When I’m harboring bitterness the last word I want to hear is forgiveness. They don’t mesh! When my thoughts go to that word my brain has a mind of its own. It takes off in different directions. Its like a toddler running away from its mother. There I go running after my well nurtured bitterness just to grab hold and put it back in place. Does that even make since?
Never-the-less, I keep it nestled close to me as if a good friend.
What does it mean to harbor? According to Merriam it means to, “keep in one’s mind," especially secretly. It also means to give a home or shelter to. Wow. I’ve done that before. I’ve opened the door and invited her in. Yep, here’s your room. Only problem with that is that once she (bitterness) has established herself in my home, I can’t remove her without going through a long process.
Bitterness is like a wild vine that eats up my lovely space. Over time the vine grows and spreads. Oh, and yes, believe me when I say, it finds the good fruit and squashes it. It creeps and slithers like a dangerous snake into the healthy areas of our home. Eventually, it takes over most of my space and leaves me with a small corner to lean against. What a mess—that once beautiful home is now poisoned with a bitter vine and has taken over my entire life.
How do we overcome bitterness?
Bitterness starts in our mind. Let’s get real. When someone says or does something to prick us, we run it through our thoughts like a newspaper printer. Before long, we have a big stack of things we’re bitter about. Our thoughts may perceive what was said as this and yet it wasn’t what the other person meant at all. Or perhaps it was exactly as it was meant. and it hurt.
God’s word says, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death. . .” Our thoughts and mindset can kill our relationships and us. But here’s a way out. God says, “but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6) It’s not that hard to understand, but harder to accomplish. We must first know what the word says about God and practice focusing, thinking, and pondering those thoughts. You see, flesh kills, but God heals - - - and restores what the flesh tried to kill. Is it time to clean out the mind?
Bridle the Tongue. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”
It’s easy to ramble on and on about what this person did or said. However, allowing our tongues to spew only ignites the spark and as the story grows, so does the fire. Think about it, you and your friends sit around a fire and with each word, a log is thrown into the flames. Overtime, how big will the fire get?
As a woman, I understand the need to "talk it out" with someone. Try sharing with one trusted friend, your pastor, women’s ministry leader, pastor’s wife, even a counselor can help. But most importantly, try talking it out with God. He is our greatest comforter and His understanding is better than anyone else.
Work Through Your Hurt. I’ve learned in my own life that hurt turned inward creates bitterness and anger. It wasn’t until I worked through my pain that I found freedom—not for anyone other than myself. Pushing our hurt aside, burying it, covering it up, or pretending like it doesn’t matter, are ways many of us handle our wounds. Believe me when I say, the hurt will find its way out-- good or bad. This will look different for everyone.
Here are a few ideas that may help:
Pick a time to grieve your hurt by writing it down. Start a sentence with “I’m so hurt about . . . “I didn’t like the way you . . .” Allow your emotions to take you to those hurtful places. Cry, grieve, sit in silence. When you’ve finished this exercise, take a big breath in and focus on the Lord. “Lord I praise you because you’re my great comforter, I thank you Lord for taking this away, I surrender my all to You, Come and heal me.” Just spend time thanking God for what He has done and is going to do for you – provide you with freedom. When all is said and done, throw the pages away. Let it symbolize a moment of letting go. Now start setting your thoughts on God and His goodness.
Seek out a Christian Counselor. You may have deeper issues to discuss and work through. It’s okay to seek help. God placed incredible people in our lives to help us. Don’t be afraid.
Try finding a Celebrate Recovery Program. This program is free and provides so much support. It is all centered around Christ.
Above all, continually walk with God, stay focused on God, and allow Him to set you free.
My dear friend, bitterness is a deadly root that grows. Don’t allow bitterness to wreak havoc on your life when God wants to give you an abundant life of joy and peace.