“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”(Ephesians 4:31-32).
Bitterness starts out small. It may stem from a comment made, a perceived look, or an outright action that was offensive. The seed of bitterness is planted. We replay the offense over and over in our mind, paying close attention to every detail. We retell our hurts to any available listener and enlist their support, pushing us further into resentment. The root of bitterness begins to grow. We cringe each time we hear the offender’s name and the offense is replayed in our mind once again.
We perceive the offense to be intentional and our offender full of spite. We begin to look for other reasons to despise them. With each new piece of information we gather, the root of bitterness takes hold deep within our heart. We fool ourselves into thinking no one will know, but anger and resentment have a way of seeping into everything we do. Resentment is like a beach ball we try to submerge in the water. No matter how hard our efforts, it keeps popping to the surface.
Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” So how can we do that? How can we prevent bitterness from moving into our hearts? How can we deal with our feelings instead of letting them grow into bitterness?
First of all, we must know that God requires forgiveness. God knew it would not always be possible to live at peace with some people. But God does require that we forgive others (Ephesians 4:32).
We are to forgive because we are forgiven. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Sometimes we mistakenly think He died only for us, but when He died, He died for the world -- including whoever offended you. We are told to forgive others just as Christ forgave us. Do they deserve it? No. Do we deserve it? Again, no. But still, He hung on that cursed tree because of His love for each of us.
When we have an unforgiving spirit, our eyes are not on Him; they are fixed on ourselves. Pray for those you can’t forgive. We don’t have the capability in ourselves to forgive others. But God can empower us to forgive those who have hurt us. When we have the love and forgiveness of Jesus in our heart, there is no room for bitterness to grow.