THE EFFECT OF BITTERNESS
Watch out that no bitter root of unbelief rises up among you, for whenever it springs up, many are corrupted by its poison. Hebrews 12:15 (NLT).
Bitterness is unresolved, unforgiven anger or carried anger, unhealed frustration, disappointment and resentment. It is the result of anger changing from an experience to a belief. Bitterness is seething and constant. Bitter people carry the same burdens as angry people, but to a greater extent. It comes from too much frustration and bad history experience in a person’s life over time. Paul speaks of bitterness as a poison that affects very many people, like many Christians are defiled by this poison of bitterness sin.
Until recently I had not taken this sin of bitterness seriously but now I have realized how hard it can affect anyone in the ministry of Christ Jesus and the Body of Christ in this present church. The sad thing is that bitterness does not only affect the Christians or people harboring it, it affects everyone that surrounds the person who has it and those who are in contact with them for it affected Naomi and the daughters in law in the Book of Ruth as we shall explain below. Bitterness has affected Christian’s relationship with God, it tends to block them from seeing the goodness of the Lord, his love, his mercy and focuses them on judgment.
Emotional pain that goes untreated can poison even the strongest Christian. They may wear a smile at church or put up a façade of happiness, but deep down they harbor bitterness. And eventually, bitterness infects every relationship, creates negativity in person’s life, creates insecurity, self-neglect, self-pity and defiles every part of human personality that even every word you say will be poison, it will affect everyone around you. Bitterness creates mis trust and tension, you may think it happen all over again, it taints everything you say and think about indeed its deadly poison as Paul mentioned in his letters to the Hebrews.
Hebrew people could have been affected by this for the sake of joining Christ, they could have suffered in the hands of those who hated Christ and of course they carried the anger either for the rejection like many Christians today. We tend to experience many things in our lives both before Christ and after joining Christ in God, we may suffer at the expense of doing God’s work even be hurt by the people during that work we are doing, we face rejection, we face abuses, injustices in our lives. One thing I learnt is that if we take them personal it causes frustration after being offended and disappointed over a period of time.
Bitter people tend to shift the blame for their trouble to others who have as way of consolation and of course this does not work it causes much more pain and each time you look at the person who defrauded you, it hurts inside there and in the end it creates tress and much hatred towards that person.
The problem comes also when it affects your personality, all the people around are defiled. If you are in office of the prophets or evangelism or even teaching, you may prophecy out of bitterness not knowing you are lacking God’s grace, goodness and mercy and forgiveness. You may always want to be negative on even the things God is willing to forgive. When we prophecy out of bitterness we tend to forget the goodness of the Lord and carry only Judgments” (bitter Prophets”). Carrying the message of God in bitterness will not edify anyone but will defile everyone. That’s the poison of bitterness, surprisingly bitterness is a fruit of the flesh mentioned and hinted on to get rid of its roots.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) .
Naomi is of the people who have been affected over time for what had happened to during her time in Moab. She had lost a husband and also lost all her sons in shortest time. She had no one around her except the two windows Orpah and Ruth. Because bitterness is really like Poison you may not see what goodness is in other people or their blessings that may come along with them, bitterness will focus you on what you have gone through and can’t allow any good projection ahead, Naomi was one of them that got the effect of bitterness, she blamed God for everything that had happened and did not look at Ruth’s and Orpah as blessing in her life, she tried all possible ways to get rid of them just because she was filled with bitterness. Ruth was to become a Mother of Obed and Jesse then Jesus Christ would come from the lineage but Naomi was not focusing on the future.
When news came that the famine in the land of Judah had lifted, Naomi decided to return home to her own people. The three women set out together, but on the way, Naomi gave the young women the freedom to return home to their own people.
“No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.” Ruth 1:10-14 (NLT)
Orpah did turn back, but Ruth was committed to Naomi and to her God.
So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was stirred by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Instead, call me Mara, [meaning bitter] for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?” Ruth 1:19-21 (NLT)
What do you suppose it was that caused the whole town to stir? Could it have been Naomi’s appearance? Do you wonder if they could see the changes that had taken place inside her heart or on her face? Note the things Naomi says in verses 19-21:
“Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.” And “. . . call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”
Naomi blamed God for making her life bitter and empty. All she could see was that she no longer had what she loved. Her bitterness reflected a heart of unbelief in the justice and sovereignty of God. She held on to the anger for what had been done to her and stood in judgment over God. In the entire text, we see nothing of Naomi’s quest to understand the purpose of God in her suffering. We only read that she was angry and bitter for what she had lost.
Perhaps you struggle with the same type of bitterness. Sometimes women and men who have lost children to illness or accident blame God for their loss. “God, how could you take my beloved child from me? Don’t you know how much I loved him? How could you do this to me?” An abandoned spouse may become bitter as they wonder: “God, don’t you see how much I am struggling to raise these kids while he is out living the high life? How can you let him get away with this? I am the one who was faithful, and now I am he one who is miserable while he has it made! Don’t you care about me? Why aren’t you punishing him?”
The honest businessman sees a crooked businessman prospering while he flounders. “God, how can you stand by and let this happen? I am an honest businessman, and my business is failing! How can you let him get way with such thievery? I have a wife and kids to feed, God; why are you doing this to me?”
The childless couple is bitter when they see families with several children and they cannot seem to have even one. “God, why don’t you let us have even one child when these other people have so many! It isn’t fair that we can’t have even one child to love while so many are being aborted and abandoned! God, why are you doing this to us?”
You become bitter out of a belief that God will not punish the people who hurt you, that God does not hear your plea, or that He does not care about your plight. Since God is apparently not going to intervene in your circumstances, you stand in as judge, jury, and executioner in the lives of other people.
It becomes a circular pattern. The more you dwell on what has been done to you, the injustice you have suffered, or the loss you have incurred, the deeper goes the root of bitterness. You already know that carrying around a load of bitterness is exhausting.
Bitterness hardens your heart on the inside and your features on the outside. It also defiles those around you because it is contagious.
Bitter people tend to blame others for their trouble
At the risk of sounding insensitive to her trials, we must ask, “Who created her problems?” The answer: She and her husband. When Elimelech moved to Moab they moved outside of God’s will for their lives. Surely, she shared some of the blame for that act of disobedience.
Like many, she primarily blames God. Notice three phrases:
- Ruth1:13 “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”
- Ruth1:20 “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
- Ruth1:21 “the Almighty has afflicted me?”
The name “Almighty” has great significance here. Adam Clark writes that she was suggesting that “He who is self-sufficient has taken away the props and supports of my life.”
People typically blame God for one or more of several misplaced reasons.
- We don’t know whom to blame.
- We expect God to override the consequences of our personal failures.
- We expect God to fix immediately what we have taken years to progressively damage. This could be true of both our health and our children.
Bitter people tend to vent hostility on others
Bitter people are easy to spot. They are critical, insensitive, and negative. They seldom care for those whom they hurt. Sometimes they intend to hurt others and sometimes they don’t. But the result is still the same. Notice the subtle ways Naomi’s bitterness manifested itself.
- wrong advise (She offered poor advice) – RUTH 1:8
Her advice was based on her experience. She was so distant from God that she suggested that they “return” to their false gods. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, and return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. Naomi chased these ladies yet through her they both could have known the Living God. You see the effect of bitterness it makes you offer wrong advice and wrong counsel to the fellow Christians out of frustration with no love. Just like Naomi did.
- She was insensitive to Ruth and Orpah’s grief-Ruth 1:10-15
She thought her situation was more desperate than theirs. Maybe it was, but that did not free her to diminish their loss or pain. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law. Naomi was very insensitive and unfair to the ladies Orpah and Ruth, they both had lost husbands and they had also left their families to get married to the family of Naomi, but she was now saying Iam bitter. She did not also consider that they were all under same situation because they had lost husbands and also she had lost sons. Ruth1; 10-15
Even Christians who are affected by the same bitterness today may become insensitive to the other Christians thinking they have experienced or suffered much more than others so they will not offer anything to the hurting people. Bitterness tends to exalt your experience at the expense of others.
- She considered Ruth and Orpah as carnal as she was – Ruth1:15…
Here Ruth is about to place her faith in God Ruth 1:16, but Naomi thinks that Ruth is only concerned with worldly matters. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. Ruth1; 15-17.
Orpah and Ruth were willing to come to God of Naomi unfortunately the bitterness in Naomi was not allowing her to see beyond their Faith. She only thought they were carnal and just needed to return to their gods which was unfair. You see how bitterness kills Faith and shuts others from coming to God? Orpah had to give up on God of Naomi and returned to her home, Ruth had a different of Grace that she insisted otherwise she could have been shut done well, now the coming of the Messiah would have been hindered. (“The Poison of bitterness”). Many Christians today are shut up from accessing the great salvation of the Lord, they will only give negative effects they have experienced in salvation and many people will fear to join the Lord and the great free salvation for life-eternity. Orpah died in her unbelief yet she was willing to receive salvation but Naomi bitterness hindered her greatly. Even so there are those who will give up on salvation just because they offered them bitter words and die in their unbelief just like Orpah.
- She depreciated the value of her relationship with Ruth. Ruth1:21
When Naomi said she was “empty” she must have forgotten about Ruth. Anyone can see the great danger that a bitter spirit poses to relationships. But God can heal your pain and renew your heart if you will allow Him. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”Ruth1; 2. Note that Naomi did not know that actually was a great blessing in disguise in her life, she was only focus on her situation she did not value the relationship the daughters in law were offering to her.
She was only filled with bitterness and focused much on the negative that had happened to her, she did not see that God was planning to rescue her through Ruth. Bitter people will always welcome negative more than the blessings, the blessings will be lay them aside and loose out in the end. There are Christians whom God has brought to us indeed as a blessing yet we tend to look for blessings elsewhere and belittle what God has given to us in the same people around us. Naomi was about to leave her blessing in the Moabites in Ruth, if she had gone alone, her bitterness could not have healed because there would be no happiness at all since she was already old. What a devastating situation for Naomi. Christians who have been affected by this effect of bitterness cannot see beyond physical understanding, they chase away the blessing and later blame God for the cause or sometimes carry anger to Satan. The value for others will be depreciated if they are affected by the Spirit of Bitterness. You may not see their goodness at all.
- Notice the barrenness she experienced – Ruth 1:21
Despite the source of her misery, she really felt empty. While she lost most of her material possessions, her emptiness stemmed from the loss of relationships. Naomi was really affected by bitterness; because she felt empty that she cannot bear any son, she never thought of Ruth being the daughter in law she could become a grand Mother again and have children. Indeed she experienced it later, had it been Ruth had joined Orpah, she could have died empty handed and a bitter woman blaming God for everything.
- Notice Apathy in her speech towards the daughters in law; Ruth1; 21
I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”Ruth1; 21
Bitterness creates apathy in the long run, a pathetic person gives up on God’s blessing. Always will saying, after all I did not expected anything if they prayed and were unanswered and will always be negative in their entire and will see God as being unfair to their Lives; Naomi had become pathetic and had started giving up on what God could do for her, she neglected the people around who would turn around things for her in God, in the coming times. Christians today who have prayed for so long and have not been answered or never received have a hipped a backlog in their hearts and are filled with frustration and disappointed which has created apathy and this has resulted to give up on God, and have lost hope, you always find offense in their statements; after all I never expected anything in return, they no longer whether they are blessed or not. They give a greater weight on the negative than what God intends to in their lives.” The bitter Heart”
- Notice unbelief Naomi, Ruth1; 11-14
But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Naomi had been offended in God, they raised the blame to God as the cause of her pain, that’s total unbelief, she shuts out the daughters in Law because of her experience at the expense of their Faith, actually these ladies wept for salvation, they had loved the Christian Family but Naomi had dwelt so much on offense which had caused unbelief.
Bitterness is bad to play it, don’t pray it and prophecy in it, bitterness is the greatest enemy of prophetic gifting. Those who are in prophecy office should get rid of bitterness otherwise it will instead turn around and defile those around it, instead of life and Hope, will send people to hell than repentance to life, the daughters in law of Naomi were willing to continue in faith and they needed an encouragement unfortunately Naomi. Naomi did not offer any, she only revealed her frustration and bitterness instead of building other Christians lives.
Amazingly, the God that she blamed for her trouble had already taken a major step to filling the void in her life. The Lord, who “works all things together for good to those that love Him” (Romans 8:28), intended to use Ruth to transform Mara back into Naomi. Healing would take some time, but it would come.
After all her pain, what was her greatest need? It was an intimate relationship with God. As a child of God she needed only to “return.” It would take some time for her to completely experience the joy of former days, but it would change dramatically if she would just make the decision to include God in her life.
I know many Christian families, brothers and sisters have experienced tragedy in their lives, and some could have been hurt without being said apologized to, some have been barren over a long time and never a got a child and the backlog has never been solved, and the hurting people have carried over a long period of time, and this has affected the lives of these Christians and those around them, I can understand the frustration has resulted into root of bitterness of there is forgiveness, unfairness, and much more. Of course if this persists the hurting will remain entirely negative about most of the things in this present life and will miss eternal life. And better still some would hinder others from the Faith just like Naomi did to Orpah, however, much she willing to go, she could not be allowed, the negativity in Naomi could not allow her to experience more in the time to come. Are you frustrated with bitterness? Were you raped and still suffer the same history experience? Are you barren and this has hurt you often?
I can assure you all sins and effects have been sacrificed for on the cross by the Lord Jesus Christ, in his day life of your daily life “ he says let those who weary come to me and that I may give Rest, do you want to Rest in your life? Then Rest in Christ, in him there is forgiveness of sins, and redemption by his own blood. Many have not yet recovered out of frustration, bitterness.
SOLUTION TO BITTERNESS;
Do you want the cure for bitterness? You must understand that the only cure for bitterness and anger is forgiveness.
Bitterness is focused on what has been done to you. To break up bitterness, you must also be willing to look at what you have done to others. Your task is to admit what your responsibility is in the matter and go to those you have hurt, confess your sin, and first seek their forgiveness. You must be willing to get the log out of your own eye prior to examining your neighbor’s eye.
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT)
The examination process begins right here at home. Start with yourself and seek God’s help in revealing the contents of your heart in relation to how you have sinned against others.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)
There needs to be a willingness on your part to forsake your sin of bitterness.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)
Confession of your own sin and repentance for that sin must take place in your heart first. Then you must seek for other relationships to be healed and restored. You may want to pray a prayer similar to this one:
Forgiving others is not an option for the Christian; it’s required, and it is step number one in removing bitterness.
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)
In forgiving others, it is important to remember a few important rules: When I forgive, I resolve never to bring this circumstance or situation up again to the one I forgave, to anyone else, or even to myself. It is a closed book. If you are going to pattern your forgiveness after that of the Lord, then you will choose to remember no more the sin committed against you.
But what if you are bitter toward God? What if it is God who has hurt you and caused you pain? My dear friend, please take hold of this truth: God is the sovereign God of the entire universe. It is His, and He does with it what He wishes, and it is always good. In fact, it is always very good!
To believe you must forgive God for what you perceive He has done against you insinuates that God has sinned, and this cannot be. God is a loving, holy, and perfect, sinless God who does not make mistakes.
Naomi, as recorded in the book of Ruth, may have believed for a time that God somehow made a mistake in taking her husband and sons from her, for she said He “brought me back empty.” It was no mistake, however. God was purposely unfolding His divine plan for humanity in Naomi’s life and in the death of her loved ones. Take note, dear one, that if Naomi’s son would have lived, Ruth would have remained his wife. Without the death of her husband, Ruth would not have been free to meet and marry Boaz, who became her kinsman redeemer. Ruth would not have given birth to their son, Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who is the father of David, from whose lineage comes the Christ.
Acceptance of hard things at the hand of a loving God is not easy. I encourage you to seek God in your circumstances and to trust that He is unfolding a divine plan that you cannot see right now, just as He did in the case of Naomi and Ruth. God’s sovereignty is always balanced by His love, and He promises to bring good out of every tragedy and heartache.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29 (NLT)
Confession to others will heal bitterness out of you. Even though Naomi had been affected by bitterness she was acknowledged she had conceived bitterness, she did not keep it inside, it could have helped her in the long run to dispel out bad motives, bad intents, though it had limited others Faith, still she confessed her bitter heart to those who were affected to dispel out bad feelings. And when Ruth clung unto her she experienced joy in the future and in the hands of Ruth and God. Probably we need to do an extra mile and confess out to what is eating is up inside us. We need to tell God exactly how we feel and what we could have done and harmed through bitterness to others. We do not need to wait once we find the bitterness present in us, we should quickly look for ways of dispelling it out to avoid negativity, wrong judgments, wrong perceptions, Naomi though mis perceived and had conceived mis-trust before God. May be you have gone through the same or even more, God is willing to help you from the roots, through Christ Jesus we can overcome this, by the witness and power of the Holy Spirit we get healed from the roots not in the stem.
Brethren I also commit you before the eyes of God through Christ Jesus and by the Holy Spirit to whom we receive the long awaited inheritance of God our God in Christ Jesus the Lord. See that you confess your sins, and forgive others lest bitterness chock and rob your entire life.
Peace to you all the Household of Faith, May the Lord grant you mercy, I cease not to pray for you as well. Mind you pray for me too, that I may have more time to reveal the mysteries of Christ in God.
I remain Asher Namanya your fellow laborer in the word of God and the great gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you more and give you peace.