Joy

Synchronized Sinners: Joy Is a Team Sport

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

The Olympic Games is a dignified affair. The athletes who are selected to compete represent the most physically and mentally dedicated, talented, and trained people on the planet. The various events serve to put on display the prowess, agility, strength, and determination required to perform at such an elite level of skill mastery. Which is why it is amusing to consider some of the odder sports to have snuck onto the roster for a time, only to expose their unsuitability for Olympic attention. 

In 1900, the Paris Olympic Games saw the inclusion of equestrian long jump where a horse named Extra Dry made a splash in the news by winning the world’s first and last Olympic long jump for horses with an underwhelming distance of 20 feet. To fully grasp how insignificant that achievement is you need to know that this is nearly 10 feet less than the world record held by a human. 

Another sport to make a short-lived appearance at the Olympic level, in 1906, was pistol dueling. You might think you know why pistol dueling would be short-lived, but I was surprised to learn that the downfall of the sport’s popularity was that the duel occurred between a contestant and a dummy with a target embroidered on its chest. Yes, the dueling opponent couldn’t shoot back. 

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Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #4 - Act

Detail from Job & His Friends. Eberhard von Wächter (1762–1852)

Read the series so far.

Elijah sits under the juniper and bemoans the failure, unfairness, and pointlessness of his years of work (1 Kings 19:10). Jonah sits under his gourd and broods over his unwanted success (and God’s unwelcome mercy!) in Nineveh (Jonah 4:1-11). Job sits among his “friends” and agonizes physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Job 2:8, 13).

Then there’s Peter. What was he doing between his denial of Jesus, with its resulting bitter regret (Matt. 26:75), and his decision to “go fishing”?

It probably involved a lot of sitting.

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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.

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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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