Last week, I wrote a blog for our church that began with these words: “I’ve been taken aback by how many of you have shared with me how the Holy Spirit is using the recent two-part sermon series Uprooting Bitterness, to help you.” I can say the same about you, my readers. (If you have not yet listened to the two-part sermon, you may want to begin there. Here is the link.)
If the Lord has revealed any bitterness in your heart, the following practical applications will help you to dig deeper and move forward. You may benefit from working through them alone or with one or two others in the church, as we grow in learning to counsel one another with the loving application of God’s Word to our lives.
Learn to Lament
One of the biblical disciplines that I learned to practice during my battle against bitterness is lamenting to God in prayer. Biblical lament complains to God, not about God. Mark Vroegop defines lament as “more than just the expression of sorrow or the venting of emotion. Lament talks to God about pain. And it has a unique purpose: trust. It is a divinely-given invitation to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in God.” Biblical lament typically follows a four-step process:
- Turn to God
- Complain to God
- Ask God for help
- Choose to trust
Take time to work through some Psalms of Lament, such as Psalm 10, 13, 22, 39, 44, 77. Journal how the people of God worked through their pain by lamenting to God.
Open your mind and heart to the life-transforming power of Scripture.
- Read Psalm 73:21-22. Asaph penned this song after coming through a time of deep bitterness and envy, which resulted from comparing his painful life experience with the relative ease of the wicked. Are you angry at God about anything in your past or present? If so, confess this to God by praying through Psalm 73:21-28 in your own words.
- Read Genesis 39-50. Take note of the Lord’s care of Joseph through all his sufferings. List every form of “good” that God brought about through his pain, which culminated in 50:20.
Practice biblical forgiveness by reading Ephesians 4:25-32 and Colossians 3:12-17.
- Think: Make a list of the experiences that you are still angry about. What afflictions are you disappointed with God about? Who are you harboring bitterness against?
- Pray: Confess any unbelief or sinful responses to the Lord. Pray for those who hurt you.
- Let go: Put your list through a paper shredder or burn it in your fireplace or grill. Destroy it as an outward expression of letting go and putting way all bitterness, so that you may move on.
Apply Biblical Weed Killer to the Root of Bitterness
The two-acre lot that we live on is mostly wooded, which is a happy place for poison ivy to thrive and spread. Therefore, one of the staple poisons in our shed is weed and brush killer, the kind that gets absorbed into the plant’s circulatory system and goes deep down to kill the root. Consider the following list of biblical reminders as preventive maintenance against the root of bitterness.
- Remind yourself daily that your sin against God is greater than anyone else’s sin against you and that your new standard for forgiving others is how much God has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
- Consciously put away every form of bitterness and refuse to take up offence for the hurts of others (Ephesians 4:31).
- Confess to God that your bitterness has surrendered ground to Satan, giving him an advantage in your life (Ephesians 4:26-27).
- Remember that no injury you have experienced, or ever will experience, can compare to the injury received by Christ who prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
- Forgive from your heart those who have hurt you, real or imagined, intentional or unintentional (Matthew18:35).
- Reflect on the life of Joseph (Genesis 50:20). Remind yourself of the truth that if you are a believer then God is always working behind the scenes for your good to conform you to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29).
- Never seek revenge or make people pay for their sins (Romans 12:19). Jesus already paid for the sin debt completely (1 Peter 3:18).
- Remember that God’s anger against you and your sin has been propitiated by Christ (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2). Therefore, you have no right to harbor anger.
- Humble yourself and ask forgiveness from those against whom you’ve been bitter (Matthew 5:23-24).
- Bless those who hurt you; overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).
- Pursue love for one another, which covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
- Choose not to remember the wrongs that others have committed against you. Actively choosing not to remember is different than forgetting. In Jeremiah 31:34, God says he will “remember no more” the sins of his people. This is not memory failure or forgetfulness. This is God’s conscious choice to no longer hold our sins against us. We must do the same with the sins of others.
- Destroy “lists of sins” committed against you, mental or actual, written lists (1 Corinthians 13:5).
- Make peace with others, as much as it is in your power (Romans 12:18). If a person from whom you’ve asked forgiveness refuses to do so, but chooses instead to remain your enemy, then pray for them. Ask the Lord to show you how to love them while continuing to obey God and guarding your heart from bitterness (Matthew 5:44).
- Trust God to judge righteously (1 Peter 2:23).
May the Lord continue His gracious work in our hearts as we open them to the surgical work of the Holy Spirit through the scalpel of the Word (Heb. 4:12)!
 Mark Vroegop, “Dare to Hope in God: Learning to Lament Well.” https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dare-to-hope-in-god. Accessed October 3, 2022.