How do you walk in victory over against being consumed with bitterness? In “Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds” Chris Brauns gives four ways a believer can defeat bitterness.
First, trust God’s justice and providence (155). All of us at different times in our lives are treated unfairly; that’s part-and-parcel of living in a fallen world. But it doesn’t negate the fact that we’re called to put away bitterness (Col 3:8). Thus, if bitterness is a wrong response to injustice, then the first step in beating bitterness is to recognize that we are particularly prone or vulnerable to bitterness. Subsequently, we should trust in God’s justice and providence (156-157). Asaph in Psalm 73 recognized that the Lord will deal with injustice, but will do so on His time-table.
Second, listen to wise people. “If you find yourself on the verge of bitterness, if you know you have been treated unfairly and you feel yourself giving in, understand that it is very likely that you are losing your ability to think objectively about the situation. It is very possible that the instruments of your mind are giving you incorrect readings. And if you try and fly by your own thought processes and ideas, you are heading for destruction” (160). So what should you do? You should make it a point to talk to an individual who is godly and mature in the faith (i.e. a pastor, elder, deacon, Sunday school teacher, etc.) and put into practice the words of Proverbs 19:20 “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
Third, pursue God’s blessing for yourself and those close to you. In Psalm 73 Asaph is recorded as saying, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of your children.” What is Asaph’s point in saying this? His point is that “to be bitter is to be ‘betray’ the family, meaning not only actual family but also God’s people. Bitter people betray the people closest to them” (161). So what should we do? Chose to love your neighbor as yourself and desire the good of your neighbor (1 Cor 10:24).
Fourth, call bitterness what it is: sin. “Sin is never justifiable, regardless of unfairness. Bitterness is not something done to us. Others may create a situation that tempts you to be bitter, but if you live with bitterness, you do so because you have invited it to be your houseguest” (162).
He closes with this word: “Beat bitterness, or it will beat you.” The insight of that statement rings vividly in my life. Bitterness is enslaving. There is a better way; that better way is Christ who promises justice, as well as the grace necessary to walk in forgiveness not bitterness.