I talked to a man recently who was very,very bitter.
In fact, I suspect that if bitterness was a skin disease, he’d be encrusted in scales, which weeped and seeped and oozed his pain.
I’m not judging him.Life can be hard and his life (in particular) had taken plenty of unexpected turns; serious long-term health problems, a marriage breakup, a job loss.
At times, life chucks us into situations we couldn’t have imagined, and at some point, we will all walk through hard times.Sometimes we’ll get angry and sometimes we’ll feel overwhelmed and in general, there’s nothing wrong with any of those emotions. Talking, shouting, crying, feeling are all parts of being human.
But bitterness is a stage further. Bitterness is what happens when pain ‘sticks’.
Bitterness is the sound we make, when all the bad things done to us become part of our thinking, our identity, our talking, our tweets, what we post on Facebook.
Bitterness is when we consistently focus on all we don’t have, rather than the things we do.
Bitterness is when we stop talking honestly to God, when we can’t move forward because of ‘what was done’. It’s blaming God, blaming the church, blaming people.
The truth is, some things in life, some hurts, will always make us angry. They’ll leave scars. But the injustice, the loss, the lack-of, doesn’t have to define who we are and all we do.
It’s been said that bitterness is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.
The only way to survive, to get through is to remain tender-hearted.
That doesn’t mean we have to become friends with the person who inflicted the pain, it doesn’t mean that we’re completely free of injustice or sadness.
But it does mean that in spite of everything, we’re free to move forward.
I love this verse in Ephesians;
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32
Who wants to be held back, stumped, defeated and limited because life hasn’t gone (so far!) the way we wanted it to? Who wants to ooze the past?
Not me! It’s good to know that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen in life, it’s still possible to live our lives, in freedom, unshackled from the poison of bitterness.