When the Lord doesn't do things just the way some people want Him to, they get bitter against Him. They get upset and angry at the Lord because He didn't do just exactly what they wanted Him to do. They're obviously lacking in faith and not trusting God, that He knows what's best.
God's Word tells us to "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."--Pro.3:5,6. But if you're looking at conditions instead of God, you're going to have problems! You've got to keep your eyes on God. You've got to look to the Lord. You've got to see God and "walk by faith, not by sight!"--2Cor.5:7. When Moses was having a rough time, we're told that "he endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible."--Heb.11:27.
Sometimes the Lord does things--or allows things to happen--in our lives to test our faith and draw us closer to Him. He loves us and is concerned about us and frequently allows things to happen to loosen our grip on the things of Earth and tighten our hold on Him and the Eternal Heavenly values. But if we don't receive the Lord's dealings with us, if we reject and refuse to accept them, then we become hardened, and even the Word, God's Truth, will lose its effect on us.
When people refuse to change or adapt to changes or forsakings or breakings, they sometimes get mean and bitter about not having what they used to have. They're unwilling to "take joyfully the spoiling of their goods" (Heb. 10:34), to take their losses and learn the lessons from it that God is trying to teach them.
Tough trials and tests can either melt you or harden you!--Which is why you've got to watch out and "look diligently" that they don't harden you and make you bitter and hateful! If you will let the trials humble you and melt you, you'll be a lot happier, and you'll find the Lord's Love in a new and closer way. But if you, in pride, harden your heart and say with "Invictus"--"I am the Captain of my fate, I am the Master of my soul! My head is bloody but unbowed," you will wind up sorely off the track and become a great disappointment to God!
Pride is what causes people to be bitter! It's because of pride that people become bitter instead of yielding and becoming broken and soft through their trials. Pride is why they refuse to "bow" to the Lord and surrender their all to Him!
So bitterness is a form of pride. People who are bitter usually feel that someone--either God or Man--has treated them unfairly. They're bitter because they feel like they deserve to be treated better. They feel they've been mistreated, abused, they don't deserve what they're getting. They feel they're better than that.
Another reason that people get bitter about their lot in life is because they get their eyes off of the Lord and on others.--And they begin "comparing themselves among themselves," and in so doing, "are not wise!"--2Cor. 10:12. When you start comparing yourself to others, and how the Lord has dealt with you compared to how he's dealt with others, it's very easy for the Enemy to tempt you with jealousy, bitterness, doubts etc.
For example, say the Lord's required you to make a great sacrifice of mate or children or position, in order for you to continue growing and being fruitful in His Service. If you unwisely compare your situation to someone else who hasn't been required to make the same sacrifice that you were, you could easily begin to feel discontented and resentful.--"How come I had to give up all of this and that, and they didn't?"
The thing that people fail to realise when they fall into this pit of comparing themselves to others is that the Lord handles all of us differently.--And what's good for you, may not be good for someone else! The Lord knows what's best for us, so He gives us all what He knows will help us each to grow the most and learn the particular lessons He is trying to teach us.
When dear Apostle Peter was told by the Lord that he would suffer a martyr's death, he asked Jesus, "What about John, what will happen to him?" Jesus gently chided him not to worry about John and replied, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?--Follow thou Me!"--Jn.21:22. How the Lord deals with others isn't really your concern, "What is that to thee?"
"Every man shall give account of himself to God"--Rom.14:12.--And your main concern shouldn't be, "But Lord, if You're requiring all of this of me, what about my brother here?--What are You gonna require of him?" You just need to trust the Lord and "follow thou Jesus" and do your best for Him! 'Cause if you begin comparing God's dealings with you to His dealings with others, you're just opening the door for the Enemy's thoughts of discontentment, murmuring, resentment and bitterness.--No wonder the Bible says that such comparisons are "NOT wise!"
Some people's problems with bitterness go a long way back. Because they refused to humble themselves and yield and accept what God was trying to do in their lives, and they refused to forgive and forget whatever anyone did to them, that little root of resentment that began growing in their hearts long ago, continues to grow and grow. And after a while, it becomes a big tree!
To stubbornly refuse to accept God's dealings in your life is to "suffer so many things in vain."--Gal.3:4. How sad to go through big trials and testings and not learn the lessons God is trying to teach you from them. His Word says, "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."--Heb. 12:11. But sad to say, everybody's trials don't always yield the "peaceable fruit of righteousness." Sometimes they end up being bitter because they refused to be "exercised" thereby, and they won't learn their lesson!
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."--1Pet.4:12; 1:7.
The Lord sometimes lets things happen that we don't understand to test us and try us. He places us in the refining fires of His trials and testings to bring us to a boil, so all the scum and dross come to the surface and can be purged out. That's what the fire's for--to bring out the meanness in us and to get rid of it.
Suffering is God's catalyst, God's test tube. It either reveals that we have already got the grace to take it by faith, or it helps to turn us to grace and cause us to call upon God and to seek His mercy and His Love and His deliverance. Of course, in some cases, suffering can cause people who are rebellious and unyielded to the Lord to rebel all the more!
Suffering makes you either sweet or bitter, one or the other, one extreme or the other.--It's up to you. It will either humble you or harden you.
You can often see this in older people. As the years pass by, people go one way or the other, there's no standing still. They get more mellow and mild, soft and more tender, or they get harder, one or the other. My mother used to say that some old people are well-preserved, and others are just well-pickled!--They've gotten so sour and dour and miserable and unhappy.
The sorrow, the suffering, the sacrifice and sadness you go through will bring out the best in you--sweetness, compassion, love, tenderness, brokenness, love and concern for others--if you love the Lord and turn to Him when you go through such trials. He says, "Let them that suffer according to the Will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator."--1Pet.4:19.
Of course, when you go through such tests and trials, it never "seems to be joyous, but grievous."--And the Devil will do all he can to try to convince you that God doesn't love you and that He doesn't answer prayer!--But what's really happening is that the Lord is letting your faith be tested, to see how much you really love the Lord and what price you're willing to pay to serve Him!
When going through severe soul-trying times of testing, we're often tempted to question the Lord, "Why me, Lord? Why did You let this happen to me?" We know from His Word that He allows such trials to test our faith and to test our love, just like He did with Job. Such tests actually strengthen your faith and cause you to love and believe in God no matter what, to not doubt no matter what happens.--As Job finally said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!"--Job 13:15. And when he finally took a stand like that, he got the victory. The Devil gave up and saw he couldn't make Job quit, even if he killed him.
Even Job's wife told him, "Why don't you just curse God and die, you miserable man!" Just think, he even lost the love and respect of his own wife. He'd lost all his children, lost all his wealth, lost his health and then he lost his wife! As Job sat there in ashes, pitifully scraping his boils with a potsherd, she taunted, "Why don't you just curse God and die and get out of the way!" But he rebuked her and said, "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh! What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" God's Word then says, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips."--Job 2:7-10.
Earlier, Satan himself had told God that Job would curse Him to His face if he lost his possessions and position. (Job 1:11; 2:5.) But when calamity after calamity befell dear Job, he passed the test and proved what a liar the Devil is! He didn't harden his heart and heed the Devil's voice through his wife or bitterly turn against God. Instead, "Job arose and rent his mantle and shaved his head and fell down upon the ground and worshipped. And said, `Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord!' In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."--Job 1:20-22.
But some people really have to go through a lot before they humble themselves and receive God's dealings with them. In fact, some people never seem to get the point and they never allow themselves to get humbled and they never surrender their own stubborn will and proud independent spirit to God! They never cry out to the Lord for deliverance. They never admit that they can't make it on their own. They just never give up trying to do things their own way, they never ever say "Uncle!" or "Lord, You win, I surrender!"
Some people even get mad at God for dealing with them! They get mad and mean and they curse God and wind up in an even worse state than they were before He tested them or tried to straighten them out!
But the Lord won't force you to humble yourself and yield and draw closer to Him! The breaking process depends upon you and your yieldedness and willingness to be made willing! So try to take your testings and your temptations without sin and without rebellion, murmuring or bitterness! The Lord promises that He will never give you more than you're able to bear, and that He will always make a way of escape. (1Cor. 10:13.) He'll somehow make it easier for you or at least help you to bear it. So "harden not your heart" but "cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee!"--Heb.3:8; Psa.55:22.
Things will be a lot easier for you if you will just accept what the Lord is trying to do in your life, if you will receive the breakings and the chastisements and the lessons, if you don't fight against them, if you'll just seek the Lord and yield to Him. Remember, He loves you, and whatever He does to you, His Own child, He does it in love.--For your good. So for God's sake, and your own sake, "Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God" (1Pet.5:6), and don't get hardened and bitter! Get better and not bitter!--Amen?
Self-righteous people always blame God for their problems and troubles instead of themselves, or instead of accepting the trials as something that God has sent their way for whatever reason. Some people are so self-righteous they wonder, "How could God ever do such a thing to me? How could the Lord treat me this way when I'm so good to Him?" They resent God's dealings with them.
That is actually one of the worst sins of all, to even have the slightest idea that you're a little bit more righteous than God, that God shouldn't have done this or that to you! That kind of attitude is the very seed and the very root of murmuring! When you question the Lord and murmur like that, what you're really saying is that you're more righteous than God!--Or others!--That if you were boss, you wouldn't have let such a thing happen, and you would have done better and you wouldn't have done this or you wouldn't have done that!
When any of us face any kind of a crisis or dilemma, test, trial, tribulation, privation, persecution--whatever the trouble or problem--what is the first thing we should do?--Complain? Murmur? Get upset and angry that things aren't going just the way we would like them to?--Of course not!
But when things seem to be going wrong, the first thing a lot of people do is pray and say, "What's the matter, Lord?"--And when some people say that, what they really mean is, "What's the matter with You, God? How come You failed me?" Whereas what we should really pray is, "What's the matter with me, Lord? Is there something wrong with what I'm doing? Am I displeasing You in any way?--Am I failing or disobeying You in any way? Am I out of Your Will in any way? First of all, what's the matter with me, Lord, or my situation? What's wrong?--Or are You just testing me?"
Contrary to what a lot of people seem to think when they start having problems and trials, there's nothing wrong with God! There's nothing the matter with Him, nor His Love, nor His dealings with His children! The problem is usually with us.--As He says in His Word, "Your iniquities have separated and come between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear."--Isa.59:2.
He says, "I'm not deaf that I can't hear your prayers, I'm listening!--And My arm isn't short or weak that it can't save and help you. The trouble is not Up Here, it's down there with you!"--With us, not God! So don't blame God and get upset at Him because of your troubles and your problems and your crises and your difficulties! It's not God's fault! There's nothing wrong with God! "Let every man be found a liar, but God be found true!"--Rom.3:4.
The most important thing you have to do during trying times is not whine and complain and murmur and gripe and grumble and bellyache and get bitter at God for His so-called failures and mistreatment and His neglect and His abuse and His cruelty and His deafness and His unconcern!--Because none of those things are true! You need to do the opposite of what the children of Israel did out in the wilderness, and that is, you need to sit down and think the situation over and pray:
"God, what's wrong with me? What's wrong with what I'm doing or the way I'm doing it? What am I doing that's displeasing You so that You're withholding Your blessings? In what way am I disobeying--either deliberately, wilfully, or unknowingly, unwittingly, or simply falling short, maybe just not doing enough? Or maybe I'm not listening enough, maybe I'm not following Your voice and guidance enough.--Or are You simply testing my faith or humbling me and trying to get me to draw closer to You?"
It's human nature to look around for somebody else to blame our problems on. "Passing the buck" started in the Garden of Eden. It's sinful Man's first line of defense when he's in trouble.--To blame others.
Just look what happened in the Garden of Eden: When they got caught in their sin, the first thing Adam said to God was, "It was my wife, she did it!" Then Eve said, "It was the Serpent's fault, he did it!" And the Serpent as good as said, "It was God, it's all His fault!" (Gen.3:12-13.) To "pass the buck" and try to blame things on others is an almost automatic reaction and self-defense mechanism with most people.
People who are bitter and have a bitter spirit are especially prone to this sort of thing. They're always blaming everybody else for all of their mistakes and all of their troubles and failings. It's always somebody else's fault.
If you have a problem or weakness along these lines, you'd be wise to remember that the Devil is the "Accuser of the Saints" (Rev. 12:10), and that's his own tactic to always try to get you to blame your problems on everybody else! "Why me, Lord? I didn't do it, they did it to me! It wasn't my fault, it's his fault, her fault! They're the ones to blame! They're the ones who made me do it!" Some people find it so easy and convenient to blame all their troubles on somebody else!--"It's that awful Hell of a person I have to live with or that horrible leader I have to work under"--or this one or that one!
This is such a typical device of the Devil: He always accuses the Saints and always exaggerates to you what others are doing, and will always try to take things that others have said or done and twist them and make things sound a lot worse to you than they really are.--He even does the same thing to God about you! He's an expert at picking on all the little flaws and all the little faults that he can find, and constantly tries to accuse others and get you to blame everything that goes wrong on someone else!
But if you won't accept the responsibility for your own problems and you continually blame them on others, you're just going to go through your entire life never getting the victory or making any progress! How can you ever grow spiritually or learn any lessons from the Lord when you're self-righteously blaming other people for everything bad that ever happens to you?
Even if you feel that you have been genuinely mistreated or misjudged or whatever by others, instead of sulking and pouting and licking your wounds, you might find it's very profitable to look a little deeper and see if the Lord is trying to get through to you on some other point or issue that's even more serious than whatever it is you feel so mistreated or misunderstood about! Don't be too quick to judge and blame others when you might need to work on the beam in your own eye, and not be so concerned about the mote in your brother's eye. Amen?
Although "evil thoughts proceed out of the heart of men" (Mk.7:21), we should not be ignorant of the fact that bitter, hateful and resentful thoughts are also a "device of the Devil" (2Cor.2:11) that he frequently attacks God's children with. Our spiritual Enemy is always looking for a weakness, a way to enter our defenses. He is always seeking to cast his "fiery darts" (Eph.6:16) into the city of our fellowship, trying to sow the evil seeds of dissension, jealousy, covetousness, bickering, selfishness, and internal discord.
So we all need to be watchful and on guard against such thoughts towards others. "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."--1Pet.5:8.
When the Enemy is out to poison and "defile" you with bitter and hateful thoughts, he's usually very subtle about it. He tries to make his poison look very attractive, offering it to you as something that you want to take. The Devil almost always sugar-coats his pills with enough truth to trick people who don't know better than believing and swallowing them.
When I was a little boy, when they gave you pills and capsules, they started to put a coat of candy on the outside so the children would be willing to swallow them, because they thought it was candy. But inside it was bitter, horrible-tasting medicine.--And that's the way the Devil's lies are; no matter how he sugar coats them to tempt you or to suit your taste, no matter how much truth he may use to get you to harbour bitter thoughts against somebody, his thoughts are a bitter pill to swallow, and will make you bitter if you do!
That's why it's extremely dangerous to allow even a little bitterness, resentment or a critical spirit to creep in. The Enemy will use it as a channel, especially if there's some motivation of jealousy or pride or desire to vindicate or avenge yourself, or even to just feel sorry for yourself, or excuse yourself. You may think, "Oh, just this one little tiny seed, just this little bit of a grudge or gripe against them, it's not so bad.--Besides, they deserve it!" But that little crack in your spiritual armour is where the Devil will begin to seep in, and his gas of deceit then begins to poison your mind because you've opened the door to him, and pretty soon you're totally off the track!
As long as you leave a window open, you're not going to get rid of a roomful of flies. Likewise, you're not going to get rid of the Devil and his annoyances until you force them out and close the door or the windows so they can't come back in! But as long as you're harbouring bitterness or hatred in your life, that just lets the Enemy in, it's leaving the door wide open.
My Mother used to say, the Devil knocks on some people's door and they just throw it open and say, "Come on in, Mr. Devil, come in, Mrs. Devil and all your little doubts and doubtlets! Here are some comfy chairs, sit down and talk to me and let's have a nice visit, let's hear all that you have to say!" Instead of that, when you first hear the Enemy's knock at the door in your thoughts, in your mind and heart, as soon as you recognise who it is, you should slam the door in his face so quick it cuts his nose off! You shouldn't even listen to his first doubt, his first evil thought or "fiery dart"!
That's where Eve made her mistake. Her first mistake was stopping to listen to the Devil. When he puts negative or critical or doubtful thoughts in your mind, don't even listen. Resist him! Rebuke him in Jesus' name and start praising God and thanking the Lord for all your blessings! Get off the Devil's negative channel and think of the positive! When Eve stopped to listen, pretty soon she was believing him. So don't listen to him at all!--"Neither give place to the Devil!"--Eph.4:27. Listen to Jesus, read His Word, study and memorise it and praise the Lord, and the Enemy will flee!
Whenever you feel like murmuring and griping about things, watch out! Such an unthankful, doubtful and negative attitude may not only be an indication of bitterness, but of backsliding as well! Even if you haven't actually turned your back on the Lord, you're turning back in your heart when you start yielding to that feeling of doubting, murmuring and being critical of everybody else. When people start picking out others' faults and covering their own, and murmuring and griping about everything, complaining instead of praising the Lord for what they've got, it's a dangerous sin!
Even if you don't wind up completely backsliding, you'll certainly lose your inspiration and the Lord's anointing if you go around voicing complaints and resentments like that. You can't keep complaining and criticising and murmuring and belly-aching about things and still keep God's Holy Spirit on you for your job, you just can't do it. You'll wind up like Saul, the Spirit left him, and he became so damned hardened of heart and cold, he didn't even know it was gone! He didn't even know he had lost it.
When someone's going around murmuring and constantly being critical of everything, it shows that they've been entertaining the Devil's lies in their mind and heart, "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."--Mat. 12:34. Then they become a witness for the Devil. If your heart is filled with negative thoughts, sooner or later you'll mouth them, and that's when you really begin to pull others down too.
One reason that people complain and bellyache and criticise is because they know that they're not making it themselves and that they haven't got the victory.--They know that they're failing because of their own unyieldedness or rebelliousness. So rather than really trying to make it and stop failing and do better, they start looking around for something to justify themselves, to excuse themselves and vindicate themselves. So they frequently accuse and blame everybody else for their own faults and failures, and will freely criticise everybody else but themselves.
Such murmuring is virtually the voice of the Enemy and his doubts, and a critical spirit like that sows dissension, disunity and discord amongst brethren, one of the seven abominations to God!--Pro.6:16-19. So God certainly won't--and can't--bless people who allow themselves to fall into such a sorry state.
In fact, if you sin in murmuring against God, and complaining about your lot, complaining about the circumstances and conditions under which you're living, and griping and murmuring against God or your Shepherds or your brethren, God may just let you stay there much longer than He'd originally planned!--Like He did to the Children of Israel when they murmured against Him!--Until you learn to be thankful and patient! "Tribulation worketh patience!"--Rom.5:3.
No matter how great your trial may be, no matter how difficult your difficulty may be, no matter how bad it may be, if you just have faith to trust God to bring you out of that difficulty, you won't murmur and complain! You'll rejoice and praise God and thank Him, even for the trial, because you know He is able to save and deliver you!--And He will! Praise the Lord!
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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Next is Part III. HOW TO AVOID BITTERNESS!
Back to table of contexts of BITTERNESS! - The Deadly Root that Devours and Destroys!
Also see an excellent Bible study about bitterness: