Tough circumstances, continued disappointment, unmet desires, unfulfilled expectations, and unheeded demands work together in some fashion to produce the perfect environment for bitterness.
Have you ever been bitter about something? Are you bitter now?
This week I have been studying through the Book of Ruth. In it, if you are one who currently is struggling with bitterness or has struggled, there is great hope.
In life, we do struggle under the burdens of living. Events, circumstances, and tragedies overtake us that leave our world changed. People get sick. Accidents happen. Contracts get canceled. Jobs change. People disappoint. People sin. Of course this list could go on and on.
Where does that leave us? Often, we respond with disappointment, sometimes discouragement, and in places even bitterness.
The Problem with Bitterness
Bitterness relates to our soul and how we perceive our circumstances. One author defines it, “Pertaining to having an astringent, pungent, disagreeable taste in the mouth” and then goes on to describe it, “anguished, despairing, bitter, i.e., pertaining to a mental state of great, intense distress, as a figurative extension of a bitter taste in the mouth” (“מֹרָא” James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament).
What tastes incredibly bad to the mouth is transferred to what takes place in the soul. When this term is used to describe the soul, it includes the sense of anguish and misery that is putrid or sour. When bitterness turns toward God and other people, it is forbidden (Rom 3:14; Eph 4:31; Col 3:19; James 3:14).
Although it is forbidden, many followers of Christ find themselves there. Their tough circumstances morph into something more complicated, with greater sorrow, and harder anguish. Bitterness in the soul toward God and other people sours the attitude, spoils everything else, and taints one’s outlook. What a person could see as one thing, once bitter, that person sees it as something completely different. In other words, bitterness of the soul affects the way one interprets everything else in life.
How do you become bitter?
Bitterness typically comes through disappointment. Tough circumstances, continued disappointment, unmet desires, unfulfilled expectations, and unheeded demands work together in some fashion to produce the perfect environment for bitterness. With these things comes a sense of loss, an unfulfilled dream, and the idea of missing out on both present and future joy, which together create increased levels of sadness. If allowed to linger and not dealt with in a biblical way, the effect of these things both continues to plague and increases the pain in the soul or heart.
Think about it this way. You have an unpleasant experience of some sort and respond in disappointment and hurt. From there, if one does not deal with the pain, hurt, and disappointment in a godly fashion, everything gets worse. The struggles, strains, and suffering become heavier, grow deeper into the heart, and get much more complicated. The result is bitterness.
But there is hope.