From Bitter to Better

In front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
In front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

Things hadn’t worked out the way Naomi had planned. She, her husband, and three sons made a move they believed would provide them with a new life. Things had started well, but then one disaster after another befell her. Life had become so hard she wanted to change her name from “Naomi” (which means “pleasant”) to “Mara” (which means, “bitter.” See Ruth 1:20.)

Life is hard. The world is full of injustice. Bad things happen to good people, but is it inevitable that age sours us? How can we become better instead of bitter?

Cut bitterness off at the roots.

Some people feed their bitter roots, but the Bible teaches us to get rid of bitterness as soon as possible (Hebrews 12:15; Ephesians 4:31).

‘Fess up!

Of course that’s not always possible. Circumstances often blindside us, but Helen G. Lescheid wrote, “Coming to terms with bitterness seems to be the first step toward getting rid of it.” That’s a two-part process: (1) admit your pain, and (2) stop making excuses for what happened. How many times have you heard someone you love say through clenched teeth, “I’m not angry!” Come on! Admit it before bitterness bites you.

Become a forgiver

Here is the Christian key: Don’t let anyone tie you to the past. Stephen forgave his killers even before they threw the first stone! (Acts chapter 7) Forgiveness is liberating! But if that’s true, why don’t we forgive people? A simple answer can be, “They hurt me. I want to hurt them” or “I forgave them once and they didn’t change. Why should I let them continue to hurt me?” We forget that we have been forgiven!

So what’s included in forgiving? Forgetting for one. Let it go, but there is a time for confrontation. God doesn’t expect his children to be doormats. Sometimes we hurt the ones we love and we don’t even realize it. Confrontation doesn’t have to be hostile. In fact confrontation always has the goal of restoration. We value the relationship. Love can conquer.

Finally, forgiveness is empowering. Refuse to allow anyone to crush your spirit. Forgive and prove you are indeed a child of God!

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