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Thoughts on Bitterness

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Bitterness

Just saying the word evokes certain feelings and emotions that most of us can identify strongly with. After all, who hasn’t felt the sting of bitterness well up inside of us?

We know that bitterness comes in many forms and from many sources. You may have been done wrong by a spouse or friend. Perhaps you were overlooked for that job promotion. Or maybe you’ve been “church hurt”. And how could you ever forget the diagnosis you received?

All of these can bring about the feelings of bitterness. Some of us may have even felt like God let us down or disappointed us in some way, and we allowed bitterness to cause us to blame God. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever screamed at God asking why He allowed ‘this’ to happen.

Personally, I’ve dealt with just about all of these. On many occasions I might add. Just as you have.

Bitterness strikes at all of us, and while it would be easy to simply say it’s all part of our humanity, there is also a spiritual application to bitterness. How bitterness impacts our walk with Christ is the focus of this post.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”. Hebrews 12:14,15  KJV.     emphasis mine

How do we avoid bitterness since we are virtually assured that as long as we remain here on this earth, circumstances are not always going to go our way? How am I supposed to live peacefully with those who have done me wrong? How can I escape bitterness when I’ve been dealt life-altering circumstances?

As we just read, the answer to all of these questions lies in the scripture that encourages us to live peacefully with all men, endeavoring to live a sanctified life, set apart from the world and its many temptations.

More often than not, that means we must have a forgiving heart. More on that later.

Whatever the source, unless we deal with it by giving it to God, it will come back to haunt us in the form of bitterness. That is simply human nature, and none of us are exempt from it. Face it, we are emotional beings. We laugh, hurt, get depressed, feel overwhelmed, and have the capacity to enjoy many things in this life because we are so emotional.

The Lord created us this way, but if we’re not careful, the devil will use our negative emotions as an entrance into our lives. This is why we must be diligent, as the writer says, because Satan is always looking to find an avenue to “steal, kill, and destroy”. [1]

Allowing bitterness to enter our hearts is opening the door to the adversary, and once opened it can be very difficult to shut that door on him. The danger in all of this is that if even a tiny root of bitterness takes hold in our heart, it begins to weave its way into every fabric of our life.

Picture bitterness as the root of a plant. A plants roots run deep and spread wide. Roots have to do that in order to sustain the plant they are a part of. Those roots feed the plant, and without the proper nourishment the plant will eventually wither and die.

When we allow bitterness to take hold of us, it does everything in its power to burrow itself deeply within our heart. Left unchecked, it will spread into every facet of our life. When that happens, its impact will be seen by all, and it won’t be pretty.

The things that used to bring us joy no longer will. The things we used to look forward to doing we now look at from a very different perspective. That’s what bitterness does to us. It changes our outlook on life, both in the natural and the spiritual. This is why we must constantly be on guard, checking our hearts lest a root of bitterness find its way in.

Let me give you a personal example of how the enemy would like to ensnare us in bitterness.

Recently, our family made the very painful decision to leave the church we had been attending for the past 2.5 years. It isn’t necessary to share the details here, but suffice it to say that these things do happen unfortunately, and they present a myriad of emotions that must be dealt with. In our case, those included hurt, betrayal, and yes even bitterness.

Shortly after we left, I began to have people tell me that they had been told a very different version of what actually happened that caused us to leave.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with me because if there is one thing I cannot stand it is when people are not completely honest.

So I was now in a position of either allowing my emotions to gain the upper hand, or let it go and ask God to deal with my heart about it. Which is exactly what He has done. You see, I chose not to allow bitterness to rule my heart.

I hope you caught that. I chose, or I made the conscious decision that bitterness was not going to spring up or take root in my heart. That’s right…bitterness is a choice, and if you and I choose the path of bitterness we are actually giving others power over us.

Why would we do this? This is where having a forgiving heart comes into play. I have learned through many seasons of bitterness and despair that the best course of action is to forgive and move on. Easier said than done? Of course it is, but read on please.

You know what else I have learned? I’ve learned that forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God. When we hold grudges against someone, forgiveness cannot come. If we remain angry at someone over a wrong that was done, forgiveness cannot come.

Forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God.

I encourage all of us to remember this the next time we’re faced with hurt or disappointment. Choose wisely friends, choose the path of love and forgiveness instead of the path of bitterness.

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] John 10:10

Has life paralyzed you?

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My wife and I were recently discussing the impact that her father’s death has had on her mother. Married for over fifty-six years, she has never recovered from the death of her soulmate five years ago.

Nearing eighty years of age and in very good physical health, she still goes to the store, still goes to church, still does a few of the things she’s always done. The difference however is that while she may still function at a certain level, in essence she stopped living the same day that he did.

Gone is the joy, the spark of life, the passion for living.

Of course, everyone processes grief and trauma differently, and it’s for certain that one can never place a time frame on how long it will take to begin really living life again. What must become our “new normal” takes time to adjust to, and we are all on a different clock in that regard.

Let’s face it, life will sometimes put you in a difficult place. Whether because of your own actions and choices, or those of others, the end result may find you incapacitated emotionally or physically.

In my own life for example, I still vividly remember the day my father passed away. As a 12-year-old boy who thought his dad was Superman, I was devastated beyond words. I remember like it was yesterday the feeling of numbness that enveloped me.

Little did I know that this feeling would last for many months, and in some ways for years.  Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again.

I was hurt, bitter, depressed, and angry. That one event haunted me for many years, even well into adulthood. I cannot begin to tell of the poor decisions I made in life, many of which I want to think could have been avoided had my dad still been alive to guide me.

I struggled for many years with being able to deal with my emotions regarding the loss of my father. In those days, one didn’t go to a psychologist or therapist for advice or treatment. My “therapy” consisted of being told to ‘suck it up’ and get on with my life.

So, ‘suck it up’ I did, immersing myself in work, the lives of my kids, and anything else that would help me to move on from the pain of my loss. For several years I worked two jobs, including weekends and nights in a vain attempt to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t have to continually replay the thoughts of what was, and what could have been.

At some point in our lives however, we come to a fork in the road where a decision must be made. Either we stay in a place of despair, or we climb out and begin to live again. For me, that happened when at 22 years of age I gave my life to Jesus.

Only then did I realize that God had a purpose and a plan for my life after all.

I learned that if I were ever going to overcome adversity, I had to learn to trust again. And that trust started with the Lord. I had to learn to lay aside the hurt and anguish that was consuming my life and grab hold of something much bigger than I, trusting that He knew better than I what was best.

Bit by bit, I came to see ” that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [1] and that there was an antidote for the paralyzing baggage I had carried around for so many years.

After many trials and failed attempts in my search for answers, what I found that helped me more than anything was God’s Word.

His Word became my lifeline. More than once when I was on the edge of despair I found comfort in one verse or another, as God made his word come alive in my heart. Despite the storms of life that have raged, He has provided hope and comfort like no other, and he has proven himself to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. [2]

Perhaps you have experienced some type of trauma or a devastating, paralyzing loss in your own life. If you have, may I encourage you to take one small step in His direction?

I promise you that if you will trust Jesus with just a tiny portion of your hurt,doubt, and fear, He will in no wise cast you off.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

As you begin to trust Him more, you will begin to understand that in spite of your circumstances, it is the Father’s plan to give you a future and a hope. [3]

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

[1] Psalm 34:8

[2] Proverbs 18:24

[3] Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

If my choices are between happy or sad…

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I choose Happy!

Of course, we don’t always get to choose, do we?

Life, in its continuous ebb and flow of emotions, will sometimes throw difficult challenges our way, leaving us to deal with them as they come. When this happens, and it happens to all of us, “Happy” seems a long way off doesn’t it?

For example, I’ve been dealing with a seemingly endless array of car troubles lately, troubles that are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Just today, I had to call a tow truck to take the car back to the garage (it was just there last Friday!).

Of course this unnerved me a bit, as I have already sunk considerable money into this vehicle and the prospect of spending who knows how much more seemed to set my head to spinning.

The more I thought of it however, the more I realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean it could have died earlier today while my daughter was driving it on the interstate. If that would have happened the outcome could have been disastrous.

So while I am not pleased at having to have more unplanned work done on this car, I am extremely thankful that my daughter is safe and no harm was done.

All of us have these kinds of issues to deal with, what some would call “1st world problems”. In the big picture, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Unless something drastic happens, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow, the birds will sing their beautiful songs, and I have family that loves me, including a wife who is a constant source of encouragement to me.

The Apostle James had something to say about the trials and difficult situation we might find ourselves in from time to time. See if you agree with me that his perspective is a little different than most.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  James 1:2-3  ESV

Did you catch that? When life throws you a curve ball, he said we should rejoice! That seems strange to our carnal minds, doesn’t it? Can any of us truthfully say that when we’re up against a struggle that our first inclination is to rejoice?

It’s when we read the second part of the scriptures that it begins to make sense. James says that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. The King James renders this as “worketh patience“.

That’s what these challenges do to us; they cause us to learn to be steadfast, or patient in the midst of the trial. When we fully grasp this truth, we begin to better understand that God can use even our trials as part of the refining process all of us are going through.

And that my friends, puts a smile on my face, and dare I say it….

 

Happy bird french fry

Be blessed!

Ron

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life.

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You’ve heard it said that if you’re going to dream, then dream BIG. Most people, I believe, have dreams of a bright future. What kind of husband or wife they will marry, how many children they’ll have, what type of work they will do. All of these are things that the average person dreams about.

Dream-Big.jpg

successtreasurebox.com

These dreams for our future, carefully planned and mapped to the tiniest detail are what we build our lives upon.

For many, these carefully constructed dreams and plans come to fruition, and the “happily ever after’s” of life resemble a movie being played out on the big screen. The happy couple grows old together and ultimately rides off into the sunset, content in a life well lived.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone lived a life like that? In a perfect world, maybe, but we live in a fallen world, not a perfect world. Plans change, and dreams are interrupted. People change, or worse, we find out they weren’t who we thought they were.

And sometimes, believe it or not, God Himself interrupts our lives.

That’s right; there are those among us who have been sailing along in life, content in discovering our own destinies, only to have God literally turn our lives upside down when He reveals HIS plan for our lives.

Whatever your profession, your calling in life, when you throw yourself into it, it becomes your life’s work. It becomes your identity, it defines you. Like it or not.

After spending what may well be the best years of our lives perfecting our craft, or calling, God begins to deal with us about going in a different direction.

Make no mistake; we will know when this happens to us. Jobs and positions disappear. Careers turn into a dead end. A sense of keen dissatisfaction sets in. Nothing brings excitement to our lives. We start to wonder what in the world is going on.

A host of emotions begin to pull at us. Bewilderment, confusion, a sense of loss, disappointment, even grief torments us as we try to figure it all out.

I have experienced all of these emotions, and many more, as one at a time my hopes and dreams of a life in ministry were stripped away.

I felt that my life’s work had been chartered for me, and all that was needed on my part was to simply do what others more experienced than I told me to do. Follow the formula, execute the plan, and voila, success!

The pulpit was my refuge, the only place where I felt like I was in control. It seemed to be the only place where what I said mattered. It became my identity, my safe haven, an inanimate security blanket that shielded me from the world.

But God had another plan for me. It was a plan that would take me to the back side of the desert, where no pulpit existed, where all of my plans would be systematically stripped away.

You see, I realized early on that I was incapable of being a follower “just because”. I could never be another “cookie cutter” minister. There was always too much of man and too little of God in the prescribed formula, and I soon found myself on the outside looking in so far as man was concerned.

Moses went through this sifting process, spending forty years in the desert as God prepared him for what lay ahead. Being raised in opulence, Moses was humbled to the point of needing God for his very breath.    (Exodus 3:1)

The Apostle Paul was also a companion in this process. His three years in Arabia were spent tearing away every vestige of his former life. Indeed, he said of his past that he counted it all as loss, that he might win Christ.  (Galatians 1:7, Philippians 3:7)

God’s plan all along was that I relinquish control of my life, a plan that I resisted for far too long. Even when I ventured into the world of business and enjoyed a measure of success, I never felt as though I was where I belonged. I never felt as though “this” is what I’m destined to do.

Looking back, I know that God had been calling me, preparing me for a long, long time for that which I still am not 100% certain about. I just know that He is.

We humans are a funny lot at times. We say we recognize God as Sovereign that he is in complete control. Yet in actuality, it is we who want control, we who want to plot our course. In short, we lock horns with the Almighty over who will reign supreme over our life.

All of us are meant to become vessels that our Father can use in His great kingdom. Vessel’s that can be filled with His Spirit and poured into those who need a Savior.

You are called of God, your destiny is secured in Him. Find your place in the kingdom and let God peel back the layers of Self, that you might be used of Him for His Glory.

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life doesn’t have to be a lifetime process. You can do it today if you will humble your heart before Him and simply say Lord, I want your will to be done in my life.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely Yes,but Never Alone

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Holidays have a tendency to bring out a myriad of emotions in all of us. When you really think about it, Christmas seems to tug at our emotions more than any other holiday.

Emotions run the gamut don’t they? From sheer joy and excitement as anticipation of the big day grows more intense every day, to the lowest of lows as the realization sinks in that another Christmas must be endured without a precious loved one there to share in the day.

Watching the news at this time of year brings to the forefront a different kind of emotion: DESPERATION. Desperation because once again there isn’t money enough to buy even one gift for the children. Desperation because once again excuses must be invented in order to sooth the broken hearts of the disappointed. Desperation that escalates into despair, so much so that parents will stop at nothing in order to avoid having to look into the eyes of their children who will not be receiving a present at Christmas. Stealing, and much worse, are all part and parcel as seemingly anything goes in order to avoid the inevitable.

As horrible as desperation and despair can be at Christmas, I have found that there is another emotion even more horrific, even more gut wrenching to have to endure, and that is LONELINESS.

What a powerful emotion loneliness is. At times it can reach the point of complete debilitation, rendering a person to the point where they feel worthless, unlovable, even forgotten by God Himself.

As a Christian we have a promise that we will never be alone. The writer of Hebrews made this very clear when he said:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5 NKJV

But not everyone has this promise, because not everyone knows the Promise Giver.

And if I’m to be completely honest, many who do know the Promise Giver suffer the pain of Loneliness. Many of God’s children struggle with abandonment, betrayal, and a broken heart. Some would say how can this be? I thought God took away all of the negative things!

Living in this world we are not immune to these emotions. We are not exempt from hurt and pain. Sometimes I wonder if we don’t struggle with them as much as those who do not know Christ!

Again, when we turn to scripture we find that we are not alone in our struggles:

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 2Co 4:8-9 NKJV

In the midst of it all, when the weight of loneliness and despair is crushing us, God’s word declares with the sound of a trumpet: we are not alone! We have not been forsaken! We will not be destroyed! Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!

This Christmas, if you find yourself struggling to keep your head above water, I urge you to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. The all time, undefeated Champion of love and mercy will make a way where there seems to be no way. He will be your oasis in the midst of your dry, barren desert of loneliness and despair.

Beloved, it isn’t a pretty package that will strengthen you for the journey. It is the peace that passes all understanding. It is Jesus. The Christmas Gift for the ages.

Remember, we are often lonely. The holidays can bring those emotions to the surface.

But we are never alone.

Be blessed!

Ron