Is bitterness holding you back from finding peace? In today’s post, LaVonda McCullough is sharing practical advice on how to overcome bitterness and embrace freedom.
I stood silent as I overheard the women at the nearby table talk negatively about my husband.
I had not attended any recent gatherings due to my new work schedule. My days were filled with my part-time job, volunteering, weekly Bible Study, and driving our kids to and from football and dance practice.
“Can you believe he would come to the bowling alley without his wife,” she said. “I thought they had a solid marriage and were leaders in the community.”
The conversation continued as my heart ached and hardened with each negative statement hurled out of her mouth. I had been going to the gym and eating healthier, so with my 50-pound weight loss and new hairstyle, no one recognized me.
This behavior was unforgivable.
My mind raced as I listened to the lies told at the table only a few feet away from me by one of my closest Christian friends.
“I will never speak to her again, I won’t attend another Girls Night Out, I will refuse to pick up her children from dance practice…” and the list continued.
What do I do? How will I respond? I was ready to confront her about the lies she was hurling around to the crowd, but I waited.
I took a few deep breaths, paused, and asked the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say. If I could forgive her immediately, I wouldn’t have to figure out how to overcome bitterness later.
What Does the Bible Say about Bitterness? (Where is Bitterness in the Bible?)
Scripture gives us clear guidelines on how to overcome bitterness. A sour taste was filling my mouth with each passing moment. When we are faced with hurts, difficult circumstances, devastations, and injustices, bitterness activates in our lives. We need to be careful and keep short accounts with God and others.
Hebrews 12:14-15 tells us:
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Friend, bitterness is another way of punishing yourself for someone else’s behavior. Don’t do it!
What is a Bitter Person?
A bitter person cannot move beyond the inflicted hurt caused by a remark or an incident. A person who is struggling to overcome bitterness will replay what was said or planted by someone else over and over in their minds.
Someone may have hurt you intentionally or unintentionally, but the hurt remains. It was not imagined; it has affected your thought life and how you relate to that person or persons. When the wound remains unresolved, it harbors into the heart, and bitterness remains and will take root. You need help figuring out how to stop being bitter.
I hate to admit it, but bitterness used to control my life. Thank God I noticed that it was affecting me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A person with a bitter heart is not authentic. Why do you ask? Because hate and love do not exist in the same heart.
We have to learn how to overcome bitterness before we can have hearts full of God’s love.
How to Overcome Bitterness
Real forgiveness means allowing yourself to be free of the resentment of what was done wrong, to accept that something occurred, and to be able to move on from it. It doesn’t mean that you say what happened is okay or that you let it happen again, but that you look for ways how to stop being bitter.
1. Ask God to reveal to you what needs to take to be released.
The Holy Spirit will allow you to move from this emotional bondage if you are willing. He will perform a radical change in your heart that will allow you to no longer have negative thoughts toward the person or situation, and He will show you exactly how to overcome bitterness.
Yes, God knows your heart, but you must be truthful with God about your feelings. God’s word tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)
Forgiveness does not minimize the wrong action, but it can give you freedom from depression, anxiety, and unnecessary stress. This is part of why learning how to overcome bitterness is so important.
2. Give yourself grace.
The next step to learning how to overcome bitterness is to accept the grace of God to bury the offense so you can move from darkness into light. This allows good to replace the hurt with peace.
Beloved, it is worth it to forgive. I know, the hurt is deep, it cuts like a knife, I can’t let them off the hook for what they did… Well, they aren’t on the hook, you are.
Trust me, they are going on with daily life while you’re carrying a backpack of unforgiveness.
If you want to live a life of freedom and joy, you need to ask God to help you figure out how to stop being bitter.
3. Let it go and choose freedom.
You will discover peace and joy in your heart when you learn how to overcome bitterness, let it go, and stop the vicious cycle in your mind. Forgiveness is a choice and you have the authority to make this wise decision.
Justice belongs to God. Thank Him for His mercy and grace.
Going back to the story at the beginning of this post…
Before the celebration ended, the Holy Spirit did provide me with the words to address what I overheard during the “gossip fest” with the women. I approached the table boldly and confidently to speak the truth in love. I desired to walk in love.
I wanted a clean heart and to not allow anger to overpower my thought-life and harden my heart. I didn’t want to store up unforgiveness in my heart, then later have to figure out how to stop being bitter.
It took me years to learn how to overcome bitterness and embrace freedom, but beloved, the Holy Spirit is the best teacher. I took time to develop an intimate relationship with God, so I could know His voice and His character. God desires the same with you.
Do you struggle with knowing how to overcome bitterness? What Scripture will you use as your truth to combat the lies of the enemy so you can walk in freedom today?