Why Christians Should Avoid Bitterness


Sermonette 7-12-03 Ann Arbor, Michigan UCG


In 1915, during World War I, an English nurse named Edith Cavell (1865-1915) ran a hospital in Brussels, Belgium after the Germans had invaded Belgium and had occupied the city.  She was executed by firing squad for helping about 200 Allied soldiers escape over a period of several months.  Before she died, she told the chaplain attending on her:  AStanding, as I do, in the view of God and eternity I realize that patriotism is not enough.  I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.@


This lady of the world realized that she shouldn=t be bitter even when faced with death.  But do we?  Are we bitter against other people for how they have treated us in the past?  Are we bitter against, say, an ex-husband or ex-wife, a father or mother, a former boss or past employer?  Are we bitter against God for allowing bad things to happen to us or others we love?  Are we bitter because we think life is unfair?


S.P.S.  We as Christians must not be bitter towards anyone who we think has mistreated us in the past.  Instead, we need to be forgiving, and not hateful, towards other people.


What is bitterness or being bitter?  AHaving a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste, like that of aspirin, quinine, wormwood, or aloes . . . hard to bear, grievous; distressful: a bitter sorrow . . . causing pain; piercing; stinging; a bitter chill . . . characterized by intense antagonism or hostility: bitter hatred . . . hard to admit or accept: a bitter lesson . . .  resentful or cynical: bitter words@ (Random House Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language).


As we consider these definitions, we as Christians have to realize that we must reject this quality from our lives.  Bitterness is a quality totally opposed to forgiveness and contentment.  If we are consistently bitter against others, our salvation is at stake.


Hebrews 12:14-15


What may cause bitterness?  It can be caused by having expectations that we are entitled to something.  For example, do we think we should have a standard of living equal to that our parents had?  For example, if they owned a house by the time they were 30 years old, do we also?  Or if they had a certain job or career, or made so much money a year, do we think also?


Making comparisons is a major source of bitterness.  We think about what (say) others we know have and think we=re entitled to it also.  For example, we may think of brothers or sisters, friends or classmates, neighbors or coworkers, who are our age or younger who have more money or possessions than we do.  Or it may be they=re family life is better.  Envy and bitterness are naturally tied together.  It=s dangerous to make such comparisons to say life=s been unfair to us.


Ruth 1:20-22


What had happened to Naomi?  She had lost not only her husband, but had buried two sons also.  She had no grandchildren at this point.


 Do we complain about life being unfair in general?  Do we feel disappointment?  Are we bitter against God for allowing various trials and tests to befall us, which we beyond our control?  Unemployment, car accidents, house fires, the deaths of loved ones, health problems, etc., all may cause bitterness if we don=t have the right attitude about them.

Do we think, AGod is unfair to me!  Why me?@  Do we think we=re entitled to happiness at all times in this life?  That=s part of the problem that can cause bitterness. 


So what=s the solution to bitterness then?


I Samuel 1:5+, v. 10+ 


Having no children made Hannah bitter.  So she turned to God, not against God, for help.  She had faith, and was ultimately rewarded.  She gave birth to the baby who eventually became Samuel the judge and prophet.  She later had three sons and two daughters in addition.


So if we feel bitter about something or someone, do we turn to God for help?  Or do we turn away from God?  We need God=s help for two reasons: 1.  The bad attitude has to be removed itself.  2.  If we have sufficient faith, God may choose to help us materially in a way that reduces or eliminates the problem that has caused bitterness in us.  Or He may help us spiritually to endure that problem better.  We may come to realize that we=re not frustrated and thus not bitter if we eliminate or reduce the unsatisfied desire that causes bitterness to begin with.

In conclusion, we need to avoid having bitter attitudes.  They reveal a lack of forgiveness and contentment with what we have.  Bitter attitudes may be the result of making the wrong kinds of comparisons with other people=s circumstances who we perceive as being better off than we are.  We need to give up being bitter towards others since that attitude can put our salvation at risk.  If we feel bitter, we need to turn to God for help to eliminate this evil attitude within us.  So if Edith Cavell saw she should avoid bitterness about being caught and executed by the Germans for helping Allied soldiers escape during WWI, we as Christians should be able to avoid bitterness about any people or trials we face in this life.