The best way to avoid succumbing to bitterness--or any other serious spiritual problem, for that matter--is to stay "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!"--Eph. 6:10.--And in the Word and prayer and the Spirit. If you have faith and confidence in the Lord and are strong in His Word and are putting your trust in Him, then the Lord will not allow the Enemy to overcome you with such problems.
However, staying close to the Lord is not something you do only when you're praying and reading the Word, but it's a personal contact and relationship with Him that you've got to carry over into your daily life. The following sections deal further with specific steps to help you to be free from bitterness in your daily walk with the Lord and others.
The Bible tells us, "Above all things, have fervent love among yourselves; for love shall cover the multitude of sins."--1Pet.4:8. Love even loves the unlovely, and casts a veil over countless sins! It's hard for you to see anything good in someone you don't love. But if you really love someone, it's much easier to overlook and forgive their faults.
If you have the Lord's Love and are loving towards others, you'll try to look on the bright side, and try to be optimistic and bring out the good things about people and see their good points. If you're trying to be loving and kind to people, you won't be harsh or critical or resentful towards them. But if you don't love them, they won't even be able to walk across the floor without your finding fault with the way they do it!
When you have real love for others, it's a lot easier for you to let things pass. In school they call it passing when you graduate from one grade to the next. When you're travelling along in a car, you know you're moving because you're passing things! That's how you know you're making progress, because you're passing things.
Well, the same thing is true in your spiritual life. When you start letting things pass, when you don't worry so much about things, that shows that you're making progress. When you don't hold it against somebody for some idle remark or something foolish that they did, something they said, when you don't get hypersensitive and all upset about it and hold it against them, then you're passing things. "Love covereth a multitude of sins," and will give you the grace and power to just let things pass, to forgive others as you know that you yourself need to be forgiven. This verse from my Mother's poem, "Let It Pass," brings this out very clearly:Truly great folks never stoop
The Lord and His Love are the antidote for the poison of bitterness and hate. The Lord and His Holy Spirit always rebuke the Devil, the Accuser of the Saints, and resist him. And instead of emphasising the negative and accusing others, the Lord's Spirit will point out the good things about others. When we're staying close to the Lord, He is faithful to show us that nobody's perfect, including ourselves; we're all human, and that always helps us to have love and mercy and to forgive others all the more because we know we're not perfect either.
We all must ask the Lord in all humility to help us have mercy on others, knowing that we ourselves must also be forgiven for many sins. Remembering continually what sinners we are and how many mistakes we've made helps greatly to keep us humble and to avoid that spirit of self-righteous pride which causes us to criticise and condemn others. We need to "forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us."--Eph.4:32. Pray for love!
If you'll just forget yourself and think more about others, and really try to help and pray for and love them, you'll find that will solve almost all of your problems! If you get your mind off yourself and on others you'll find that this is what will bring you true joy and happiness. That's the formula for finding joy: Put Jesus first, then Others, and then You!--J.O.Y.! First of all, get your mind on Jesus, and then He'll help you get it on to your neighbour, and help you love him as yourself. Praise the Lord!
Even when you're serving the Lord and doing your best for Him, everything's not always perfect, and once in awhile a few things are bound to happen that you don't like. But when things like that happen, you should try to get it straightened out between you and the person it happened with, or between you and the Lord. Or at least tell your Shepherds about it. But don't hold it in your heart or go around behind people's backs murmuring and griping about it!
The Lord knows that it will only hurt you and drag you down if you hold onto such "offences."--That's why He says, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."--Eph.4.26. If you go to bed mad and take your anger and frustration with you when you go to sleep, it just makes it last longer. It's terrible to go to sleep in that kind of a mood, out of the victory and angry or resentful towards someone else, it's really terrible.
Jesus made it very clear what you're supposed to do when you're hurt or offended or upset with someone. He said, "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."--Mat.18:15. And if you're the offending party, you're still supposed to go to your brother: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."--Jam.5:16. Of course, when going to someone about any such "oughts," be sure to ask the Lord to help you go in true love and humility, and be willing and open to hear any grievances or "oughts" that may be on their hearts.
But if you're too proud to admit it when you're upset at someone, if you're too proud to confess it and are unwilling to humbly ask for forgiveness and seek the Lord's solution, it can easily become a little root of bitterness in your heart.--And it will grow and eat at you just like a cancer.
Spiritually, if you keep little things like that in your heart and you don't get them out and confess them to the Lord and to the person involved and ask them to help you remove it and uproot it, to somehow get rid of it, it will eat and eat at you like a cancer! It usually starts just like a little tiny fiber, a tiny root, but it can grow and eat and eat away at you until finally it will devour you!
That's the way it is with those little offences and problems you have with others, or even with the Lord.--When something happens that offends or upsets you, and you hold it in, it's not confessed because you're too proud to be honest about it, it will fester and grow worse and cause you problems. It takes humility to be honest.
The Lord knows what trouble such "oughts" and offences can cause us if we harbour them in our hearts. This is why He said, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought (a grudge) against any: that your Father also which is in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses."--Mk.11:25.
The Lord not only tells us to make sure that we're not "holding a grudge" against anyone, but He also tells us that if we feel that someone is holding a grudge against us, we should do all we can to straighten that out as well. "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."--Mat. 5:23,24.
So it's very important for you to get rid of those pent-up negative emotions. You need to get rid of them and to be humble and to confess when you need help or prayer. It's so much better to humble yourself and confess to others instead of just holding things in and not saying anything, which can easily lead to murmuring in your heart and cause you to become bitter and discontented!
One of the greatest things in the World that anyone can learn is to be content in whatsoever state you're in, whether it's to be abounding or to be in want.--Phil.4:11,12. That's certainly something that we've learned throughout our many years of serving the Lord. We've lived as poor as Job's turkey sometimes, but it seems like in recent years we've really abounded compared to how little we had before. We just learn to take the bitter with the sweet, whatever the Lord gives. We don't let circumstances cause us to become bitter!
We all need to learn to count our blessings! The Lord wants us to think on the positive things, and refuse to set our minds on all the negative things and trials and doubts and fears and woes and troubles and tribulations and afflictions that the Devil tries to get us preoccupied with. You must get your mind off of all those negative things and think about your many blessings!
If you'd get into the habit of thanking God more for your blessings, your many many blessings, instead of complaining about the few tiny little infinitesimal problems or trials you may have, maybe the Lord would deliver you from those too! But when we don't look at anything but the button off of Mutt's vest instead of all the nice fine clothes and the bright red necktie, no wonder the Lord must get angry! (See ML #1492; Num. 11:1; 1Cor.10:10!)
The Lord tells us that we shouldn't think about those negative things at all! "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things!"--Phil.4:8. Whenever negative thoughts, criticisms or resentments come to your mind, you should right away rebuke the Enemy and say, "I rebuke you, Satan, in Jesus' name! I resist you, Accuser of the Saints, in Jesus' name! Jesus, help me not to think those thoughts!" Praise the Lord, quote Scripture, sing His praises, call on the Lord and the Devil will flee!
When Jonah finally shouted, "Salvation is of the Lord!", that old whale that had swallowed him just couldn't take it, and he spit him up! (Jon.2:9,10.) So even if God lets the Devil send along a whale-of-a-lot of trouble to swallow you up, you've just got to keep shouting and praising the Lord! The Devil can't stand that, and the trouble can't stand it, and God will deliver you! But if you get all down in the dumps and go around griping and bellyaching and murmuring and complaining and doubting and everything else, you'll just sink deeper and deeper to the bottom of the sea.
So when the Enemy tempts you to get down and critical or murmuring about something, fight back by praising the Lord and counting your blessings! Ask the Lord to help you be content and thankful for your place in His Kingdom and in His Family. And when the Devil comes along and tries to get you to unfavourably compare yourself to others and tries to belittle you and what you're doing, just start praising the Lord and thanking Him for your blessings, and the Enemy will turn tail and run!
Thank God and praise Him for your job and your place in His Family, whatever it is! If you're mopping floors or cleaning toilets or cooking food or running errands or doing maintenance work, whatever it is, thank God that you're in the house of the Lord and you're doing it for Jesus! "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of wickedness!"--Psa.84:10.
So whether abounding or abasing, we should be thankful for whatever we've got, and praise and thank God for it, because there's nothing any better! The very "worst" things in our life for the Lord are far better than the very best things the ungodly System has to offer! We're blessed with the best life in the World, the best work in the World, the best Love in the World, and the best Lord in the World--Out-of-this-World! Nothing could be better than God's Love and God's Word and God's Work and God's workers and their fellowship, and to be able to live and work together and love together in God's Kingdom for Him and for souls!--There's nothing better in this whole World, Praise the Lord! And if we're not happy enough now, when we see the eternal results of our labours Over There, we'll certainly be happy enough then!
Even when you're feeling good, maybe you don't thank the Lord enough for it and praise Him enough for it! "Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord!"--Psa.150:6. We could all praise the Lord more and be more positive! Thank Him for the health you do have! Thank Him for how strong you are and that you're not completely incapacitated, injured or sick with some fatal disease or something like that. All kinds of things could be wrong with you, so thank the Lord for the blessings you do have! Praise the Lord!--Stay positive, thankful and full of praise to Jesus!
The easiest way to prevent something from growing in your garden is to not let it get sown or planted there in the first place! And the best way to prevent any roots of bitterness from springing up in your life is to not let any bitter, critical or negative seeds find their way into the garden of your mind and heart.--Which means you've got to guard your thoughts and resist the Devil when he tries to sow his evil seeds and thoughts in your mind!
We all go through experiences sometimes where we listen to the Enemy instead of the Lord. In fact, the Lord lets us hear the Devil's voice and thoughts sometimes--even if it's only a test to see if we will receive or reject it.
Not all voices are of God, and you must learn to "try the spirits" (1Jn.4:1) to make sure that what you're hearing is of the Lord. If it's not according to His Word, or causes you to be discontent or bitter, dissatisfied or unhappy or critical of yourself or others--these things are not of the Lord, and you must rebuke the Enemy in Jesus' name when he tempts you with these kinds of negative thoughts.
You can't keep the Devil from saying things to you and tempting you to harbour negative thoughts or oughts against others, or even against the Lord. He will always try to speak to you and try to get you to let him have his evil way. But even if you're unable to keep from hearing him speak sometimes, you can always keep from doing what he says.
A lot of people feel bad and think that they must be terribly wicked because they think an unloving or sinful thought. But as my Mother used to say, "Even though you can't keep the birds from flying over your head, you can keep them from making a nest in your hair!" You can't keep the Devil from tempting you and casting his "fiery darts" at you and talking to you, but you don't have to talk back to him or open the door and invite him and all his little devils and doubts in!
You can militantly fight against even thinking about the critical, hateful, unkind, doubtful or fearful thoughts that the Enemy may attack or tempt you with! Resist all such thoughts and think positively! Think out loud by either quoting Scriptures or singing hymns or good Gospel songs. You can't very well quote Scripture and talk positively or sing out loud and have those other negative thoughts going through your head at the same time!
When a room is dark, you don't go around trying to chase the darkness out of the room.--You just let the light in and the light chases out the dark! So the way to get rid of temptations and negative thoughts is to think of good things, Godly things. Read your Bible, pray, think about Jesus, and then you don't even have time to think the other thoughts.--Which is why Isaiah says, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."--Isa.26:3. If you keep your mind on Jesus, you don't have time to think about these other things!--Sing!
Fill your mind with the wonderful, powerful Word of God and you won't have room for that darkness! Fill your mind with the Light of God's Word and the darkness will flee! Don't even listen to the Devil's lies!--Because if you do, the same thing that happened to Eve will happen to you! So don't listen to his doubts and his fears and his discouragement and his temptations and all the rest! Sock him with the Word of God!
When you're tempted to think negative or resentful or critical or hateful thoughts against your brothers or sisters, remember that the Devil is the "Accuser of the Saints," and he will always try to accuse others and exaggerate their faults to you. He will even take innocent, unintentional remarks or acts and twist them and make them sound a lot worse than they really are. But once you can recognise that such negative and critical thoughts are the Enemy's attacks against you to separate and divide you from your brothers and sisters in the Lord, then you can slam the door on all such thoughts and take a definite positive stand against them.
When you have faith in God and His Word, then you know that the Devil is a liar, and when those kinds of bad and bitter thoughts come into your mind, you know it's the Devil speaking. So just say "I resist you, Satan, in Jesus' name! I resist you!" Because God's Word says if we resist the Enemy, he'll flee from us!--Jam.4:7. Once you recognise such thoughts as the voice of Satan, you can just brush them aside. "I refuse to listen to you any more! I'm not going to listen to a liar, a deceiver and a cheat! That's not true, those are lies!" (or exaggerations, misinterpretations, half-truths, etc.)
Just fight the Devil positively when he tries to make you bitter or upset at others or at the Lord! Start singing a hymn or song to Jesus, pray and quote the Word of God! Just let the Light in and the darkness flees every time! When you're being tempted or attacked with negative or critical thoughts, you just have to be positive and attack back! You have to make a conscious effort to rebuke the Devil and think positive good thoughts instead. Amen?
If you watch your thoughts and watch your words and fill your heart and mind with the Lord and His Word, you will be well-protected and fortified and surrounded by God's Angels of protection, His Guardian Angels, and you will be free from the Enemy's critical and confusing static and negative accusations and doubts. In all the things you do all day long, in whatever you may do, in every activity of life and everything you do or say or even think, ask the Lord to help you to be constantly on guard. You can monitor your thoughts, monitor your words and monitor your actions just like we monitor videos!--Then you can always choose the good and eschew the evil. (Rom.12:9.)
When you begin to acknowledge the Lord in all your ways and take Him into account on everything, then no matter how bad or rough or trying a situation may seem, you know that He is in control. You know that He loves you and that He will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able! (1Cor.10:13.) And if you know that you're His child and His hand is on your life, then how can you get bitter and offended at Him? You know "He doeth all things well" (Mk.7:37), and will never make a mistake in His dealings with you, His child whom He loves. Everything He does, He does in love.
If you think of everything in relation to the Lord, then you get the right perspective, God's reasoning, Heavenly wisdom, "the wisdom that is from Above."--Jam.3:17. When you think of all of your circumstances in relation to the Lord, then you realise it all has a purpose and that God did it for a reason.--A good reason!
If your eyes are on Jesus and you're "walking by faith and not by sight" (2Cor.5:7), then you're constantly aware that He--your great Shepherd--is with you and has everything under His control.--And this, of course, makes it much easier to "take" whatever He happens to send your way.
He promises us, "All things work together for good to them that love God!"--Rom. 8:28. When you really believe this verse, then you know that the Lord never lets seemingly bad things happen to you without any rhyme or reason whatsoever. He only allows such things to happen for a good reason.--Sometimes we've been bad and we need correction, or we've been good and He just wants to make us better through these tests. As I've often said, sometimes God lets things happen just to humble us, and later on He may let things happen to us again to see if we're still humble.
Nothing happens to you without the permission of God.--Or, I might add, your permission! In other words, sometimes you can get yourself into trouble by your own disobedience or unyieldedness to the Lord, by somehow stepping out of His Will. When this happens, God lets troubles befall us to teach us a lesson! So sometimes we get ourselves into fixes, and it's our own fault that we suffer the consequences.
The Lord often allows and uses people as His instruments to test us and do things that cause us problems because He is testing us to see what we're made of and how close we're going to stay to Him, how tightly we're going to cling to Him. He wants to see if any of these things will move us, and if our house is built on the Rock, Jesus Christ, and not on other people or leaders or circumstances. At the same time, He's trying to strengthen us.
When someone has mistreated us, if we really believe that the Lord loves us and is in control of our lives, can we say that God made a mistake, or even that He allowed a mistake to be made? In the final analysis, if you're going to blame someone for making a big mistake in your life, you've got to blame it on the Lord, right? If you really believe that the Lord is in control, then you've got to blame Him, right? If we don't believe that the Lord is in control and that the Lord is leading this outfit, then why are we even in the Family or serving the Lord at all?
If people really love the Lord, there are a lot of good lessons that He can teach them, no matter what happens to them.--Even if they're seemingly "unjustly" excommunicated!--Or if they're demoted to Babe's status or sent out of their mission field or whatever! If they really love the Lord and are in this Family because they're trying to serve Jesus, and their hearts are in the right place, they're not going to become all upset and bitter and backslide! The Lord will use the experience that was so difficult for them for their good, and not for bad, and they will learn lessons, draw closer to Him, and come through victorious in the end!
Your leadership may make a mistake with you, but the Lord doesn't, and even if He allowed you to be excommunicated, He did it for a reason. If you really believe God's Word, that the Lord never allows anything in the lives of His children except that which is for their good, to teach them lessons that they need to learn, lessons that they perhaps couldn't learn any other way, then you know He doesn't make mistakes!
There are lots of reasons why the Lord allows things that look like they're bad to happen in our lives, but He always does it for our good! If we don't believe that, then we're in the wrong outfit! We might as well give up and not even love the Lord or trust the Lord or serve the Lord at all if He is always making mistakes and He doesn't even know what's best! Who wants to serve a God like that? You've got to see the Lord's hand in your life, and you need to learn your lessons even from what may look like the "mistakes" or injustices of others, or whatever you're having a hard time accepting!--Then determine to serve the Lord in a much better, more dedicated and sacrificial way than ever before!
It's such a wonderful liberation when you really know and are fully persuaded that everything is under the Lord's control, His marvellous control! Nothing happens--not the things your leaders do, not even the things the Devil and his demons do--without the permission and the Will of God. The Enemy can't touch a hair of your head, he can't do a thing unless God allows it. This is why David could say, "All things come of Thee," both the good and the bad!--1Chr.29:14.
So, thank the Lord for His loving care and marvellous control! Because we have the Lord and we have His Love and we have life and we have faith, therefore we have hope for better things, for the best, and we know that things are always going to turn out all right in the end. 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 4: How to get rid of bitterness!
Back to table of contexts of BITTERNESS! - The Deadly Root that Devours and Destroys!
Also see an excellent Bible study about bitterness: