Tag Archives: bitterness

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

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And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:10-13, 17

Bitterness. It’s been described as a poison concocted for the one who wounded you but you are the one who drinks it.

We may have situations in our lives that are truly grievous and undeserved. We rail against those situations, and the persons who created them, and our hearts are altered…hardened. It’s not intentional at first – almost like the formation of a scab or a scar. If not recognized and repented of, bitterness becomes its own enemy in our lives.

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I have seen the damage bitterness can cause in the lives of others…we all have. It’s frightening to watch it grow in someone we love. My older brother struggled with a lifetime of losses. His regret at his part of them was taken over by blaming others. I will be forever grateful that he did not die in that place, but began reckoning with his bitterness before he died.

It’s a dangerous place to find ourselves – that hardening of our hearts in response to grave injustices, deep losses, and dreams dashed. No matter what the cause – whether the hits we take are from enemy or friendly fire – bitterness will not only hurt us but those who love us the most…and our fellowship with God who loves us best.Blog - Bitterness and Brokenness - Henri Nouwen - quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: QuoteAddicts

John Piper has preached and written so much about anger and bitterness (see links below). Don’t miss his  piece on battling the unbelief of bitterness. Here are his 4 points (gleaned from Ephesians 4:30-32 :

  1. Believe that what the Great Physician says is good advice. If he says, “Put away anger,” don’t ignore the counsel. Put it in your mind and resolve to keep it.
  2. Believe that you are forgiven, and that being forgiven by an infinitely holy God is an awesome thing.
  3. Believe that vengeance belongs to God, that he will repay those who do wrong.
  4. Believe that God’s purpose in all your trials is to turn the cause of your anger for your good.

We have beautiful trees in our neighborhood and seedlings pop up across our yard. Dave pulls them up regularly. The hardest ones to get up, he says, are the oak seedlings. They quickly and seriously drive a woody root into the ground, extending beyond the taproot, holding onto the soil, as if with a vengeance. Blog - Bitterness - airpotPhoto Credit: Air-Pot

As beautiful as oak trees are, the image of that stubborn and strong root reminds me of bitterness. It spreads and takes firm hold.

The writer of Hebrews talks soberly about resisting a “root of bitterness”.

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”Hebrews 12:14-15 (12:14-15). John Piper again gives “warning not to treat holiness lightly or to presume upon more grace…[a bitter person] defiles many and can lead to the experience of Esau who played fast and loose with his inheritance and could not repent in the end, and find life”.

As much as we might feel justified in nursing our bitterness, it is a treacherous thing…a terrifying thing for those who love the one struggling with it. Our souls may cry out for justice, and God will do justice. What He requires of His children is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We cannot, with His blessing, exact justice without both administering loving kindness and practicing humility. Whew….

To get out of the burden and yoke of bitterness, we must allow God to break our hearts toward Him and the situation…a brokenness that will penetrate the hardness of heart and restore us to ourselves.

Piper prescribes a practical way out of the grip of bitterness:

“By the work of the Holy Spirit, God defeats temptation (like the temptation to be angry and depressed that you are suffering) by awakening joy through belief in the word of God which is at work in us. And that word is most centrally the good news that Christ died for us so that all the promises of God are Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

By the Spirit, we trust the promises which bring joy which defeats temptation. And all the while we are praying!

So now let me illustrate how this works. It helps me to have an acronym called APTAT.”

  • A – I admit I can’t in myself do what needs to be done.
  • P – I pray for God’s help.
  • T – I trust a particular promise He has given.
  • A – I act to do whatever God is calling me to do.
  • T – I thank Him for His help when I am done.

Worship with me to Keith Green‘s rendition of Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
Take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

[Repeat x 3]

Don’t give up on God. He doesn’t give up on us.

[One last thing – for anyone out there who read this thinking of someone else…we all have it in us to wound others, sowing the seeds of bitterness. In a callous casual word, in a decision made with wide ramifications, and an act of preference, exclusion, or judgment. Examining our own hearts is always wisdom. Confession when needed and repentance as widely as the offense requires…may be a Holy Spirit response. Peace.]

Bitterness or Brokenness – Tony Shirley

SermonsandSongs.Org – A. W. Tozer – The Root of Bitterness

7 Bible Verses to Help Overcome Bitterness – Crystal McDowell

YouTube Video – Bitterness and Forgiveness – John Piper

The Word of God Is at Work in You – John Piper – [the video above is a portion of this sermon transcript]

Top 10 Christian Songs About Forgiveness

How Christ Conquered Bitterness – John Piper

Why Can’t I Overcome My Bitterness and Anger? – John Piper

Fighting Bitterness – Interview with John Piper

YouTube Video – Donnie McClurkin: Create in Me a Clean Heart

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

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Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

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I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

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Monday Morning Moment – You Have Three Choices – in Work and Life

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Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.Colossians 3:22-24

Hopefully, you’re not feeling like a slave this Monday morning. You have choices. Even Paul, in writing to the Colossian church, spoke to those believers, enslaved at that time, as persons with choices.

My Monday mornings these days have been filled with thoughts and prayers for friends working in difficult and unusual circumstances – uncertain futures, struggling to stay on course, grappling with coming change. If you’re not in such a challenge, be glad and learn from those who are. How thankful I am for those in my life who shine as “stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14-16).

Every single day, we have choices of how we deal with our work and our co-workers…especially in the press of uncertainty and change.

1. We could give up. What a temptation this is. When we are faced with what seems like a waning future (dwindling opportunities, more work with less workers, damaged trust), it is easy actually to give up. We clock in and do what’s necessary. Stay below the radar. Spend breaks researching other jobs. Keep doing what we’ve been doing with no vision for the future. This is an easy default…don’t make it yours. You’re better than that.

2. We could give in. – This is the darker choice. This is when we allow bitterness to take root in our hearts and color our attitudes and work. Giving in is when our performance actually deteriorates because we figure who cares anyway. Giving in is when we say the ugly things we’ve been thinking about our situation. Giving in is when we treat colleagues who were once friends as competitors, as threats to our position rather than supporters. Giving in does no one any favors and actually adds to the burden we already feel in what may be a very complicated situation already. Giving in is never where we want to go.Blog - Look Back, Look forward - Nourish the dreamPhoto Credit: Nourish the Dream Facebook.com

3. We could give it all we’ve got. Here’s where huge faith and great character come in. It’s so easy to say, “Keep doing what you’re doing”, “Stay in the game.”, “Trust God”. Don’t get me wrong; these encouragements are wise and true…it’s when we are struggling with the muck and mire of actually putting feet to faith in a situation that seems wrong. The difficulty at work may not even be wrong; it may be completely necessary…It’s when the force of the impact lands squarely on you that these choices become so real. Still, we have choices. It’s not the workplace that forces these choices on us. They are always ours. Every. Single. Workday.

If I can speak into my friends’ struggle, please stay on the course you’ve been on – such a way that you continue to build/leave a legacy of glory – to God and to the work He’s given us to do. One friend of ours in the thick of a stressful, stressful work situation, told another friend of mine, “Don’t lose heart”.  When you hear that kind of encouragement from someone determined to keep his own focus on what matters it resonates with such verity you want to do nothing less. So, let’s never lose heart and let’s do the work of trusting God in our situations. It’s so much better than the consequences of the other choices. So much better.Blog - Unknown future and a Known God - Monday MorningPhoto Credit: Nourish the Dream Facebook.com

After all, it’s only Monday morning. Who knows what the rest of the week will bring? For my friends who are in complicated work situations, having to drag yourselves out of a ditch each day to do a good job, I want to say how thankful I am to know you. How honored to see the fruit of your work. How joyful that our paths have crossed in the workplace. How much more trusting I am of God myself, because of you.

As our friend said, please “don’t lose heart”.

For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heartFor momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.2 Corinthians 4:15-17

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. – Galatians 6:9-10

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Nourish the Dream – Your Headquarters for Biblical Business Success – Facebook page – David G. Johnson

13 Bible Verses to Overcome Disappointment