Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I’m talking again about releasing the bitterness. C.S. Lewis said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” Isn’t it the same with bitterness and hatred, and feeling angry towards others?
Your bitterness can also be directed against yourself, and show itself in an inability to forgive yourself, even though God has forgiven you. You carry that load until you say, I deserved it, but I’m strong enough to take it, and I’ll just carry this thing and deal with it myself. Self-centred pride latches onto your heart, and you refuse the forgiveness of God and others.
This can also cause you to live in self-pity. You say, OK, I deserve this. God’s trying to punish me. I shouldn’t have done this or that, and now I deserve what I’m getting, and I’m just going to have to be a martyr and carry it. So you trudge along in life nursing bitter resentment and a grudge against God or someone else. You carry it until you make life miserable for yourself and everyone around you. Why? Because you never dealt with your bitterness.
The Bible says in Hebrews 12:15 (RSV): “See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled”
You might be thinking today, Why can’t I overcome my bitterness and anger?
Gaining a Heart Full of the Grace of Christ
Most of our bitterness and anger towards others is rooted in an inability to be profoundly amazed at Christ’s love for us in our sin. If you are struggling with bitterness, then it may be that the Lord is letting the very sin that is flowing from your inability to see Christ be the means by which you come to see him.
In other words, perhaps this season of rage, anger, and a fed-up I’m out of here and don’t want anything to do with you spirit is where you have had to come to see the greatness of your sin as a forgiven and justified saint. And the Lord has done it so that you would be stunned at his grace in a deeper way than you’ve ever been stunned by the grace of God before. And now, out of that experience can flow grace towards others.
That’s the only solution here. I don’t doubt that another person is part of the problem. This is probably not just a one-way thing and your fault only. But the solution is not to fix the other person. The solution is to gain a heart that is overflowingly thankful for grace from Christ, and that spills over with grace towards others.
What I’m trying to draw attention to is that maybe God has brought you to this point of feeling your guilt so that grace would taste sweeter than it ever has. We have to see our sin, but some of us have grown up in such goody-goody homes that we don’t think we’ve ever done anything serious.
The Bible says quite dramatically that if you do not forgive those who sin against you, God will not forgive you.
“But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15 (NLT)
In other words, this is a mortal issue. An ongoing, unforgiving, bitter, and angry spirit will kill a person’s heart, making them shipwreck their faith and prove that they never belonged to God. God is showing you how serious this sin is.
The good news is, anyone can overcome a bitter spirit. God encourages us to deal with it. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:31 (NLT): “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour.”
The Bible is so practical and clear that if we take what God teaches us about overcoming bitterness and apply it, we can be free from the bondage of bitterness. Is that where you’re at today? Maybe you’d prefer not to talk about it, but it needs to be addressed somehow.
In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says that if you come to him with your offering in hand, and then remember that a brother has something against you, leave your offering, go to your brother, and make your offering after you’re reconciled with your brother. So the Lord not only tells us to go to others when we’re bitter or unforgiving towards them, but he covers both angles and also tells us to go to those who are bitter or angry towards us:
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice[a] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
Forgiving and Forgetting
There’s something else: Forgive and forget. How can you forget something negative that’s stuck in your mind?
The Bible says God remembers our sins no more. So how can God forget something when he is omniscient? How can he know everything and still forget? Here’s the secret: When you forgive and forget, the forgetting means that you, like God, don’t hold that wrongdoing to the offender’s account. God forgets the charge against us; he remembers it no more. Oh, he knows about it, just as you do, but he will never bring it up again. That’s what we are to do. Don’t fish in the pond of history. Leave it there.
Sometimes we are like the man who came running into the office of a marriage counsellor. “Sir, you’ve got to do something about my wife. Hurry! She’s historical; she’s historical!” The counsellor said, “Now, wait a minute. You mean she’s hysterical.” He said, “No! She’s historical! She’s bringing up everything from the past!”
Some people can go back and reel off in chronological order everything that a person has done against them during their entire relationship. If you forgive a person, forget their offences and never bring them up again. Don’t dwell in the past and don’t let the past dwell in you.