my defender. The Lord is my protector; he is my strong fortress. My God is my protection, and with him I am safe. He protects me like a shield; he defends me and keeps me safe.”

God is our defender. He keeps us safe. He defends us.

Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” The Lord will have justice. It is not ours to take.

I find this verse in Isaiah particularly comforting. It reminds me of his grace and compassion for me and his justice! Blessed are those who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:18 “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

It is so true that God is our defender. If there is injustice or hurt he will see it resolved - in his own time, but it will happen. He has your back - and nothing can change that. Bitterness is so ugly, but even as we struggle with it, God is saving us and redeeming us and cleaning us back up - he loves to make us shine in him and that is such an encouraging truth! He sees our hearts to be rid of this bitterness, and he loves us so deeply.

When Paul and I were dating I was struggling with a similar emotion - someone had said some very hurtful things to me (even implying that I shouldn't be in ministry – which is the longing of my heart) and it felt so unjust! I felt like this person had misinterpreted almost everything I had done since I'd known them. I felt so hurt. I felt angry. I felt let down. I had to turn to God and remember that He was my judge and that He defined me, and not this person’s words. This happened on a Tuesday. I spent the week praying to God over and over again saying that He defined me, that He was my judge and that I would chose forgiveness (so so so hard). I cried out to God every day because otherwise bitterness would completely take over. At church the next Sunday Keith was preaching - and in the middle of his sermon, almost out of nowhere, he took a moment to talk about how well I loved people. He talked about why I love to do ministry. He confirmed a few things about my ministry, my self and my calling. As he spoke the person who had hurt me was in the room, listening. God said to me, "See I am your defender. I will defend my daughter". It was clear that as I continued on my LONG journey of forgiveness he was also in the process of doing something as well.

At the end of the day, when bitterness threatens to overwhelm my heart, I remember the truth of God. I long to stand before him pure and blameless – and yes I live in a fallen world, and yes I will still sin, but to the best of my ability, through the power of God I long to be someone who forgives. Someone who shows grace. Someone who loves deeply and humbly. That is my prayer.

"O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure." Psalm 7:9
"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD." Proverbs 16:2
"[The LORD] mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble." Proverbs 3:34

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