How to Put Bitterness Behind You

A few months ago, our small community was shocked by news that a young man had brutally murdered his ex-girlfriend. He’d discovered she was planning to go out on a date that night, adding to his growing bitterness that she’d “betrayed” him. In twisted anger, he took her life.

You say, “I’ve been mad at people who hurt me, but I’d never do that!” My guess is, that young man would’ve said the same thing at one time—before hatred took over his heart.

Yesterday, we talked about the pain of betrayal—one of the most common causes of bitterness and hatred. Hatred is a progressive emotion. It starts small, sometimes as legitimate anger over betrayal or undeserved pain. But if unchecked, it quickly grows out of control. The Bible cautions, ” ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph. 4:27-27 NIV)

Notice we’re not told to not be angry. Anger is a normal emotion, and is even proper at times. Jesus was sinlessly angry. The issue is what we do with our anger. When we cling to it and feed it, we give it opportunity to grow and mutate. Instead, the Bible tells us to let it go by sunset. Then, satan is never allowed a foothold and bitter hatred can’t take root.

A dangerous line

One telltale sign that anger has crossed a dangerous line into bitterness or hatred? When you want to see the one who hurt you suffer—or worse, you actively seek her harm. There’s more than one way to take a life. Unrestrained anger can turn us all into murderers of one type or another. You can cause division between her and other friends or family members, you can hinder her job advancements, you can harm her marriage, you can refuse forgiveness if she offers an apology, and—most common—you can slay her reputation with bitter talk.

You rationalize, “I have just cause! I didn’t deserve what she did to me. She should hurt a little.” The problem is, in the end, that reasoning is more harmful to you than to your adversary. Those bitter thoughts become satan’s poison—he whose mission is to steal, kill and destroy (Jn. 10:10). Destructive thoughts or actions are not from God, and they’re unacceptable for you if you’re His.

A healthy step

The wise course is to take God at His Word, obeying Him to the letter. If you’re in a season of struggle, with anger or hatred threatening to take you over, commit to a bedtime prayer of release. Each night, ask God to help you replace malice with mercy. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.

You may choke over the words at first. But little by little, night after night, you’ll see your anger diminish. Before long, your root of bitterness will bloom with the flower of forgiveness. Your adversary may never know, but you will have stopped the damage satan would have done in your own heart.

Are you up to the challenge? Will you put bitterness behind you?

© Diane McLoud 2013

3 Comments on “How to Put Bitterness Behind You

  1. What a great lesson! I am not a person who carries a grudge and also I find it easy to forgive, however there have been times when I have been very hurt and I carry it with me for a while. But Diane you are so right when you say to pray for that person and ask that you can have mercy for them. I also read a devotion just today that said any day spent angry or offended is a wasted day! So it may be hard to do at times, but how can we possibly go to God and ask him to pardon us if we won’t do the same? It is the only way to have peace I believe as hard as it is to do sometimes!

    • I agree, Toni. In the model prayer Jesus gave, one line is startling: He taught us to pray “Forgive us our debts as we have ALSO forgiven our debtors.” (Mt. 6:12) Where does that leave us if we’re refusing to forgive?

      I remember the scene in “The Passion” where Jesus, bloodied and nearly dead, cried out, “Father, forgive them.” I sat in the theater weeping, thinking “If You could forgive from the cross, what hurt could I ever experience that would be unforgivable?” It’s hard at times, but forgiveness is necessary. Jesus asked it of me, and I could never say no to Him.

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