Bitterness - a feeling of antagonism; hostility; or resentfulness:
If we are all honest with ourselves, we’ve dealt with bitterness at some point in our lives. Over the last 16 years of pastoring, I have been asked, “Pastor, how can I know if I am bitter?” When you hear a name or a situation mentioned, does your blood pressure go up? Do you immediately become angry or have those “butterflies” in your stomach? If the answer is yes, then you're probably dealing with bitterness.
Bitterness has been medically linked to high blood pressure, cardiac disorders, ulcers, and even insanity. One leading psychiatrist wrote, “90% of all people in insane asylums could be released immediately if they could learn how to forgive, or how to be forgiven.”
An article from The Gospel Herald gave this illustration:
“There was a man whose health was good. He was sturdy and strong. His heart action and blood pressure were fine. Then his father died, and he got into a prolonged legal dispute with his sister about their father’s will. The case went to court, and the sister won. From that day on, the man could think of nothing more than the lawsuit and his sister. He talked about it, he thought about it, he filled himself with it, and it became an obsession. Each day, he grew to hate his sister more. Then he began to have difficulty with his heart and blood pressure. Next, his kidneys bothered him. Before many months, complications killed him. It seems obvious that he died from bodily injuries brought on by powerful emotion. I believe the man killed himself, suicide by bitterness.
”It is clear that bitterness can destroy your life. So how do we overcome bitterness?
In the book of Exodus, the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea and were led to a place called Marah. Marah means bitterness. After three days of searching, the Israelites found water, only to discover it was too bitter to drink. But God showed Moses a tree and commanded him to cast it into the water. Once the tree was in the water, it became sweet, and the Israelites were able to drink it. God, in His grace, sweetened the bitter waters for the Isralites that day.
And a little over 2,000 years ago, God, in His grace, sent His son to die for our sins, all sins, even bitterness. A man named Jesus walked up Golgotha's hill and gave his life for us on an old rugged cross. The answer to overcoming our bitterness must be found in Him, for overcoming bitterness requires forgiveness, a kind of forgiveness that only comes with a humble recognition that we need forgiveness ourselves. The Bible instructs us in Ephesians 4:32 to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” When we accept the gift of salvation offered through the work of Christ on the cross, we are forgiven of every sin we’ve ever committed. And because we have received mercy and grace, we can extend mercy and grace to others.
Overcoming bitterness is key to living a successful Christian life. May we recognize the mercy we were shown and, through Christ, forgive those who have wronged us in order to overcome our bitterness and press on for God!