How To Avoid Bitterness Towards God
How can we avoid bitterness towards God?
I have walked the fine line of lamentation and bitterness, sometimes falling off onto the wrong side. It’s too easy, isn’t it? The bitterness sets in like frost, creeping in any nook and cranny not sealed off. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like a choice. That person you let in, helped, gave everything to crossed you again. The cancer came back. The diagnosis was worse than you thought. You suffered the loss of a person cruelly gone too soon. Watched you child suffer or die. Your spouse leave.
Bitter. Saying the word almost brings to life the acrid taste it describes.
How can we avoid bitter hearts through our suffering if our circumstances literally fit the definition of bitterness? Paul, as in writer of most of the New Testament, has been my most frustratingly helpful instructor in avoiding bitterness in the past couple of years.
In 2 Cor 12, we read Paul pleading with God to “remove the thorn from his flesh”. My study bible gives a couple of “guesses” as to what the thorn in Paul’s side could be: psychological struggles, opponents trying to persecute and kill Paul, physical disease (migraines, poor eyesight, malaria), or demonic harassment (ESV Study Bible 2238). Most commentators err towards the physical view based on Paul’s verbiage in Corinthians.
God’s answer to Paul’s pleading was “no” in the form of a reminder:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
The “no” was good enough for Paul because he lived every single day knowing God’s grace was sufficient for ALL things, and that God’s power is demonstrated through our weaknesses. For me, it sounds awful nice but it has taken me a while to escape the bitterness creeping up. Three practical ways that I live out Paul’s words and contentment in God’s grace through weakness are:
I realize God’s plan is infinitely greater than mine.
If God tells me that he works all things together for the good of those who love him, and I look around and don’t see the good, I don’t drive myself crazy anymore or shake my fist at heaven. I have come to terms with the fact that the creator of heaven and earth, and the loving God who gave up everything to rescue his wayward children has a “good” and loving plan far beyond what I can imagine or see.
I worship God for who He is.
Read the bible: let God’s promises and characteristics pour out of the page into your soul. And worship the God who has loved you with an everlasting love.
I am ok with mourning loss, but watch for it turning to bitterness.
Do not believe the lie that God is not grieved by suffering. And do not believe the lie that you have to be “ok” all the time; that you cannot mourn your losses. There is a whole book of the bible called Lamentations. Read through the Psalms, and you will hear David calling out to God in pain. Suffering hurts, and we should be able to act like it. You can mourn and lament and gain healing, not bitterness. The difference is a genuine heart cry to God and a sorrow for your circumstances, instead of swallowing distrust and anger and resentment until it festers in to acridity: bitterness.
ESV Study Bible. Crossway. Wheaton, IL 2008.