Many people with whom I work, wrestle with a plague of bitterness. Bitterness often arises when we believe that something is stolen from us. Esau became bitter with Jacob stole his father's blessings (Genesis 27:34). The children of Israel became bitter because of the cruelty of the slave masters (Exodus 1:14). You may feel bitter because someone has stolen something precious from you. It may be personal property or it may be your virginity. It may be a job position or your reputation. You may feel that you have been mistreated or abandoned. You may feel extremely disappointed in yourself or someone else and have become bitter because of it (Proverbs 17:25). You may even feel that God has left you to hang out to dry. Bitterness also robs you of your joy and pleasure. So how does an individual overcome bitterness? There is a beautiful illustration in the book of Exodus which illustrates how you can overcome bitterness.II. SCRIPTURE:
"So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters" (Exodus 15:22-27).III. EXPLANATION:
Note: The name "Marah" means bitterness.
The story is simple. The children of Israel came to a place in the desert where they had no water to drink except bitter water. Maybe you are at that place right now. The people complained unto Moses, their God sent deliverer, as usual for bringing them to that place. Moses, in turn, cried unto the LORD. The LORD showed him a tree which he was to cast into the water to make the water sweet again. For Believers today, Jesus, like Moses, is our deliverer. He saw the bitterness that life would bring to us. Therefore, in a sense, he cried unto the Father and the Father showed him a tree. That tree is a picture of the cross upon which Jesus would suffer all sin and bitterness of mankind and die. However, Jesus didn't stay on the cross, he was buried and also resurrected overcoming all the powers of darkness and death. "And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:15). When the tree (the cross) is cast into the world of bitterness, life becomes sweet.IV. DIGGING DEEPER:
Bitterness toward others is not only a mental and emotional illness, it is also connected to many physical diseases, such as gallbladder problems, stomach problems, heart problems, and arthritic problems. Bitterness toward ourselves (self-rejection, self-condemnation, and self-hatred) may also have an destructive effect upon our autoimmune system and lead to various autoimmune diseases. "The LORD shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head" (Deuteronomy 28:35). However, God also promised the people if they became obedient to him, that he would protect them from diseases and heal them of disease. "And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee" (Deuteronomy 7:15). As the Israelites followed God, He led them to a oasis of twelve wells of pure water and forty palm trees where they were to camp. The word translated "wells" is translated "fountains" in Numbers 33:9. Palm trees are a picture of prosperity, grow, and fruitfulness. The number "seventy" is a picture of perfection (7) multiplied by (10).
Again, bitterness often comes out abuse, cruelty, rejection, and disappointment. Look at the words of Isaiah the prophet concerning what Jesus faced.V. APPLICATIONS:"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:2-5).Peter in the New Testament said:
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7)."Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:" (I Peter 2:23). Jesus suffered unfairly, but didn't strike back.When Luke the physician recorded the cruel event of Jesus upon the cross he wrote:"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots" (Luke 23:34). Here we find a big key to overcoming bitterness. Although when Jesus was being crucified unjustly, he forgave those who were mocking and crucifying him.
A. When offenses come, we should understand that bitterness leads us into a bondage of more sin. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Proverbs 18:19). "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity" (Acts 8:23). Bitterness binds us together with iniquity.
B. We should make conscious choices not to be bitter. "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Colossians 3:19).
C. We should understand that when we allow bitterness come into our lives that we are rejecting God's grace to overcome bitterness. "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled" (Hebrews 12:15). Remember bitterness is contagious like a disease effecting not only our lives but the lives of many people around us.
D. We should make a conscious decision to put away that bitterness. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).E. If we have allowed bitterness into our lives, then we should cast the tree (the cross of Jesus) into that pool of bitterness. We should see that Jesus suffered all things, including those things which would produce bitterness, that we might be set free from bitterness and see our lives become sweet. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
F. A major step toward freedom from bitterness is to extend the grace of forgiveness toward others who have offended us and also to forgive ourselves. "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).
G. We should receive the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross for the sin of bitterness. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" (I Peter 3:18).
H. We should seek to receive emotional and physical healing through the cross. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Peter 2:24).