I hate admitting it as bitterness and unforgiveness has become in our society a respectable sin but nonetheless a sin is a sin and that’s what it is and I struggle DAILY with it. Our church is doing a series on respectable sins and bitterness was the sin talked about last week. This has been something I have struggled with for years and God has really been trying to get my attention with in this past year. Bitterness is truly a poison and it will sap the joy out of you. I wonder why I can feel so apathetic towards a lot of things. Why am I not moved to tears in worship much anymore? Why do I have a hard time genuinely praising the Lord? Why do I not care whether I hurt my husbands feelings or not? Why do I have a hard time genuinely feeling sorrow for my sins? This is all apathy and I know it is because of my bitterness and unforgiveness in my life that is sucking away my joy.
“Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness;
but You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption,
for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You;
Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.
The living, the living man, he shall praise You, as I do this day.”
When I am living in bitterness I am walking around like a dead man. Romans 8:6 says “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” A carnal mind is one that lives out of the flesh. The dead, sinful flesh of ours that Jesus so lovingly sacrificed Himself and crucified Himself on the cross so we wouldn’t have to live according to it. That ugly part of us that is entangled and governed by sinful thoughts and motives. That is death. And according to Isaiah 38, in death there is no thankfulness, no praise and no hope for God’s truth. No wonder I struggle with apathy. I am walking around like a dead man. Only a living man can praise God.
Now my struggle with my struggle (did you get that?) is because of my apathy I don’t feel like doing anything different. Wait, let me correct. I want this path to be different but I want it to come from the offending parties. Why do I need to be the one to extend forgiveness even if only in my heart so I can experience freedom from the bondage of bitterness? Aren’t they the ones who hurt me? Shouldn’t they be the ones making the changes in their lives so I can more easily forgive them once they’ve proven they understand what they did wrong and are changing? Now everything that is to come is what I’m struggling to live out. But I know that if I make a choice to walk in obedience to what God’s Word says IRREGARDLESS OF MY FEELINGS that He will be faithful to His promises and my heart will begin to be healed and renewed. At this point if I have to force myself to sit down on the couch and pray for God to change my heart and help me to feel again and help me to feel sorrow for this sin and repentance for this sin and help me to love those who have hurt me when I don’t feel like it and to forgive those who have hurt me when my feelings are still hurt, then that is what I must do. I can’t wait around until I feel up to the task because let’s face it… Satan will not allow that to happen. He will continue bringing things into my life that cause bitterness and unforgiveneness and if I am not intentional with my spirit then my flesh will dominate and allow those to take root (hence how I got here in the first place). No, this path is an INTENTIONAL AND PURPOSEFUL DAILY (AND EVEN MOMENTARY) CHOICE BASED OFF OBEDIENCE TO GOD, NOT MY FEELINGS.
Isaiah said it perfectly: “You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption.” Deliverance is the promise to my obedience. If I am obedient to make different choices and take a different path then God will lovingly deliver my soul and I will become the living man able to praise Him. So what are the obedient choices I need to make? I’m glad you asked.
Put off – Put on: “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24. This is a conscious choice. Whenever I feel the old man (anger, frustration, annoyance, selfishness, etc.) rearing it’s ugly head I need to stop right then and there and make a choice to not allow that man to have precedence in my life at that moment. I need to seek God in prayer and ask Him for this and to help me put on the new man (forgiveness, love, peace, patience, etc.). This is where the momentary battle comes into play. It will not be enough for me to do this first thing in the morning and think I’m good for the day. The day is long and everyone around us are sinners just like me so the opportunity for my feelings to be hurt and disappointments to arise is great. Every single time throughout the day I experience this old man coming back I need to do this.
Renew my mind: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2. This was also mentioned above. The mind is the battleground. The mind is where my “feelings” get hurt and tell me to respond a certain way. If my mind is not renewed in the knowledge of who Jesus is then my mind will stay in it’s sinful way of being and will act out of my selfish desires. I have to surround myself in God’s Word so my mind is constantly thinking about that and not being corrupted by the World.
Pursue peace: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:14-15. I know the moments throughout the day when I have a choice to make. Something has come up to remind me of how this person hurt me. The choice arises. Do I choose to wallow in my hurt feelings and allow bitterness to take over and treat that person in response to that? Or do I choose to ask God to help me forgive this person and to heal my heart and instead to pursue peace with them? I know when these choices need to be made because of God’s wonderful Holy Spirit inside me that prompts me and nudges me all throughout the day.
- Meditate on excellent and praiseworthy things: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable 0r if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8. I need to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), not just some thoughts. Every single thought I have needs to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. This again is a momentary battle. Every time I am tempted to think about the way someone has hurt me or how nothing is changing today or whatever it may be I need to run it through this filter and ask myself if it fits into any of these categories. Chances are, it does not. I need to replace (put off – put on) these negative thoughts with these excellent and praiseworthy thoughts. What am I thankful for about this person?
It will not change overnight but God is faithful and I need to continue to be reminded of this and make the choice to walk towards freedom from this bondage.