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Yesterday, we looked at many of the causes, signs and consequences of bitterness – if you missed that post, you can find it here.

I have discovered that I have to dig down deeply and examine all of my angry thoughts, write down exactly why I am upset and then compare my thoughts to the truth of God’s Word and trash the things I am thinking and believing that aren’t true. (But I need to throw away the list of wrongs I have suffered after I have examined them!)  I also need to identify all of my sinful reactions and repent of each individual sin towards each individual person and memory that contains the smallest root of bitterness.  I realize now that even old memories from long ago need to be uprooted and inspected for hidden traces of bitterness to get all of that before God and remove even the smallest particles – or it will fester.  I lay still before God on the operating table as He opens up my heart and examines every dark crevice. I need God to renew my mind by the power of His truth and His Word.  I must take each thought captive for Christ and allow Him to examine my heart and mind and extract every offensive way in me.  I desperately need time in His Word daily and time in confession of my own myriads of sins daily and time praising and thanking Him. I pray we will be sensitive to God’s Spirit and able to hear His voice:

  • pride – “I am better than so and so.”  ”I would NEVER do what he/she did.”  ”I am so much more spiritually mature than him.”  I have to ALWAYS be on the lookout for pride.  God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. James 4:6 Pride is a HUGE source of fuel for bitterness in my heart.  ”I deserve better.”  ”I know better than her what we should do.”  ”I am not that sinful.”  ”He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.”  ”I am above THAT sin.”  ”He/she is SO spiritually weak to fall into THAT temptation.”  ”That is unforgivable.  I will NOT forgive that!”
  • ungodly motives – I am VERY SINFUL and wicked on my own.  I am in desperate need of Jesus! I have to constantly check WHY I want to do things and allow God to expose sin, pride, desire for glory for myself, selfishness, and many other sins!  The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9  I can easily be blind to my own sinful motives.  I need God to show me my sin, and other believers and other people to tell me the sin they see in me.
  • unforgiveness – Jesus commands us to forgive so that God will forgive us.  Matthew 6:14-15  Unforgiveness is HUGE sin in the  sight of our holy God.
  • gossip – usually born from my pride and wanting to prove how much better I am than someone.  MORE PRIDE!  Gossip is part of the fruit of the flesh, it is NEVER of God!  What are my motives when I am sharing stories about others?  Am I looking out for their best and for God’s glory?  Or am I trying to make them look bad and make myself look wise,  am I trying to hurt the person and ruin his/her reputation and turn others against them or using their sins/errors for entertainment?
  • fear – I need to think about God’s Word and that perfect love drives out all fear, and that the only One I truly need to fear is God – “what can man do to me?”  If I have God’s power in me and His Spirit filling me, He will give me the strength, courage and wisdom to handle another person’s sin in His way for His glory.  I don’t have to be afraid of another person’s attempts to control me, their disapproval, their unkind words, their anger.  If I am paralyzed by fear, I am not trusting God.  I have a lack of faith in His sovereignty and power to work in my life.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6  I don’t have to be swayed by sinful attempts of others to control me.  I don’t have to get upset or react sinfully myself.  I am no longer a slave to sin!  Now I am a slave to Christ!  I may calmly respond in the power of the Holy Spirit and refuse to cooperate with sin and ask God to give me His love for them. (If someone is violent towards you or threatening you physical harm, please do not trust your safety to them.  You may need to get away, may need to involve the police.  Please find godly, local, experienced counsel if you are in physical danger!)  I can forgive, but I don’t have to trust until the person earns my trust back.  But I need to desire to work towards reconciliation as far as it depends on me and God working in me.
  • idolatry – wanting people’s approval, wanting to please people, wanting people to think I am perfect, expecting other people to make me be happy, demanding things of others, insisting on MY will, MY way, MY desires, MY goals, MY needs, MY feelings of being loved…  If I am giving other people power over my emotions and feelings and believing evil things they say, but ignoring what God’s Word says – I have a big problem!   It is what GOD says that matters – not what others say!  If their opinions and statements and condemnation don’t line up with scripture – I don’t hang onto their words! Just because someone says something about me, does not mean it is true.  It is up to me to take that statement to God and His Word and examine it.  There is no reason to blindly swallow poison from other people. If that person could act in spiritual maturity, love and wisdom – he/she would!  But right now that person may be held captive by sin or by the enemy – and may not be able to be the person God desires them to  be.  God may want to use me and His Spirit in me to show His love, mercy, kindness and grace to that person who is acting hatefully to draw him/her to Himself.  When others mistreat me – God is watching carefully!  There are many tests of my faith each day.  I pray we will hear God’s voice and honor Him!  My reaction to others’ sin reveals my character.  Other people cannot MAKE me fly into a rage.  God’s  Spirit is to be in control of me – not my sin nature!   If I am not seeking God’s will, His dreams, His goals, His presence, His righteousness, His Word, His power and His pleasure – I may be dealing with idolatry.
  • undealt with sin – if someone sinned against me, but I didn’t go to them in love and truth and tell them that they hurt me, I was wrong.  It is my responsibility to tell someone (calmly) if they wrong me.

Here is a list from Martha Pearce in The Excellent Wife of Bitter Thoughts and Kind, Tender-hearted, Forgiving thoughts to replace the bitter thought.  This is NOT an exhaustive list!  This same concept can be applied to ANY relationship.  What a fantastic place to start!

1. BITTER THOUGHT – He doesn’t love me.  He only loves himself.

KIND, TENDER-HEARTED and FORGIVING THOUGHT – He does not show love as he should, but his capacity to love can grow.

2. BITTER – How dare he come in from work in a bad mood and take it out on me!

GODLY – perhaps he feels under pressure from work

3. BITTER – I do so much for him, and look what I get in return!

GODLY – I wonder if I could do something differently to make it easier for him?

4. BITTER – He’s only thinking of himself.

GODLY – Maybe he doesn’t feel well today.

5. BITTER – He’s stupid!  See if I ever try to talk to him again!

GODLY – Maybe he misunderstood what I was trying to say.

6. BITTER – I can’t believe what he decided.  How ridiculous!

GODLY – Maybe he has information I don’t have.

7. BITTER – I can’t believe what he has done to me!

GODLY – What he has done is difficult but God will give me the grace to get through it.

8. BITTER – I will never forgive him.

GODLY – After all that the Lord has forgiven me, this is the least that I can do.

9. BITTER – He’ll never change.

GODLY – By God’s grace, he can change.

10. BITTER – This is more than I can bear.  There is no hope.

GODLY – There is nothing that has happened that God cannot forgive, that I cannot forgive, and that we can’t work through.

11. BITTER – He did that on purpose to hurt me.

GODLY – Only God can know why he did what he did.  It’s my responsibility to believe the best.

12. BITTER – He should have known better.

GODLY – How could he possibly know?  I’ve never told him.  He can’t read my mind.

13. BITTER – I’ll show him what it’s like.

GODLY – I’ll give him a blessing instead

14. BITTER – We never should have gotten married in the first place

GODLY – He is my husband and I am committed to him no matter what.

15. BITTER – God understands that I can’t take this.

GODLY – God will give me the wisdom and grace to hang in there.

16. BITTER – I prayed about it and have ‘peace’ about pursuing the divorce

GODLY – It would be nice to have this settled, but I am committed to proceeding in the way God has determined.

17. BITTER – I wish he were dead.

GODLY – I pray that God will have mercy on him and he will repent.

18. BITTER – I hate him.

GODLY – I can show love to him whether I feel like it or not.

19. BITTER – He is repulsive to me.  The thought of him touching me is nauseating.

GODLY – My husband desiring to have sex with me is a good thing.  I can show love to him by concentrating on pleasing him.

20. BITTER – How could God let him do this to me?

GODLY – God has a purpose in all that I am experiencing.  He can and will use it for my good and His glory.

Verses she used for the godly thoughts:

Matthew 18:32-33, Matthew 19:6

Romans 8:28-29

I Corinthians 4:4-8, I Corinthians 6:11, I Corinthians 10:13

Colossians 3:2, 14

Ephesians 4

Philippians 2:3-4

I Peter 3:9

James 1:5

I John 1:9

SOME INSIGHTS FROM A FRIEND THIS WEEK:

I realized several things:

1. I am SO quick to get angry
2. My anger and bitterness toward them is not just about this one incident-this is just one more incident that can be added to the long list of wrongs that I’ve been keeping :(
3. The beauty of Christ cannot be seen in me if I’m pouting and angry
4. I need to forgive these people and treat them kindly
5. I have absolutely no desire in my flesh to do that right now
6. I desperately need the Lord to bring me to that place!
April, I think your right in saying bitterness is progressive, and just recently learned that forgiveness can also be progressive. In Tim Keller’s Galatians study, there’s chapter on forgiveness. This has been very helpful to me, and I think it can be applied to bitterness as well since they seem to go hand in hand. He states:
  “When someone has wronged you, it means they owe you; they have a debt with you. Forgiveness is to absorb the cost of the debt yourself. You pay the price yourself, and you refuse to exact the price out of the person in any way. Forgiveness means you free the person from penalty for a sin by paying the price yourself.
  
   Realize that forgiveness is granted (often for a long time) before it is felt. Forgiveness is not primarily a feeling, but a set of actions and disciplines. Forgiveness is a promise NOT to exact the price of the sin from the person who wronged you. This promise means a repeated set of ‘payments’ in which you relinquish revenge. It is hard, and (for a while) constant. If this promise is kept actively, eventually the feeling of anger subsides.”
 
   He goes on to quote Dan Hamilton from his book Forgiveness: “Forgiveness is to deal with our emotions by sending them away- by denying ourselves the dark pleasures of venting them or fondling them in our minds.”  “Once upon a time I was engaged to a young woman who changed her mind. I forgave her…but only in small sums over a year…They were made whenever I spoke to her and refrained from rehearsing the past, whenever I renounced  jealousy and self-pity, whenever I saw her with another man, whenever I praised her to others when I wanted to slice away at her reputation. Those were the payments- but she never saw them. And her own payment was unseen by me…but I do know that she forgave me…Forgiveness is more than a matter of refusing to hate someone. It is also a matter of choosing to demonstrate love and acceptance to the offender…Pain is the consequence of sin; there is no easy way to deal with it. Wood, nails, and pain are the currency of forgiveness, the love that heals.”
 
WOW! How powerful is that??? Sisters, I just wonder how quickly the bitterness we’re harboring would fade away if we would begin absorbing the costs ourselves. To refuse to dwell on past hurts, to take every thought captive the moment they pop into our head, to release the offender from our high expectations, to not find our satisfaction in the approval of men, to choose to show love to those that hurt us, to remember Christ absorbed the costs of our debts… There are so many ways to make payments…and it’s so HARD! But freedom awaits us on the other side of it! I pray that the Lord will soften my heart and bring me to the place where I am delighted to make the payments, where I LOOK for ways to do it, because I know there’s no way I can do it in my own power!
FROM PEACEFULWIFE:
We will explore more about forgiveness and victory over bitterness tomorrow!  I am SO excited to share God’s wisdom and His path to freedom, joy, peace and abundant life!
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