Last week we talked about the difference between our spirit and our soul. We found out our soul contains our emotions and decision-making abilities. Today we will further examine the consequences of letting our feelings control our actions by delving into bitterness and unforgiveness.
Bitterness leaves rottenness in our emotions which result in
sarcastic comments, mood swings, withdrawal, self-pity, and physical maladies.
Diseases such as ulcers, increased blood pressure, and admission to mental
hospitals have been related to harboring bitterness in a person’s soul.
Summer in Georgia means lots and lots of peaches. One of the favorite things Ken and I
love to do is ride our motorcycle to the peach orchards and enjoy peach ice cream. We always bring home a bag of fruit as big as our tour pack will hold. Most of the time the fruit is perfect, juicy, and sweet, but on one occasion I bit into the blushing
flesh and received a painful surprise.
|Ken enjoying peach ice cream|
The fruit I ate left a bitter taste in my mouth and made me long for the sweetness of relief. What looked good on the outside was deceiving because the first bite revealed what was on the inside. The taste lingered long after I spit it out.
Bitterness can build up from hurts and rejection over time. We may look good on the outside but the inside is as bitter as the fruit I ate. We think we are protecting ourselves from further hurt, but all it does is damage us and those we love.
When I was a child, I harbored bitter feelings toward a teacher I had in school because of the strictness of her methods. My grades fell and my opinion of myself fell even further. Years later, after I was an adult, I was still harboring these feelings because the cost from this experience during my school years was great and had lasting implications. It took a long time before I realized my emotions were actually bitterness and blame, and my way of dealing with the hurt was to talk negatively about the teacher. When I finally realized what was growing within me, I turned to the Word and knew I had to forgive in my heart.
What is the difference in bitterness and unforgiveness?
|Unforgiveness causes pain to everyone|
Unforgiveness means a person is out for revenge. They are seeking to harm or pay back someone who has hurt them. They feel the offender is getting away with something and life isn’t fair. But God says in Hebrews 10:30, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Forgiveness is obedience to God by releasing our right to punish someone for the wrong done to us. To put it simply, unforgiveness is the action, bitterness is the feeling.
We can hold bitterness and unforgiveness in our souls in different ways.
- Against others—when people hurt us we want revenge so we simmer in the bitter soup of pain.
- Against God—while God never does anything against us, He is often blamed for circumstances that are caused by our disobedience or by things others do. We blame Him for not stopping what was happening. Even though He is not guilty, we are angry with Him.
- Against ourselves—we can punish ourselves for something we regret until we have internally flagellated ourselves. Somehow our mind reasons we deserve punishment so we will inflict it. How can God possibly forgive such a wrong? By doing this we are saying our sin is greater than God’s power to forgive or Christ’s blood to cleanse. Romans 5:20b says, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”
We hurt others and they hurt us. We all are guilty of committing acts that need to be forgiven.
But we don’t see the need of others when we are the ones who have been offended. If Jesus forgave when He had never done a wrong to anyone, how much more should we? He
didn’t ask for
punishment for the ones who beat Him, stripped Him, and nailed Him to a cross
even though He wasn’t guilty of anything. He has forgiven our sin. Who are we
to hold a sin against another? “Even as
Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).
|Christ forgave us at the cross|
Our feelings will come and go. Releasing hurts to God may have to be a daily occurrence until we are totally free. Bitterness needs to be spit out like the bad fruit I ate had to be discarded. I had to taste sweet fruit to remove the bitter taste. Eating the sweet fruit of God's word will remove the bitterness from your soul.
Every experience that has left a painful thorn in your life was healed at the cross of Christ. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” Psalm 147:3).
Feel free to share your thoughts.