Life is filled with both blessings and pain. You only need to turn on the nightly news to hear about vicious homicides, terrible accidents, traumatic births, handicaps, terminal illness, divorce, and death. Everyone has pain and unless we deal with it properly, we can get caught in the trap of pain and compromise our mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health. When dealing with pain, it’s important to know that self-reliance will mislead you, but God won’t. He makes this promise in Isaiah 42:16, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”
The Story of Absolom
David’s first-born son, Amnon, forced himself on his half-sister Tamar. When she left his house forever shamed, she tore her sleeves in great grief. Tamar found refuge with her full brother Absolom who took her into his home. Absolom was deeply offended and bitter toward his brother. He waited two years for his father David to do something about the situation but, when he did not, Absolom took matters into his own hands and killed his brother Amnon.
Absolom then ran away to Gesher for three years, and during this time David continued to do nothing. There was never a trial, search party, or family meeting. Finally, five years after Amnon violated Tamar and 3 years after he was killed, Joab the commander of the army had a woman trick David into bringing Absolom back. David finally brought Absolom home to Jerusalem, but still would not talk to him for two years.
Absolom’s offense and bitterness over his sister being violated and his father withholding discipline caused him to ultimately send his father out of Jersualem running for his life. By this time, Absolom’s offense was beyond repair and his hatred toward his father ran deep. Similarly, when we are hurt, offense can quietly fester and cause us to become cynical, bitter, angry, and full of hate. When we are hurt, we all deal with it…good or bad. When we deal with pain the wrong way, it traps us and our family in dysfunction that we may not even see.
What is Bitterness?
Bitterness is resentful cynicism that results in an intense antagonism or hostility towards others. It can be displayed in a number of ways such as sarcasm, belittling, or a self-assured attitude. Bitterness is often a blind spot issue in our lives and can be guised and hidden for years until some conflict brings it to the surface. While “medicators” cause pain because of their addictions, “motivators” cause pain because of their avoidance.“
The apostle Paul exhorts us to, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32). As an adjective, the word bitter means “sharp like an arrow or pungent to the taste, venomous. In its figurative sense bitterness refers to a mental or emotional state that corrodes or “eats away at.” The image of rust eating away at the paint or undercarriage of a vehicle is the same corrosive reality that bitterness has to our soul. Bitterness is that state of mind which willfully or passively holds on to angry feelings, ready to take offense, and able to break out in anger at any moment.
Attributes of a Bitter Spirit
- Bitterness is a spirit that refuses reconciliation. Bitter people passively or aggressively refuse to humble themselves, according to Matthew 5:24.
- Bitterness is a spirit that leads to wrath, the explosion on the outside of the feelings on the inside.
- Anger that often leads to “brawling,” the brash self-absorption of an angry person who needs to make everyone hear his grievances. Bitterness is selfish and bent on preserving itself at any cost. This can often be seen when we are blaming others.
- Slander marks bitterness. Slander is any speech springing from anger and designed to wound or injure others. Slander can sound compassionate or merciful, but at the heart of it is the desire to put another person in their place.
- Matured bitterness leads to a spirit of malice. This signifies evil-mindedness or feelings of intense hatred. This kind of attitude is sensual and devilish in its influences. Malice is a deliberate attempt to harm another person. Therefore, “every form of malice” must be done away with.
- The person who is bitter is often resentful, cynical, harsh, cold, relentless, and unpleasant to be around.
According to Hebrews 12:15, we exhorted to let, “…no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble, and by it many become defiled.” When we harbor bitterness in our hearts, the writer is saying that it will cut away at us and those we interact with. Wherever bitterness exists, it extends its influence.
Handling Past Pain
The worst thing a Christian can do is walk around acting as if they have no problems and just came prepackaged perfectly. Our cities are filled with devastated individuals that are broken, addicted, and hurting. The Bible says, “It is Christ in us, the hope of glory.” That means, by God’s design, we are hope. We are the ones who are to minister to hurting people. When we sit silently and don’t let the Lord redeem our pain, He can’t comfort us or other people through us. You can’t help someone else if you don’t let yourself get helped. The first step of healing is to face it and acknowledge the bitterness that is there.
Great people forgive and forget their pain.
We should not let anything take our eyes of our goal, which is knowing Christ. With the single-mindedness of an athlete in training we must lay aside everything harmful and forsake anything that may distract us from being effective Christians. We must choose to forgive those that have harmed us by releasing them into the Lord’s hands, praying for them to be blessed, and giving up the right to understand why the injustice took place.
As we forgive, we come into agreement with Paul, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Forget does not mean erase your memory. It means to ignore it and not let it have power over us. “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Follow Jesus away from the pain.
Grab His hand and walk forward with Him. Meditate on His goodness and love over your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth and teach you. He will teach you in every area.
“But the [a]Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you” John 14:26 (AMP).