Breaking Free from Bitterness

5 Mins read

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Depending on your personal history, you may not even really remember where your connection with bitterness started. No one rolls out of bed one morning and says to themself, “I think I’ll be bitter today.” Instead, bitterness typically starts as a thought that we simply can’t shake.

Perhaps you remember the events that have left you bitter. Many people who walk around under the weight of bitterness do so because they were abused, abandoned, or neglected by people in their lives who were supposed to take care of them. Maybe your childhood wasn’t the issue, but you’re carrying around bitterness because of some dreams that you had that didn’t work out. Maybe you had set your sights on your dream college, but something happened that kept you from going there. Bitterness can creep in.

Maybe you have had a romantic relationship that you really believed was going to be a part of your long-term future fall apart. Whether you were dating, engaged, or married, the pain associated with the loss of a relationship can leave you feeling bitter.

Your story is yours alone, and the feelings that you’ve experienced as a result of that story are valid. However, we do not have to live our lives as prisoners of our feelings. There are some things that we must allow ourselves move on from, even though there are times where moving on takes more strength than holding on.

Paul had plenty of reason to be bitter, but he encouraged the Ephesian Church to “get rid of all bitterness.” He had been abandoned by friends, falsely accused, imprisoned, beaten, mocked, and tortured. However, Paul refused to hold onto bitterness.

Today has the power to be a changing day in your life. While you may not be able to completely move on from bitterness in a single day, you can take your first step away from it. When you start moving on from the weight of bitterness, you can truly start living the way God wants you to live.

“But It’s Not My Fault”
Exodus 1:12-14 (NIV)
But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

When the Book of Genesis came to a close, Joseph had moved his entire family to Egypt because there was food there while Israel was dealing with a famine. However, Joseph and his entire generation died just before a new Pharaoh took over Egypt. The new ruler didn’t care about Joseph’s relationship with the previous Pharaoh. Suddenly, the Hebrews who lived in Egypt went from living comfortably to being forced into slavery.

The Bible says that the Egyptians made the lives of the Israelites bitter. They didn’t choose bitterness, it was forced upon them. Ultimately, the Hebrews didn’t have any say in any of it. They didn’t choose to live in Egypt, their ancestors did that. They didn’t commit any sort of sin that led them into slavery, they were just forced to be slaves. Their lives were made bitter, and it was through no fault of their own.

Perhaps the things that have left you feeling bitter weren’t your fault. If you were a child who grew up in an abusive home, there was nothing that you did to cause that. If your marriage fell apart because of an unfaithful spouse, that wasn’t your fault. Instead, you’re simply left in a position with something that made your life bitter.

The Israelites grew and prospered in the fact of what made them bitter. God’s goodness is not limited by what we’ve been through, but we can block the blessings when we choose to allow bitterness to be the driving force in our lives. Even if what you’ve been through isn’t your fault, choose to allow yourself to move past the bitterness.

What Are You Letting In?
Mark 7:20-23 (NIV)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come-sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

All of our behaviors, both good and bad, including bitterness, flow from our hearts. The word “heart” is used more than 700 times in Scripture. The term doesn’t refer to the organ that pumps blood throughout the body, nor does it only mean our emotions. Instead, when the Bible talks about the “heart,” it is referring to the very essence of who we are.

Jesus made it very clear that humans are defiled by what comes out of their hearts. When we allow bitterness to permeate the innermost part of who we are, ungodly thoughts, words, and actions are the natural byproduct.

While you cannot do anything to prevent yourself from experiencing bad things, you don’t have to give place to bitterness. You don’t have to make it easy for bitterness to set up shop in your life. That is why it’s so important for us to remain vigilant against any sort of ungodly thought patterns.

Guard your heart. Don’t allow bitterness to take root.

Finding Freedom
Ephesians 1:18-20 (NIV)
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

Not only can bitterness weigh you down, but it can also blind you. When you’re blinded by bitterness, you don’t see anyway that you will ever get past the pain. When you’re blinded by bitterness, you don’t believe there is any hope of a damaged relationship being reconciled. When you’re blinded by bitterness, the only thing that you can see is the pain and the anger that someone else caused you.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re blinded by bitterness, ask yourself a question about the situation that has made you bitter. What do you believe is the best possible way for the situation to be resolved? In many cases, especially when we deal with bitterness, we think that there needs to be some sort of revenge. Perhaps you’ve said something like, “I could move past this hurt if I could just get even with them.”

Today, ask God to open the eyes of your heart. Not only will this allow you to shake off the blinders of bitterness, but it will help you to see the power of God that can bring you out of the darkness that bitterness brings about. Instead of seeing revenge as the only viable option, you will quickly realize that God has a better way. He will give you the strength that you need.

A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, give me the strength to break free from the bitterness that is holding me back. Help me to better protect my heart against bitterness. Finally, help me to stop viewing myself as a victim of my circumstances. I know that through You, I am a victor, not a victim. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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