I never need to look far for bitterness to come calling.
Something will happen, or someone will rub me the wrong way, and without thinking I snap my fingers and bitterness comes running over, wrapping me in a bear hug and covering every bit of me.
But bitterness is not my friend. Bitterness doesn’t comfort me; she doesn’t make me feel better. She doesn’t serve me at all. She clouds my brain. She taints my colour. Bitterness actually grasps hold of my heart and twists it, forcing me to respond to things in ways that I usually wouldn’t. She takes my tongue and pushes words from me that I don’t usually find myself saying. She even invites her friends Jealousy, Offense and Righteous Indignation in, chuckling “Come on guys, it’s party time!” So what kind of self-destructive person am I, that I would cry out “Bitterness! Come to me! Let’s wallow together!” – knowing that she’s going to make me feel worse, not better?
I actually think I’m just a pretty normal human being. Bitterness is instinctual; it’s a very human response to a situation that we perceive to be unfair.
But it’s also extremely unpleasant; a feeling I always regret indulging in.
Hezekiah, king of Judah, summed it up in Isaiah 38:15 when he said “I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” Bitterness can overwhelm us so fiercely that we can almost be physically weighed down. It’s a heavy feeling, a burden on our backs.
I’m not saying we should avoid negative emotions altogether. Feelings like sadness and anger can be productive. They are part of an emotional tunnel which we must journey through in order to come out the other side. But bitterness is unproductive. It doesn’t serve us. It is best banished, if we hope to live peaceful, content lives.
So what does it look like to banish bitterness in my life?
It’s lovingly baking lactation cookies to support a newly breastfeeding friend, even though my own breastfeeding journey did not have a happy ending.
It’s choosing not to focus on feeling stuck in our never-ending-renovation of a home, and instead ruminating on the abundant love contained within these double brick walls.
It’s authentically encouraging a friend when she receives an opportunity I would have loved for myself.
It’s peacefully accepting that my husband’s long hours at work are the reason I can stay home and focus on raising my son. (I still have to work on that one sometimes!)
It’s putting protective measures in place, such as unfollowing people (even friends!) on social media whose posts trigger jealousy, comparison and a feeling of inferiority in my heart.
At its very route, it is choosing not to dwell on adverse circumstances, and instead living my best life despite them.
Psalm 51:10 proclaims “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” – and that is my prayer for those times when bitterness comes creeping in. A pure heart and a steadfast spirit sound awesome to me in comparison to a heavy, bitter old heart.
I am happier when I resolve to accept things the way they are. I am more peaceful when I refuse to dwell. My life is better when I resist the urge to invite the bitter in. I am a more patient mother, a sweeter wife, a more encouraging friend, a more outwardly-focused disciple of Christ.
So bitterness, you have no place here.
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Klara is the founder of She the Fierce. She lives in Perth, Western Australia and is married to a Californian IT-nerd/carpentry dabbler/handyman extreme, Chris. They have one gorgeous, long-lashed little boy, Jackson, and their fur-babies include two dogs and one fat black cat. Klara is a (mostly) stay-at-home Mum with a background in finance and admin. She’s a Christian who loves singing, cooking, cups of tea, grey rainy days, scrapbooking and suggesting spectacular renovation and handyman projects to Chris!