I’ve worn bitterness like a security blanket. I’ve wrapped it tight around me and held it close under my chin. The fabric is worn and ragged with stuffing spilling out, but still I cling to it. Nothing can penetrate, and no one can see what’s underneath. I’ve found comfort in my grief. It’s familiar. There’s constancy in replaying that conversation that slashed my heart. Instead of applying the salve of grace, I replay bitterness and hate and watch as the wound festers and weeps.
Bitterness doesn’t need much to take root. It can be a disappointment in a health diagnosis, a lack of response to your latest effort to connect with people, or harsh words exchanged between two people. But before we get to bitterness, we have to recognize something else.
If we reserve the expression of grief for those “big bad” experiences like death or devastation, then we’re ill-equipped to deal with the daily griefs. The daily griefs are more commonly known as disappointments and offenses.
But when I trace the disappointments back to the core feeling, I find grief. I’m sad because something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. Or God didn’t answer my prayer the way I thought he should. Or someone I love chose to reject the very thing that I’m passionate about. Sorrow is at the root of these disappointments.
At the root of my response to offense, underneath the anger, is sadness. I’m sad that someone I called “friend” chose to walk away. Or insult me. Or turn others against me. I’m angry, but I’m sad too. And sadness is grief. And it must be processed in order for us to know the freedom that forgiveness brings.
But It’s in the processing where we trip and fall. And some of us don’t even like to process our emotions. Let’s just forget it and move on. Let’s pretend it didn’t happen. If we ignore it, it will go away. And in running away from conflict we find ourselves struggling to experience authenticity in our life. And when we fail to experience authenticity, we rob ourselves of the fullness of God’s grace.
The antidote to bitterness is grace. It’s grace that gives us the power to forgive when forgiveness seems impossible. Grace gives us the courage to place our wounds in God’s gentle hands. It’s grace that reminds us that without God, we are wretched sinners bound for hell. It’s grace that washes us and makes us new. It’s grace that God longs to give us and it’s grace that makes a way for us to boldly walk into the throne room of God and ask for daily grace.
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15
The problem with wearing bitterness in our hearts is that eventually it shows up on the outside. We might feel secure and justified in it, but to other people all they see is that ragged security blanket that’s starting to smell.
Bitterness manifests itself in your approach to people. It’s a hard edge in your voice. It’s cynicism in your relationships. Bitterness manifests itself in your speech when your words tear others down instead of building them up.
Bitterness leads to selfish ambition which leads to forgetting what your purpose here on earth is for: to make God known and enjoy him forever.
But God. The most two powerful words in our language. But God. But God can turn our bitter into sweet through the power of his grace. Don’t fail to obtain grace. Receive it. Surrender your hurts, wounds, anger, and sadness. Practice grace. When that hurtful scene replays in your mind, see yourself running to the throne room, getting grace, and then pouring God’s grace on the situation.
It’s God who works in you. I know what it’s like to be unable to forgive. The hurt is too deep. Too personal. It feels like I’m bleeding to death while I put a smile on my face and go about my day and no one sees me bleeding out. Partly because I don’t let them. Partly because I don’t want to give voice to the beast inside me.
But what I can do is this: run to God, tell him of my incapabilities and that hurt has incapacitated me and that I need him to help me forgive. So I hold out my hurt and he pours his grace on it. He reminds me of his stripes and the beating he took for me when I was still a wretched awful sinner. And then he enables me to extend that same grace to the one who wounded me. And exchange bitterness for grace.
Consider a situation that has caused you grief.
Listen to this song and picture yourself running to God’s throne room.
Imagine God filling up your bucket with grace and then imagine you pouring it out on your situation.