By Jennifer Heeren, Crosswalk.com
"See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;" - Hebrews 12:15
What exactly os When given a chance, bitterness grows like weeds in a garden. I don’t purposely plant them, but they grow and can take over swiftly. I must pull them up by the root to get rid of them. Certain attitudes bring on bitterness just as quickly as those old weeds in my garden. It’s extremely easy for bitterness to take root within my heart. After all, this world is often corrupt and unjust. Evil, greed, and meanness run rampant. People do what feels right for them and often ignore what’s true, honest, and good for all.
What Is Bitterness?
According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, bitterness is symbolic of affliction, misery and servitute as seen in Exodus 1:14, Ruth 1:20 and Jeremiah 9:15. In Hebrews 12:15 we see that once a root of bitterness takes hold, a person becomes full of dangerous sin.
Bitterness leads to selfishness. When turned inward it turns into depression. When it’s turned outward it becomes rage. Both directions lead to rotten and distasteful fruit in the wake of one’s life. But when you nip those bitter weeds in the bud, life feels much better and is more peaceful.
Here are 7 ways to not be bitter in life:
1. Practice Gratitude Each Day
At the end of each day, I think of five things that I am grateful for. Writing them down helps even more. That way, on bad days when I’m having trouble thinking of the good things, I can look back on previous days for ideas. The more I do this practice, I sometimes have trouble stopping at five things. Bitterness stops telling me what's wrong and not good. God’s goodness is immeasurable when I give thanks for everything to my God in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Be an Original; Don’t Compare
Someone is taking a vacation and I’m stuck at home. Another just had a baby and I’m lost in infertility’s woes. A great job comes to someone else while I am drawing unemployment. If I’m not careful, I can see everyone else as having a better life than mine. But I don’t always see another person’s trials. I simply don’t see their whole picture. I’m looking at their highlight reel and comparing it to my blooper reel.
Everyone experiences problems in life. I’m not immune and they’re not either. So, I needn’t worry when I seem to fall short of their great lot in life. I can choose to stop looking to the right or left. Bitterness thrives on comparison and not being or having enough. I can purpose to look forward toward the path that Christ has called me to and then count every blessing that I see.
3. Release Entitlement Ideals
I’m not entitled to anything, but God gives me a lot of goodness anyway. Anything that I get is a gift, not an obligation that God has fulfilled. Even when I work hard toward something, I’m still not guaranteed a certain outcome. I can choose to be open to whatever God gives me. I have found that His ideas are much better than mine, so I try not to get stuck in my own frame of mind. God loves me dearly and wants only the best for me. But His best isn’t always what I’ve been thinking. It’s better.
4. Realize that You Don’t Have to Know Everything
I can be like a reporter, wanting to know who, what, where, when, and how, at all times. Sometimes I need to live with the original innocence of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve didn’t know everything, but they could trust that their Father did, and He would guide them. Ultimately, they didn’t trust, and they wanted more knowledge, but they could have simply trusted if they had wanted to. I can learn from their mistake and seek to relax in not knowing everything because I have a Father in Heaven who sent His own Son to cover my many weaknesses.
Sometimes I simply have to remember to believe. Believe in the goodness of God’s original plan. For His design is wonderful even though we have moved far from that origin. God is good and will always be good, first and foremost. I can trust His basic countenance.
5. Give Up the Need to Control
God in His sovereignty has allowed everyone on the earth to have free will. I cannot control anyone besides myself and sometimes I can’t even do that. For at times I do things that I don’t want to do and don’t do things that I want to do. If I can’t even control myself, why do I feel like I should prescribe a specific plan for someone else to follow. I may be worried about that person and want to help them, but I cannot make them do anything.
Instead, I can use that controlling energy in a different way. I can pray that they do the right thing or that they do a wrong thing and learn from it. His peace comes to me when I allow Him to be the Blessed Controller of All Things. He can work good things in spite of their free will.
6. Stop the Victim Mentality
Yes, it’s a horrible thing when people treat other people badly. They can hurt me physically and emotionally, but they cannot harm my spirit. They can’t take away my God-given ability to overcome hardships. They can’t turn me into a victim unless my own thoughts turn me into one, and that's the goal of bitterness. Their bad behavior toward me can only push me into being an overcomer. For God can take what they meant for evil and turn it into something that makes me stronger. Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. I can fully lean on Him and overcome anything!
7. Always Look to the Helpers
Fred Rogers was quoted in saying, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” This is beautiful advice for not letting bitterness get you down. If you see a building on fire, look at the firefighters. If you see a crime, look for the policemen. Even when you hear about mass shootings, focus your eyes on the people that become a human shield to protect another person from harm. There are always helpers in the midst of turmoil.
Horrendous evil actions are loud and get a lot of news coverage. Cancer and other diseases are feared and often take up the forefront of our minds. But when you look at the whole picture of any incident, somehow you see good woven through. Sometimes you do have to look very hard. If you don’t see something, keep looking until you do. People do bad things way too often, but God’s grace covers a multitude of problems and squeezes some good out of the evil.
When I deliberately focus on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) as much as I can, I see the world a little bit differently. Most of all, I can fix my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who endured the cross, scorning its shame, and ultimately overcoming the worst torture imaginable so that you and I can overcome anything that we endure.
"Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith." - Philippians 3:1
Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write devotional articles and stories that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk. Her debut novel is available on Amazon. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at her website and/or on Facebook.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Bavorndej