Prayer To Be Set Free For Anger And Bitterness
Battling the Unbelief of Bitterness
While I was at the midyear board meetings of the Baptist General Conference in Madison this week, one pastor confided in me that he gets angry very easily and sometimes has a lot of anger inside even when his people don’t know it from the way he looks.
He was speaking for many. For some people, anger is corked under a calm exterior. It ferments where no one can see it. Others spf instantly if they get angry. Others turn red in the face and tremble. Others become sullen and silent. Others become caustic and cutting with their tongue.
But everybody has to deal with it one way or the other — anger is a universal experience, and most of it is not good. I base that on James 1:19–20 which says, “Be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” We should learn how to be slow to anger because what comes quickly is usually tainted by unrighteousness. It’s simply human rather than being godly.
But we know that not all anger is bad. Jesus was a man without sin, yet it says in Mark 3:5, “He looked around at them with anger grieved at their hardness of heart.” And Psalm 7:11 says, “God is angry every day.” And Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and sin not.” Not all anger is bad. Some is good and right and necessary.
But mainly the Bible warns us against the dangers of anger. “Be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). “Put away all anger and wrath and malice” (Colossians 3:8).
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor . . . be put away from you with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). “Now the works of the flesh are plain: . . . strife, jealousy, anger . . . ” (Galatians 5:20).
“Every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).
Anger Is Very Dangerous
You can see from that last warning that anger is very dangerous. If it takes root in your heart and becomes a grudge or an unforgiving spirit, it can destroy you.
That’s the point of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18 about the unforgiving servant: after having his massive debt cancelled by the king, he refuses to cancel the tiny debt of his friend. And so the king throws him into jail for his heartlessness.
Jesus closes the parable with this warning in verse 35: “So also will my heavenly Father do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”Anger is very dangerous. It can take over your heart, turn into a lasting grudge, or an unforgiving spirit, and the result will be judgment. Jesus said very plainly in Matthew 6:15, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” To feel the weight of that warning let’s put it in three parts:
- No one goes to heaven unforgiven by God. Heaven is a place given only to forgiven sinners.
- No one is forgiven who is unwilling to be forgiving.
- No one goes to heaven who is unforgiving.
Jesus treats anger the way he treats lust. If you don’t fight lust, you don’t go to heaven (Matthew 5:29). If you don’t forgive others, you won’t get to glory (Matthew 6:15).
A Battle Against Unbelief
Is this salvation by works? Does this teach that we earn our way to heaven? No. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). And the opposite of salvation — judgment — is not by grace through faith, but by works (the opposite of grace) through unbelief (the opposite of faith). So that’s what Jesus means.
“If anger takes root in your heart and becomes a grudge or an unforgiving spirit, it can destroy you.”
Therefore when Jesus teaches that an unforgiving spirit or bitterness leads to judgment and not to salvation, he means that bitterness is a kind of unbelief. And the way to fight against it is to fight the fight of faith. The battle against bitterness in our hearts is not an effort to work our way to heaven. It’s a battle to believe the Word of God, and bank on the promises of his grace.
Back during my seminary days Noël and I were in a kind of 20:20 group with some other couples.
One night we were discussing forgiveness and anger, and one of the women said that she could not and would not forgive her mother for something she had done to her as a young girl.
We talked about some of the biblical commands to forgive, and we talked about being forgiven by God, but she was adamant.
So I said, “You know, don’t you, that you are in mortal danger of being cast into hell? If you’re not willing to forgive your mother her sins against you, God will not be willing to forgive your sins against him. No unforgiving people will be in heaven.” But she wasn’t the kind of person who submitted easily to Scripture. She was driven by emotion and the strength of her indignation simply justified itself.The reason she was in danger of losing her soul is not that she didn’t work hard enough for God, but because she didn’t trust in his willingness to work hard enough for her.
The battle against bitterness is a battle against unbelief. And the peace and rest and joy that come in place of anger and bitterness are the peace and joy that Romans 15:13 says explicitly come by believing in the God of hope.
Four Ways to Battle Bitterness by Battling Unbelief
What I want to do then this morning is lay out four ways to battle bitterness by battling unbelief. If God empowers his Word now, there will be great results: your heart will be freed from the burden of bitterness; at least from your side relationships can be healed; one more obstacle can be removed from an authentic witness to Christ, and God will be greatly honored by your trust.
1. Don’t Ignore the Good Advice of the Doctor
The first way to battle the unbelief of bitterness is very basic: namely, consider what the Doctor says good advice. If the Great Physician says, “Put away anger,” don’t ignore the counsel. Put it in your mind and resolve to keep it. That’s what you do if you trust your Doctor.
Listen to the story of Leroy Eims’s battle with anger. Here is a Christian leader who discovered that the secret was in listening to the Doctor’s orders.
Shortly after I became a Christian, I was . . . challenged to make personal applications as part of my weekly Bible study. One of the first books I studied was Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
As I was studying chapter three, the Holy Spirit caught my attention with this: “But now you must rid your selves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language” (Colossians 3:8).
I tried to slide past this verse, but the Spirit kept bringing me back to the words “put off anger” (KJV). At the time I had a violent temper, and whenever it flared up I would haul off and bash my fist into the nearest door.
In spite of the fact that I often bloodied my knuckles and on the one occasion had completely smashed a beautiful diamond and onyx ring my wife had given me, I couldn’t seem to stop. And yet here was God’s Word: “Put off anger.
” It was clear to me that this was not just some good advice given to the people at Colossae centuries ago. It was God speaking to me at that moment.
So that week I make a covenant with God. He had spoken to me about my sin of anger, and I promised the Lord I was going to work on it . . .My first step was to memorize the verse and review it daily for a number of weeks. [The doctor’s advice is not ignored. You get serious about getting it into your head and heart if you trust him.
] I prayed and asked the Lord to bring this verse to mind whenever a situation arose where I might be tempted to lose my temper. And I asked my wife to pray for me and remind me of that passage if she saw me failing in my promise to the Lord.
So Colossians 3:8 became a part of my life and gradually God removed that sin from me. (The Lost Art of Disciple Making, 78)
So the first way to battle bitterness by battling unbelief is to believe that the Doctor’s advice is good. If you trust his counsel, you will take pains to get it into your head and heart. You will not ignore it or reject it.
2. Cherish Being Forgiven by God
The second way to battle the unbelief of bitterness is to really cherish being forgiven by God. Underline the word cherish.
“The battle against bitterness is a battle against unbelief in the promises of God.”
Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” In other words, being forgiven by God should have a powerful effect on our being forgiving people and not hold grudges, and not being bitter.
How does being forgiven make you a forgiving person? We answer: by faith in our being forgiven. By believing that we are forgiven.
But that woman 18 years ago who would not forgive her mother believed that she was forgiven. She would not let the sin of her grudge shake her security.
What’s wrong here? What’s wrong is that she didn’t know what true saving faith is. Saving faith is not merely believing that you are forgiven.
Saving faith means believing that God’s forgiveness is an awesome thing! Saving faith looks at the horror of sin and then looks at the holiness of God and believes that God’s forgiveness is a staggering beauty and unspeakably glorious.Faith in God’s forgiveness does not merely mean confidence that I am off the hook. It means confidence that this is the most precious thing in the world. That’s why I use the word cherish. Saving faith cherishes being forgiven by God.
And there’s the link with the battle against bitterness. You can go on holding a grudge if your faith simply means you are off the hook. But if faith means standing in awe of being forgiven by God, then you can’t go on holding a grudge. You have fallen in love with mercy. It’s your life. So you battle bitterness by fighting for the faith that stands in awe of God’s forgiveness of your sins.
3. Trust That God’s Justice Will Prevail
The third way to battle the unbelief of bitterness is to trust that God’s justice will prevail.
One cause of bitterness is the feeling that you have been wronged by someone. They have lied about you, or stolen from you, or been unfaithful to you, or let you down, or rejected you. And you get this feeling not only that you should not have been hurt, but that they should be punished. And you may be right.
And in feeling right you dwell on the injustice of it. You go over it again and again in your mind, and it chews at your insides. You think of things you might say to put them in their place. You think of things you could do to show others their true colors.
Now God is not pleased by this bitterness. And the reason he’s not is that it comes from unbelief in the certainty that God’s justice will prevail.
Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’“
What this text says is that God has made a promise that he himself will repay all wrongs in perfect measure. His justice will prevail. No wrong has escaped his notice. He sees its evil far better than you do. He hates it far more than you do. And he claims the right to take vengeance.
“Battle bitterness by believing that judgment belongs to God. If you keep a grudge, you doubt the Judge.”
Do you believe this promise? Do you trust God to settle accounts for you far more justly than you could ever settle them? If you do, this text says, you will stop savoring revenge. You will leave it to God, and you will be free to return good for evil and bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:14, 20).The battle against bitterness and vengeance is a battle against unbelief in the promise of God to vindicate us in due time and to make justice prevail (Psalm 37:6). If we believe he will do it, and do it better than we could, then we will do what 1 Peter 2:23 says that Jesus did.
No one was wronged worse than Jesus. No one got a raw deal as bad as his. No one was abused more. No one was rejected more. And no one was as innocent. So what did he do when his heart filled with moral indignation?
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.
That is, he handed over his grievance to God. Why? Because he had become one of us, and he was showing us that vengeance is God’s and that justice will prevail. With that confidence Jesus never allowed any sinful bitterness to rise in his heart. And we shouldn’t either.
The way to battle bitterness is to believe that vengeance belongs to the Lord and he will repay. If you keep a grudge, you doubt the Judge.
4. Trust God’s Purpose to Turn It for Your Good
The final way to battle the unbelief of bitterness is to trust God’s purpose to turn the cause of your anger for your good. 1 Peter 1:6–7 says,
For a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
In other words, God allows trials in our lives that could make us very angry. If they couldn’t, they wouldn’t be trials. But the reason he does is to refine our faith the way gold is refined by fire.This means that the battle against bitterness in the midst of trial is nothing other than the battle against unbelief. Will we look to the sovereign goodness of God, and believe that he means us good in the refining fire? Or will we surrender to unbelief, and let bitterness grow?
Let me summarize our four points about how to battle the unbelief of bitterness:
- 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.
- Believe that you are forgiven, and that being forgiven by an infinitely holy God is an awesome thing.
- Believe that vengeance belongs to God, that he will repay those who do wrong.
- Believe that God’s purpose in all your trials is to turn the cause of your anger for your good.
7 Prayers for Healing
When you are anxious and in a state of inner turmoil, your body’s systems interact in ways that are not good for your health. Conversely, when you’re in a state of inner peace, the body is in a calmed state.
Your body functions well and good physical health is promoted. In order to achieve this inner peace, it’s important that you trust God in the process.
If you are looking for inner healing, turn to this prayer:
Almighty and everlasting Lord, I come before You now in great need of Your mercy. You are the doctor and physician of my soul. I humbly ask You to send forth Your healing power into every area of my inner-woundedness.
I surrender to You all areas of unforgiveness, especially those hurtful past events where anger and bitterness have been allowed to fester, causing harm to my physical health. By act of my free will, I choose to forgive everybody including the people who have hurt me the most.
I release my desire to receive an apology, my need to be justified in my actions and my need for others to acknowledge the injustice. I surrender the entire debt of all my injuries into Your merciful hands.
I denounce all forms of anger, bitterness and resentment, and command every evil spirit that has entered my body through the lack of forgiveness to leave now and go straight to the feet of my Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer for Comfort
God promises His people relief from all troubles in this life and in the next.
Faithful people throughout the centuries witness to dramatic deliverance from sickness, financial woes and all manner of troubles.
In times of discouragement and sorrow, we can turn to the Bible and prayer to be encouraged and consoled by the God of all comfort. If you are looking for comfort right now, turn to this prayer:
Dear God, some days feel too hard. I’m hurting, struggling, fighting fear and worry at every turn. But in the midst of it all, you haven’t left me to fend for myself. Forgive me for doubting You are there. Forgive me for thinking you’ve forgotten. Forgive me for believing that I somehow know the better way. You are fully trustworthy. You are all powerful. You are able.
You are Lord over every situation no matter how difficult it may seem. You are Healer and will never waste the grief I carry today. Anything is possible with You. I pray not only for my own grief, but also for those who grieve today. I ask for Your comfort to surround those who weep.
I pray for the peace of Your presence to cover our minds and thoughts, as you remind us, the enemy can never steal us Your hands. Amen.
Prayer to Heal a Friend
When we have friends who are ill, the first thing we want to do is help to ease their suffering, but it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s important that we pray for their deliverance and recognize that there is no healing that is too hard for the Lord, if it be His will. If you are praying for the healing of a friend, turn to this prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you that You love us. I know that You hate what this illness is doing to my loved one. I ask, in the name of Jesus, that You would heal this disease, that You would have compassion and bring healing from all sickness. Help me to trust in You. Amen.
Prayer to Mend What Is Broken
When you allow God to heal your broken heart, amazing things happen. Instead of wallowing in hatred and being better, stop focusing on the bad memories and tell yourself it was all for the best and that it was a great learning lesson. If you are looking to mend what is broken, turn to this prayer:
Heavenly Father, I call on You right now in a special way. It is through Your power that I was created. Every breath I take, every morning I wake and every moment of every hour, I live under Your power. Father, I ask You now to touch me with that same power.
For if You created me from nothing, You can certain recreate me. Mend what is broken. Let the warmth of Your healing love pass through my body to make new any unhealthy areas so that my body will function the way You created it to function.Restore me to full health in mind and body so that I may serve You the rest of my life. Amen.
While doctors and medicine are a gift of God and He certainly uses them to bring healing – His power is infinitely greater than any human wisdom or prescription. If you or someone you know is suffering from a disease, illness, injury or emotional distress, remember that God is with you. The Holy Spirit is readily available to help us in every situation.
Five key differences between anger and bitterness
Do you know the difference between anger and bitterness? A lot of people don't because the two are so closely related to each other that things get a little confusing.
Two weeks ago I wrote all about anger. I said anger was a short-lived reaction while bitterness was a sustained feeling.
In this post I want to elaborate on what I meant by that and really try to explain the differences between the two.
When you've been wronged, by being bullied, it's normal to experience both anger and bitterness. The anger will come first with the bitterness coming after if the anger is not dealt with. Bitterness will consume you.
You'll get to a point where everything rubs you the wrong way. You'll always feel you're on the defensive but may not be sure why.
Have you experienced this? Maybe people say you're moody, and you know they're right, but you don't know what to do about it.
Here are five ways in which I've experienced differences between anger and bitterness. I hope this list will give you a better understanding of what you're feeling and allow you to begin to deal with those feelings.
Anger can pass quickly; bitterness latches on and doesn't let go.
When you get angry you can usually get it to pass rather quickly. This may not always seem the case but sometimes all you have to do is count to 10. That's an oversimplification but, the point is, anger doesn't last forever.
Maybe you go for a long walk, or hit the gym, or try to get a good night's sleep and you're able to release that anger. You realize that you were upset in the moment, but now that it has passed you feel differently about the situation.
When you're experiencing bitterness you feel an underlying level of misery all the time. Bitterness feeds off of itself. The more bitter you are, the more miserable you feel; and the more miserable you feel, the more bitter you get. When you become bitter you may focus on revenge, and we all know how bad that is.
Anger isn't always bad; bitterness is never good.
Anger is a normal emotion and it lets us know when a situation is threatening. It's okay to feel angry at times if we've been wronged in some way, as long as we don't let that anger get control.
Bitterness keeps us from being happy. It keeps us in a constant state of feeling upset. Over time this can make us sick. It can also ruin our relationships with others and get in the way of forming new relationships. Bitterness provides no value.
We can control anger; bitterness controls us.
Anger can be managed. If we're feeling angry, there are things we can do to deal with that. We can allow ourselves to get angry in the moment, but then realize that once the moment passes there's no need to hold onto that anger.
Bitterness will control us because we won't know how to let it go. I said, bitterness will consume you, and it will be present in every aspect of your life. The feeling of bitterness will dictate how you are in every situation. And, most importantly, it will prevent you from being able to move on.
Anger is about a present hurt; bitterness is about a past hurt.
When we feel angry it's because of something that just happened. You can go from not feeling angry to feeling angry with the flip of a switch.
If you hold onto that anger then it will last beyond the present moment but it will still be about something that happened fairly recently. It's not going to be about something that happened months ago.Something may have happened months ago that triggers anger in the present moment, but that will again become anger from a present hurt.
Bitterness lingers from something that happened in the past. Bitterness leads to resentment and holding a grudge. Even possibly wanting revenge. Bitterness is always there. You feel so hurt by something that was done to you in your past that you feel hurt all of the time. You're not able to process that hurt in a way that will allow you to think about it without feeling bitter.
Anger is loud; bitterness is quiet.
We all know what anger looks , right? It's someone yelling and fuming over something that happened. Maybe they're throwing things or slamming things. It's impossible to talk to them. Anger involves loud emotional outbursts this. Anger is “I'm mad and I want to make sure you know it.” There's no attempt to mask anger.
Bitterness, on the other hand, is more internal. Typically, only the person who feels bitter will know about it. Bitterness to quietly fester.
If it festers to the point of making itself known to others then it has done so in the form of an angry outburst.
The brunt of anger is felt by the person on the receiving end while the brunt of bitterness is felt by the person who harbors it. Bitterness is something that the embittered person stews in while no one knows about it.
I hope this list has helped you better understand the difference between anger and bitterness, because there certainly is a difference. In the next post I will be writing more about bitterness, in particular, and how bitterness only affects you and not the person or people you feel bitter towards. I'll also try to explain how bitterness can be overcome.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any stories or questions
A note about comments:
Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated to ensure mutual respect. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.
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Bible Verses About Anger: 20 Scripture Quotes
Of all the things in the human heart, anger can be one of the most intense, destructive, and unhealthy emotions that we can experience.
If not handled in the proper way, it can have drastic life-changing consequences. Anger may be caused by pressures of work, family or even from being the innocent victim of another’s wrong-doing.
Left unresolved, anger creates an intense desire to destroy something.
Regardless of the reason for anger, the Bible has answers on what causes anger, examples of good (righteous) and bad (unrighteous) anger and how we should deal with it as Christians.
Our earnest prayer should be that God changes our heart as we allow Him to mold us into a vessel fit to carry His gospel to the world. Take a look at these twenty Scripture quotes that talk about anger.
Don’t forget to enjoy the video to the right “Change My Heart Oh God”.
Examples of Righteous Anger
Psalms 7:11 (KJV) God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
1 Kings 11:9,10 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded.
2 Kings 17:18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.
Mark 3:4,5 And he [Jesus] said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
John 2:13-16 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
Results of Unrighteous Anger
Genesis 4:5-8 but for Cain and his offering he [the LORD] had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.
” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
Psalms 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Proverbs 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
Proverbs 29:22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.
Proverbs 30:33 For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.
Wisdom & Patience Key to Overcoming Anger
Proverbs 14:16,17 (KJV) A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident. He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.
James 1:19,20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Put Off Sinful Anger; Put On Forgiveness and Loving Kindness
Matthew 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.
’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift…” (Jesus’ words)
Galatians 5:19-21 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 these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:26-28 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
Colossians 3:8, 12-13 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Christian Quotes About Anger
“Anger and bitterness are two noticeable signs of being focused on self and not trusting God’s sovereignty in your life. When you believe that God causes all things to work together for good to those who belong to Him and love Him, you can respond to trials with joy instead of anger or bitterness.” ~ John C. Boger
“Wise anger is the fire from the flint; there is a great ado to bring it out; and when it does come, it is out again immediately.” ~ Matthew Henry
“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” ~ Thomas A’ Kempis
“Is all anger sin? No, but some of it is. Even God Himself has righteous anger against sin, injustice, rebellion and pettiness. Anger sometimes serves a useful purpose, so it isn’t necessarily always a sin.
Obviously, we’re going to have adverse feelings, or God wouldn’t have needed to provide the fruit of self-control. Just being tempted to do something is not sin. It’s when you don’t resist the temptation, but do it anyway, that it becomes sin.
” ~ Joyce Meyer
“Our God is not an impotent God with one arm; but as he is slow to anger, so is he great in power.” ~Abraham Wright
Other Articles You Might Want To Read Today
Can A Christian Be Angry and Not Sin? Read this article about Christians being angry. Do Christians have a right to be angry? Is it biblical?
20 Bible Verses About Friendship– How should you treat your friends? What does the Bible say about choosing friends? Read these great scripture quotes.
20 Bible Verses About Hope– Are you in need of hope today? Check out these great uplifting scriptures on the subject on hope.25 Bible Verses For Strength– Are you looking for Strength? Check out these scriptures about how to find strength in God.
Resources The Holy Bible, English Standard Version The Holy Bible, King James Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” www..com – Song “Change My Heart Oh God”
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The Cure for Bitterness
Have you ever been wronged by someone, and then found yourself seething with anger and bitterness? In our broken world filled with sin, this is not an uncommon experience.
Maybe a friend has betrayed your trust and left you feeling wounded. Maybe someone misunderstood your words and assumed the worst, slandering your reputation.
Or maybe your child was hurt by a classmate, leaving the momma bear in you ready to roar.
As we ponder the ways we’ve been hurt by others, it can be easy to let bitterness consume our souls.
Bitterness is a slow poison, one negative thought leads to another, and soon we’re tossing and turning at night, replaying hurtful interactions and making a new plan to get even.
The book of Hebrews warns us about allowing bitterness to take root: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Joseph knew what it was to be hurt by those closest to him. He was the favored son, and everyone knew it.
Jealousy consumed Joseph’s brothers as they saw the beautiful coat given to him by their father. To make things worse, Joseph told them about a dream he had in which his brothers’ sheaves of wheat bowed down to his sheaf, and the sun, moon and stars bowed to him as well. This was not the smartest move on Joseph’s part and only served to enrage the brothers even more.
His indignant brothers planned to kill Joseph (Genesis 37:18) by throwing him in a pit and saying an animal devoured him. Then an opportunity arose to sell him into slavery…
If anyone had a right to feel bitter, angry, and betrayed, it was Joseph. He had been stripped, thrown into a pit and left to die, then removed and sold into slavery—all by his very own brothers. Of all the relationships in the world, our familial ones should be the strongest; we are knit together through sharing the same home, experiences, memories and parents.
Joseph ly felt inconceivable hurt.
Yet, in the midst of horrific betrayal and pain, the Lord was with Joseph. As our children’s read-aloud story Bible repeatedly says, “Was Joseph happy? No. But God was with Joseph.” The Lord caused Joseph to gain favor in the eyes of Pharaoh, as he interpreted his dreams and predicted the seven-year famine. Eventually Pharaoh made Joseph ruler over all of Egypt.
It was during the famine that Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt in search of food. Here was Joseph’s chance to get even: He could have made them grovel. He could have made them starve. He could have humiliated them in front of an entire nation. Yet Joseph did none of these things.[Tweet “The cure for bitterness is not found in getting even, but by giving grace.”]
Instead of punishing them for their evil deeds, Joseph extended grace upon grace. He didn’t want them to feel guilty for sending him to Egypt, but instead assured them it was God’s plan. “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5).Three times he mentions the phrase “God sent me.” Joseph is a sterling example of trusting the sovereignty of God in the face of trials.
He didn’t allow bitterness or anger to consume him, so he was able to freely forgive his brothers.
Not only did he want to free them from any feelings of condemnation, he went on to provide food and land for his entire family (v. 11). His love and forgiveness were demonstrated in an outpouring of generosity.
In multiple ways, the life of Joseph foreshadows the life of Christ. Both men were falsely accused and humiliated before others, yet both were exalted in the end—Joseph becoming ruler in Egypt, and Jesus being resurrected from the dead.
And just as Joseph trusted the sovereignty of God in the midst of betrayal, so Jesus willingly stepped forward to be arrested by the Jews and taken to the cross.
He knew the pain and suffering that would come and gladly accepted it for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Ultimately we see how Jesus is so much greater than Joseph. Just as God used the evil things done to Joseph to physically rescue his people, God used the evil things done to Jesus to eternally rescue his people.
Jesus didn’t just save his people from starvation, but from the eternal punishment of hell.
Just as Joseph was punished for wrongs he did not commit, our Savior suffered and died on the cross, not because of wrongs he had done, but because he was dying for the sin of his people.
Now, those trusting in Christ have been given the Holy Spirit to help us fight bitterness through confession, prayer, and meditating on God’s Word.
Three Pursuits to Fight Bitterness
When we’re faced with our own temptations to bitterness and anger, here are three biblical pursuits for us:
1. Trust the sovereignty of God.
Whatever trial you’re facing today has been orchestrated by the hand of God. The promotion at work you were not given, the empty arms that long for a child, the words that questioned your integrity—God sees and hears and knows. Nothing is wasted. Cling to the fact that God has a purpose for your good and his glory in the midst of your suffering (Romans 8:28).
2. Extend God’s grace.
Instead of giving someone a taste of their own medicine; instead of slandering their reputation; and instead of harboring bitterness and resentment, live out the gospel of grace by extending forgiveness. Just as Christ has freely forgiven us, so we need to forgive those who have sinned against us (Matthew 6:12).
3. Demonstrate love in a practical way.
Just as Joseph gave land and food to the very people who sought to destroy his life, so we can look for ways to express our love and forgiveness in a tangible way, when appropriate. Buy someone a small gift, take them to coffee, or send them a text to let them know you’re praying for them.
If we’re not careful to fight bitterness, we’ll soon be consumed by the poison that leaves us in the pit of despair. True freedom and joy is found by embracing the gospel of grace and extending it to the very people we’re least inclined to love. The cure for bitterness is not found in getting even, but by giving grace—just as God in Christ has done for us.
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