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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Johnson

Mandie Presents: Be better, not bitter

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”    

    -Ephesians 4:31-32

I had the honor of giving a all girls lesson on the topic of bitterness, I poured each girl a cup of hot bitter coffee and we chatted. Here are some notes from our discussion.

What is bitterness?:

The biblical word for bitterness literally describes the bitter taste of certain foods and drinks. The verb translated “to be bitter” means “to cut” or “to prick”. You may think of bitterness as an internal, self-inflicting wound. The bible says that this resentful, unforgiving attitude will cut and prick others as well. Bitterness is the result of not forgiving others.

Generally speaking, it is a hurt or disappointment. When someone hurts you (real or imagined; it makes no difference. The result is the same, if you do not deal with it biblically you will become bitter.)

We discussed 2 scenarios that the girls might have experienced something similar to:

  • Danielle used her Sarah's toothpaste without permission and the Sarah retaliates by using her hairbrush.

  • Veronica was planning a party with her friends all summer long and the weekend before the party, Veronicas dad told her that she couldn't go to the party because some guests were coming into town and she needed to stay home.

Both of these scenarios involved planting seeds of hurt and they form roots of bitterness into the soil of their heart.

We discussed some side effects of bitterness:

“The heart knows its own bitterness.” - Proverbs 14:20

  • Difficulty in resolving conflicts

  • Revenge

  • Giving the silent treatment or cold shoulder

  • Outbursts of anger

  • Biting sarcasm or snide remarks 

  • Distrust

  • Impatience

  • Rebellion against authority

  • Misuse of authority

  • Condescending communication 

  • Depression

  • Doubts regarding salvation

  • Remembering with great specificity the details of an offense

Have you heard the term: Put off/Put on?

We put off our old ways of thinking and acting and replace those sinful habits by putting on new ways which are like those of Jesus.

Example: Eph 4:28 -  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

The focus of this lesson was to be a better Christian, not a bitter Christian.

in order to do that you need to put off bitterness and put on forgiveness.

The rest of the lesson we discussed different types of forgiveness:

  • Attitudinal forgiveness: Something done in your heart before God– having an attitude of forgiveness and willingness to do so. (Matthew 6:12-15, Mark 11:15, Luke 11:4)

  • Transactional forgiveness: The action of personally granting forgiveness to those who have sinned against you. (Luke 17:3-4)

Reminder: no matter how great you may view a person's sin against you, her sin against God is greater.

What could happen when you confront someone about their sin?

Be sure to humble yourself, speak truth in love, make sure you take the log out of your own eye. Don't confront them with the attitude of being superior, but have the godly attitude of reconciliation. Be prepared for the possibility that their first instinct is to get defensive and to retaliate with all the things you have done wrong to them. If this is the case, stay calm and be willing to repent. They might have attitude with you because they have been harboring bitterness against you.

So how do you forgive someone?

We used Romans 12:17-21 as our layout for making a battle plan.

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[a] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  • 17: you are warned against the improper use of weapons (fighting evil with evil) and briefed on the importance of developing a battle plan, which is to repay evil with GOOD.

  • 18: stresses the importance of peace.

  • 19: cautions you to not take personal vengeance and offers guidance on the do’s and don’ts of retaliation.

  • 20: provides you with instructions on how to destroy the enemy (with coals of fire).

  • 21: twice, contains wartime for conquer.

How do you fight to win?

Romans 12:21b. “Overcome (conquer) evil with good.” - Paul is saying you may not accept anything less than victory in your personal battles against evil. The question is not “How long can I hold out in the face of his attacks?” but rather, “How can I use the resources God has given me to fight with to defeat the foe?” God is interested not only in whether you win or lose but how you play the game (or fight the battle in this case)

Your weapons:

Your weapons must be only those armaments that can be considered good in God’s eyes according to scripture. Good is more powerful than evil. Your motive is not to hurt, but to bless your offender with goodness until goodness takes over his sin and motivates him to repent. (Romans 2:4, 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Thess 5:15, Matt 5:39)

Why does the bible forbid me from taking revenge?

Romans 12:19- Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

  • He has not given you (or any person) the authority to take personal vengeance on anyone. Vengeance is God’s. If God were to say to you, “This is My crown.” would you walk up to him and take it off his head? When you are taking revenge, you are stealing from God.

  • You don't have the ability to because you don't have all the facts necessary to make a proper judgment. (1 cor. 4:5)

What are burning coals?

The coals are your good deeds heaped on him.

suffering is part of the Christian life for which God has his own purposes.

1 Peter 4:12 - Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Sometimes that suffering comes at the hands of people we love and trust or friendly fire from other Christians. One of the purposes for such suffering is to conform us to His image that we might glorify Him and learn how to live “the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for lusts of men, but for the will of God.” - 1 Peter 4:2

God really will provide you with everything you need to become a better Christian rather than a bitter Christian as a result of being hurt. The choice is yours.

As a group we prepped our arsenal by ways we can "overcome evil with good" using the toothpaste and hairbrush scenarios from the beginning of the lesson.

We don't forgive and forget, we forgive and reconcile!

Based on God’s promise to not remember our sins against us, here is the threefold promise that must take place between two Christians:

  1. I will not bring this issue up again to you, unless it would be for your good.

  2. I will not bring this issue up again to others, unless it would be for your good.

  3. I will not bring this Issue up to myself and become bitter and resentful toward you in the future.

The debt that you owe God for your sins is humanly incalculable and absolutely unpayable. God has forgiven you for a lifetime of sin, that is much greater than someone else's sin against you.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

-Colossians 3:13

We ended our lesson with this question:

What if my bitterness is towards God?

Some people, even Christian people, become bitter at God. It’s not that he’s sinned against you and in need of your forgiveness. It’s a matter of you mishandling a difficult situation, or trial that he has given you.

Typically when someone is bitter at God, it’s usually because of some kind of loss: good health, of a loved one, wealth, reputation or even a dream. The danger comes when we allow our grief to become so great that it overpowers other things in our lives that God says we ought to not let slip. When we experience heartaches, we can easily allow sorrow or self-pity to fill our lives so that we stop thinking about things that generate love, joy, peace, or any other element of the Spirit’s work.

What if I’m already there?

What if I’ve allowed my heart to be filled with sorrow to the point that I’m shutting down physically and mentally? What if I already become bitter at God? By the Spirit’s enabling power, you will have to work hard at getting your sorrows back down to a manageable level, and any bitterness eradicated from your heart.

Action steps to removing bitterness roots from the soil of your heart:

  • Confess your grieving/sorrow and bitterness to God. Ask him to forgive you and grant you the grace to change your sinful thoughts and ways.

  • Memorize and meditate on: Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

  • Instead of thinking about what you lost, think about how God may be using your loss to benefit you. Instead of thinking about how miserable you are, ponder how you can make someone else happy.

  • Keep your eyes peeled for self-pity, it likes to lock arms with bitterness,

  • Think biblically and act biblically (responsibly)

I challenged the girls to memorize:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”

-Ephesians 4:31-32

for a takeaway reminder, I (and another leader) made bracelets for the girls to wear and I intentionally made them various shades of brown/black to represent different levels of bitterness in coffee.



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