A Look at Bitterness, Part Two
Authored by Tina Kapp
In my previous podcast, “Are You Well Preserved or Pickled?”, I talked about holding grudges against those who have wronged us. But something else that can also be difficult to weather, and which can test our faith, is when things in life go wrong. During times of hardship, it can be easy to hold a grudge against God, especially when we think He is to blame.
I was looking for a Bible character who had to ignore all the facts he was faced with and trust that God really knew what He was doing, someone who could have easily felt bitter against God and blamed him for all his problems.
Interestingly enough, the one who I thought was a perfect example is a character from a story most of us could probably recite backwards since we were kids. It’s about that Noah guy who built the big boat and loaded it with all the animals. Only when you read the story from the Bible, and not a picture book, you realize it wasn’t as easy or as quick as it may have sounded.
First off, it’s really tough to do well in class if you have a classmate who is just plain bad news. They cheat, lie, steal, or worse! What if the whole class was like that AND the teacher as well? Now imagine everyone in the whole country like that. The Bible says that the “wickedness of man was great upon the earth” and that the “thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually,” so much so that “the Lord was sorry that He had made man.”1 That’s pretty rough!
Noah had every excuse in the world to blame his environment and God. Why, everyone around him, except his immediate family, was wicked and purely evil! Instead, he chose to rise above it and make personal choices to stay good and honest. The Bible says he found favor with God.2
God tells him that He’s going to flood the whole earth and that he needs to build a huge boat to save himself, his family, and specimens of every kind of animal. I think some of us would have been tempted to tell the Lord that we really love Him and would do anything He asks, but would He mind asking something a bit more realistic and a lot less, um, TOTALLY INSANE! God asked him to do something seriously huge, beyond his human understanding, and that was guaranteed to make him look pretty crazy to all the neighbors. Still, his trust in God was so solid that he got started and worked on it one day at a time, following God’s plan exactly.
In order to develop that kind of faith and relationship with God, we have to choose to trust God’s wisdom even when things look bleak. Trusting that God is in control doesn’t mean that you have to think that everything that happens on earth is good—because we can see that that’s definitely not the case. God has given man freedom of choice—which means we can choose to act in good ways, or to act in greed, violence, or in selfish ways that will invariably hurt ourselves and others. But when things do go terribly wrong, God will turn it around for good for His children, as He promised in Romans 8:28.
Reading God’s promises in the Bible and storing them in our hearts can help build our faith when we don’t see how God could possibly bring anything good out of whatever bad situation we find ourselves in. It also helps to read testimonies of how He helped others, as it keeps us from dwelling on the negative and developing bitterness in our hearts. Negativity can suck all the joy out of our lives and keep us from trying new things and using our talents to the fullest. It can prevent us from building friendships and relationships. Bitterness can take over our lives, and that’s a big topic, which I will talk about in an upcoming podcast.
None of us are alone in dealing with major setbacks. People have overcome enormous difficulties and have gone on to do great things and have inspired many. That could be you! Whatever challenges you’ll overcome, whatever loss you’ll endure, and whatever difficulty you’ll survive, will show others that there’s hope that if you can overcome it, they can too.
Another very effective way to fight bitterness against God is to choose to praise Him. King David was what I’d call a “shiner” when it came to praise. He’d start out telling God about all his troubles and problems, and at some point he would start to realize what God had done to help him so far, and he would end up praising and thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness.
My dad used to read Psalm 73 to us, which was his favorite Psalm, because David started out bemoaning the fact that the wicked seem to have life so easy. He said, “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles.”3 He went on to complain, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”4
He carried on like that for a bit until he went to the sanctuary of God and took some much-needed prayer time, and the Lord showed him how short this time on earth really is in the scheme of things, and that the wicked would get their just reward. David then started to praise the Lord and said what I think is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”5
Praise is the sugar that turns your lemon into lemonade. The Bible says, “In all things, give thanks.”6 Once you start doing that, you’ll be surprised at how much it lifts you out of that dark place of bitterness and gives you a new perspective on life. You will have reassurance that God truly loves you and will never leave you nor forsake you.
1 Genesis 6:5–6 NASB
2 Genesis 6:8
3 Psalm 73:3–4 NIV
4 Psalm 73:13–14 NIV
5 Psalm 73:25–26 NIV
6 1 Thessalonians 5:18 DRB
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International