Christian Attitudes

Curbing Our Complaints: Lessons for the Church in the Desert

"Because the water was bitter, everything was viewed through the spectacles of bitterness.... Pessimism is where one takes the worst perspective on a situation and then from that perspective extrapolates out their entire disposition, their worldview, and even their understanding of God. For Israel, bitterness not only defines the water or the region, it defines them." - Ref21

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Anxiety & the Glory of God

The Subway. George Tooker, 1950.

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

With the current global situation, it’s likely that anxiety is more common than usual. There are reasons for concern in this dark hour. Anxiety can be a very difficult thing to battle. But God’s word has answers.

Whether you battle with anxiety, or love someone who does, here are a few thoughts on anxiety and the glory of God.

1. The experience of anxiety is difficult.

You might be someone who never experiences anxiety or worry. Glory to God if so. It might be helpful to understand a bit what it’s like to go through it.

I don’t have to tell those of you who have experienced it, that anxiety is an unpleasant sensation. For those who have experienced prolonged and severe bouts of it, that is a major understatement.

Anxiety could be defined as “the state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen” (Oxford). Often times it can start with a slow train-wreck in the mind. One thought begins to crash after another. And another, and another. And then it feels impossible to control, as frightening and unsettling thoughts begin to compound, like that derailed train wreck. It keeps going and crashing, and it feels like you can do nothing.

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Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #5 - Connect

Read the series.

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen; nobody knows my sorrow.” We all know the song—or at least that much of it—and we all know the feeling.

Oh, it’s true that the losses, disappointments, failures, and wrongs that tend to lead to bitterness are “common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13), but at the same time, each person’s experience is unique. Our hearts tell us no one understands or can understand.

From there, it’s a small step downward to the attitude that no one cares. Sometimes it may even be true.

Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. (ESV, Psalm 142:4)

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Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #3 - Zoom Out

Modified NASA model of the Milky Way

Read the series so far.

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.

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Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #2 - Escape

Read the series so far.

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.

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Six Ways Bitterness Can Poison Our Lives

Read Part 1.

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.

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Bitterness Happens

(Read the series.)

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.

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