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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wedding Invitation That Demands a Response

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Nearly everyone loves to receive an invitation to a special event. Whether it’s a family reunion, a Christmas party, or perhaps a wedding, these invitations are normally met with a high level of excitement and anticipation upon receiving them.

Of all the different types of invitations, it seems as though weddings rank at the top of the list. For some, it’s the romance that makes the day so special. For others, it’s all about seeing old friends and the opportunity to catch up on each others lives.

For a lot of people it’s all about the Big Event, especially those who are still dreaming of having their own wedding one day. Ladies especially are fascinated by weddings, and the bigger the better. Who can forget the grandeur of the royal wedding of Princess Diana for example? Princess Diana

Speaking of weddings, did you know that there is soon going to be a wedding the likes of which this world has never seen, one that YOU have been given a very special invitation to? Did you know that? Well, it’s true!  wedding invitation

Amazingly, as “over the top” as the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was, it pales in comparison to the upcoming wedding known as “The Marriage Supper of The Lamb”.

Best of all, you’ve already been sent an engraved  invitation!

You see, nearly 2000 years ago, your invitation was engraved in the hands and feet of Jesus. Cruel Roman nails left their scars, evidence for all to see that He was indeed the risen, crucified Christ. An engraving unmatched by anything the greatest artist or sculptor could ever envision.

And here is why all of that matters.

One day, all this hurting will be over. The day is soon coming when child abuse will be a forgotten horror never to be heard from again. As impossible as it may seem, the day is coming when hunger pangs will never again be felt in a little child’s belly.

Diseases of the most hideous kind will no longer have a hold on our bodies, as the day is soon to come when all sickness will disappear. Those who languish in torment and pain will one day be freed from their chains of misery.

How can this be, you ask? Listen to the words of hope and encouragement recorded by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation when he was in exile on the island of Patmos.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” ‘ Revelation 19:6-9

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”. Jesus bids all to come to this marriage supper. The invitation containing the nail prints of His hands has been sent out to all of humanity.

Yes, you have been sent an invitation, for Jesus leaves no one off of His guest list.

Today, you have a decision to make. The invitation that Jesus has sent demands a response.

Will you say “YES” to His invitation?

Be blessed,

Ron

God is still turning sorrow into joy!

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We all know that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Hardly any of us could say that we don’t know someone who has had to endure hardships not of their own choosing. Some of us are afflicted with incurable diseases that we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Still others of us have had to endure the hellish torment of abuse.

Oftentimes it is people we know and trust, people we are close to that will inflict the greatest hurt, leaving the victim shell shocked and asking “why?” or “how”?

Living as we do in a fallen world, a world seemingly dominated by evil, it is inevitable that hurt and pain will come to us. This, however, is not a new thing but merely a repeat of past human performances.

In the Bible there is a story of a young man named Joseph who was the apple of his father’s eye. His older brothers were so jealous of him that they found an occasion to sell Joseph to a caravan of slave traders, thinking they had finally rid themselves of their father’s “pet”.

Unbeknownst to the older siblings however, God had another plan. You see, God knew that a great famine was coming upon the land and many people would starve unless He intervened. Aren’t you glad that God intervenes in the affairs of man?

As impossible as it sounds, it was God who had orchestrated the selling of Joseph into slavery. In the years to come God gave Joseph favor in the house of Pharaoh to the point that he was second in power over all the land. Because of this divine intervention, Joseph was able to provide food and sustenance to the children of Israel, including his own father and brothers.

The wonderful story of Joseph ends with him telling his brothers…

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”     Genesis 50:20

Many of us have a similar story of God’s deliverance to tell, and I am no exception. I have experienced firsthand how that God can take a horrible situation and turn it into something beautiful.

There are few things a Christian would rather avoid than divorce, especially a divorce that you not only did not want, but one in which there are no biblical grounds for. I was forced into just such a situation many years ago, and the impact to me was completely devastating.

The mental anguish, the heartbreak that seemed to never go away, the catastrophic impact upon a once very promising ministry, all of these and much more were the result of a decision made by another person. A person I trusted.

When you are living a nightmare such as this, you feel as though your life is over. Everything you believed in, trusted in, and longed for is now gone. What remains is a void, a vacuum that cannot be filled. Life becomes a painful, daily chore of going through the motions, somehow detached from the living but existing nonetheless.

Each day of this zombie like existence becomes a test of your will to survive, because you don’t dare think beyond your present circumstances. To do so would be too risky, and at such a vulnerable state you cannot permit yourself to have even the slightest hope.

Thirty years ago I could never have permitted myself to have hope for a future. I was convinced that my life was destined to be one of failure, hurt, and misery. After all, how could I expect anything but that? When you have sunk so low that you have to reach up just to touch the bottom, what hope is there?

To be sure, evil can and does interrupt our lives with often devastating results, but I have learned that God always has another plan! Even though others might devise evil and hurt to inflict us with, God will take that and turn it into something beautiful if we will allow Him to take us through the refining process.

Yet God, the merciful and loving Father, had a different plan. A plan I could not see for the hurt and the tears, but a plan nonetheless. His plan included a hope for a future, one without hurt, pain, and resentment.

As I write this today, I am mindful of where I have come from. God not only delivered me, but He restored my life back to me, and in fact gave me a better life than I ever would have had! Who but God could do such things?

If today you find yourself in despair, the victim of someone’s evil intentions, you really can hope for a better life. In the shelter of our Fathers arms there is comfort and warmth, a respite from the fiery darts of the wicked.

May I encourage you to run into those arms today? I know that if you will do so, He will begin to reveal to you a better plan and a better life. It may not come over night, but there is a peace that passes all understanding in knowing that He is working on your behalf.

Be blessed,

Ron