Series - Bitterness

Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #3 - Zoom Out

Modified NASA model of the Milky Way

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Bitter attitudes hinder worship, strain relationships, and generally drain all the joy out of life. Apart from the initial pain of loss, mistreatment, disappointment or failure, bitterness does us no good.

Fortunately, Scripture and the wisdom of experience show us multiple ways to beat bitterness. Previously, we’ve considered how the attitudes of worship crowd out bitterness and how a quick escape from bitter thinking can keep it from pulling us in for a long ride.

A third approach is to confront the narrow focus and loss of perspective bitterness brings. Read more about Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #3 - Zoom Out

Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #2 - Escape

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The humble, submissive, thankful attitudes of worship are what make any response to bitterness genuinely Christian. Honoring God with our attitudes is at the heart of why it’s worth the trouble to avoid prolonged bitterness.

But believers struggling with bitterness should also take advantage of practical wisdom. We need to be tactical as well as strategic. With that in mind, my aim here is to commend one practical response to bitterness, along with some caveats and cautions.

Simple though it is, this strategy has made a huge difference in my own life. Read more about Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #2 - Escape

Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #1 - Worship

Bitterness often begins as a normal—maybe even healthy—response to the losses, disappointments, failures, and unfairnesses of life. In that sense, the term “bitterness” is pretty much synonymous with mental, spiritual, emotional (and often also physical) pain.

But the Bible reveals that when indulged and nurtured, bitterness becomes an infection of the inner man that taints—and has the potential to corrupt—all our activities and relationships. I’ve written about the forms and harms of bitterness previously (see Bitterness Happens, and Six Ways Bitterness Can Poison Our Lives).

The good news is that both Scripture and experience (as application of biblical principles) point us toward some practical strategies for overcoming bitterness in our lives before, or even after, it becomes a chronic problem. Read more about Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #1 - Worship

Six Ways Bitterness Can Poison Our Lives

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Bitterness can be a good thing. Hannah’s bitter disappointment led her to earnest prayer. Peter’s bitter weeping moved him toward repentance. Job’s bitter ordeal has been a source of comfort for untold millions. And God commanded Ezekiel to weep bitterly as a means of warning his people of coming judgment (Ezek. 21:11-12).

But for us sinners bitterness is perilous.

At best, continuing bitterness becomes part of a toxic spiritual stew that includes “wrath, anger, clamor and slander” as well as “malice” (ESV, Eph. 4:31). At worst, unchecked bitterness breeds unbelief to the point of life-altering, faithless choices (Deut. 29:18, Heb. 12:15).

Here we’ll consider six ways self-indulgent bitterness poisons us. Read more about Six Ways Bitterness Can Poison Our Lives

Bitterness Happens

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Bitterness is a cup we all have to drink sometimes, though some taste it far more often than others and some mixes are far more noxious than others. The bitterest afflictions are those that are continuous—an irreversible decision with seemingly unending consequences, an irreparable but inescapable relationship, the loss of someone so close to us we can’t figure out who we are without them, a gradual ebbing of health and with it both the grief of lost vitality and the resentment of feeling that it happened too soon and wasn’t fair.

In these cases and many more, bouts of bitterness are unavoidable. But with each perfectly normal attack of spiritual and emotional heartburn comes a temptation to indulge and harm ourselves.

I wish I could title this post “I Beat Bitterness and You Can Too,” but my battle with bitterness is ongoing—almost daily. The struggle has led to study, though, and the truths of Scripture have often proved to be powerful medicine. I need to review them, and the exercise may also help you or someone you know. Read more about Bitterness Happens