Bitterness is like a tea kettle on the stove. If you keep heating it up, it will boil. But if you take it off of the burner, it will cool down. This is the only way to get victory over a case of bitterness—you must take it off the burner. Even if the fault is mostly or entirely on the part of the other party, you must let the situation go. Man’s anger cannot work the righteousness of God. At best our anger promotes the status quo. Usually, however, it exasperates the problem.
When we step away emotionally from a strained relationship that tempts us to bitterness, we put ourselves in a place of advantage. First of all, this effort honors God in the situation. He wants us to focus on our own response to the situation and let him worry about the other party’s response. Secondly, we are not wasting time and energy on people and circumstances that we cannot change. Our time is precious and our energy is limited. Thirdly, we are not letting people and circumstances dictate our response and affect our character negatively. Fourthly, we can see the circumstances more clearly. If we allow ourselves to get agitated—fire in the heart sends smoke in the head—we will likely misjudge the situation. We will underestimate the sincerity or integrity of the other party and overestimate our own.
Lastly—but by no means the least, when we disengage ourselves emotionally from a relationship that tempts us to bitterness, we are fleeing from a dangerous path. If we let the weed of bitterness grow in our heart, we may soon find ourselves dealing with an oak tree that cannot be removed. I have watched bitterness destroy men that once had a strong and vibrant testimony. And when it destroys men, it damages others around them too.
This destructive tendency is why the Bible counsels us, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest a root of bitterness spring up, causing trouble and defiling many” (Heb. 12:15). God desires to keep us from the clutches of bitterness and offers us the grace we need to respond to difficult relationships in a manner that promotes rather than undermines our spiritual well-being. We can either submit to his grace and let our heart be a garden of grace, or we can nurse our bitterness and let our heart grow thick with thorns and thistles. If we want the garden of grace, all we have to do is surrender to the same sanctifying efforts of grace that we received when we believed—As you received Christ Jesus, so walk in him.
May you all enjoy the amazing blessings of our amazing Saviour in their amazing fullness.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard