Bitter Roots & Pursuing Joy

Or  8 Things I Learned In My Worst Years As A Bitter Christian:

“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;

I will pay them back,”

says the Lord.

Romans 12:17-19 (NLT)

It is too easy to stay bitter – walking down the road of bitterness is a choice. What happened to you to make you bitter may not have been your fault, and yet, the way we deal with our past and its pains is in many ways up to us. To choose joy over bitterness often means that you have to choose a different path, walking with different people and making new friends which can often mean walking away from old unhealthy friendships or doing the hard work of repairing damaged relationships. That task can sometimes prove to be impossible and you must be honest and discerning when it comes time to making the painful decisions to let go of those things or relationships that only fuel your bitter fire or are the source of abuse – physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Bitter roots grow deep, and deep roots need to be intentionally dug up and dealt with. They won’t pluck themselves, they will only grow. If we want them gone, than we need to make some new resolutions that involve digging up and dealing with those weeds and planting better things in fresh soil.

So here are some things I have learned, in no particular order, through my own experiences with bitterness and some of the choices that have helped me on the new path toward getting better.

1. Change Your Surroundings

For example, It may be in your best interest to surround yourself with different people, change your environment, distance yourself from things that trigger anger, resentment and bitterness – like social media and/or unfriending and unfollowing things and people that cause ill feelings in yourself toward others. 

2. Treat Others Online How You Would Treat Them In Person

Consider the following:

Be patient, be respectful, if rebuke or correction is necessary, do so in love with care for others – you want them to benefit and learn from the correction – your goal should not be to start a fight or win an argument. 

Call them and hear their voice, or private message them and briefly express, respectfully your opinion in a way that proves that you care for them even though you disagree. 

3. Draw A Line In The Sand With Fellow Bitter Friends

If others in your life share their bitterness with you, it is time to draw a line in the sand. Simply mention to them in conversation that you are tired of holding on to the past and that you are going to move on and make every effort to pursue joy and that you want to begin to influence one another in your relationships and friendships in this way. Ask them how they feel or what they think about that? 

If they are on the same page and they want to get over the sickness of bitter things as well, than resolve to move every conversation, even those about past things into a better light. If hard things that can trigger bad thoughts or bitter emotions need to be talked about, than resolve to encourage one another in these things rather than making things worse, and end or begin the conversations with prayer and prayers for those who you have been bitter about. Resolve to love your enemies. 

4. Form Healthy Habits, Not Destructive Ones

Form healthy habits, because destructive ones are too easy to establish. Find better ways to deal with your emotions or stress like exercising, going for a walk, getting enough rest…etc

It might be a good idea for you to get professional Christian counseling. 

Be determined to read your Bible and pray specifically about these things.

Discuss and pray with others about the things that rob your joy, not to win them to your side, but to get help and encouragement in the right direction.

Pursue new hobbies that interest you and focus your energy on positive and productive things. 

As Paul Maxwell might put it – spend your time building something rather than tearing things or others down (Jeremiah Jasso, Tim Zornes and I discussed this on their Podcast). 

5. Don’t Dismiss Hurting or Bitter People – God Loves Them

Even though it can be hard and messy, be patient with and love others who are struggling with bitterness from past hurts. Don’t be afraid to hear them out and listen to their stories. Love them enough to hear their voice. This doesn’t mean that you have to fuel their fire. What I’m saying is this, people are not disposable simply because they are imperfect or damaged. Recognize that they are a real person who is really hurting – just the kind of person Jesus came for. Christ died for them and loves them and He wants their best and wants to heal their wounds and restore them in the best ways to a place of wholeness and joy in Himself and with others. 

Hurting people don’t always need to be fixed by you, they may just need to be heard. Sit with hurting people and hear their voice, acknowledge their pain as real and lead them in real, raw prayer. This shows them and you that we don’t need to struggle alone. We have friends in the battle. Don’t pray to fix them, pray to help them see God as their wonderful counselor, healer and friend. He will heal them if you just simply lead them to Christ as Counselor as often as you are given the opportunity. 

6. Refuse To Hate, Learn To Love

Due to so many pains in this world (and so many of those painful things being inflicted by others), it can become so natural for us to hate. We don’t need to learn how to hate others, that comes natural to us in a fallen world full of sin. We do however need to learn how to love. Especially how to love our enemies. That is not natural to us considering our fallen nature, but is supernatural and it comes to us as we sit at Jesus’s feet and learn from Him, growing in our new nature brought about by our new birth. We must refuse to hate and learn to love if we wish to be victorious in Christ over those bitter demons of the past. The victory is there but it is our choice to pursue it or to continue down the long, lonely and painful path of holding on to our bitter past. Choose today, to get better, for your own sake, other’s benefit and for Gods glory. 

7. Admit That You Are Not Perfect and That You Can Play A Role In Your Own Hurt     

Admit your own part in your own hurt if need be. Confess your part in your own pain and give yourself and others permission to move on. Forgiving others even if they never ask for it releases you from needing to hear them say “I am sorry.” It sucks, but often times, those words will never come. If you wait around and feed your bitterness until they ask for forgiveness, you may be waiting forever. It is time to move on, and the way to move on is to forgive them. If you played a role in hurting yourself, like hanging around an abusive environment too long when you should have left sooner, it is time to confess those things and accept Gods forgiveness. It is time to forgive yourself and move on. Nobody is perfect, you or them, and if vengeance is to be a part of the equation, it is best to leave that up to God and move on with your life. He will have justice His way and it will be perfect justice, not your interpretation of justice. The days are too short to waste them in holding on to the past. Move on, God has wonderful things for you ahead. That doesn’t mean that we forget the pains of our past. They become a part of who we are and part of our ongoing testimony. The reason that we want to move forward is so that as we get better, God can and will allow our growing testimony of His goodness and grace in our lives to be used to help others who are now walking where we once walked. Get better, and if God allows it, use that testimony  to set others on a better path away from the bitter road.  

8. If You Don’t Have Nice Things To Say, Shhhh (Or at least don’t say them publicly on social media)

If you can’t keep your hurtful words to yourself, than seek help. A professional Christian counselor would be a great and safe place to talk through your problems without hurting others. It’s also a private place to process your grief and get wise help and counsel, not everyones uncensored and unfiltered opinions, comebacks and insults. Believe me, thats not a good way to heal (I speak from experience). Social media is not your help, counselor or friend. It’s probably best to get help privately instead of venting publicly. That damage becomes your character in the eyes of the watching and reading world. It’s probably best that you permanently delete your social media accounts if you are constantly tempted to stir the pot. Or at least clean the house as far as ‘groups’, ‘friends’, and ‘organizations’ that you follow. If you don’t enjoy certain people, churches, groups, or organizations, guess what? You don’t have to see or hear from them….. ever! Ever again! Just unfollow and/or block. Believe me, it is a great solution, and you will feel burdens and stress melt away overnight. Lastly, unplug. Commit to at least a 3 month break from all social media and see how you feel. You’ll feel great and you may not return the same person as you left. Real life, just so happens to be better than living vicariously through others lives on the internet. 

I love you and I hope that some of these things have helped. Stop hurting and start healing. Life is a gift and you should take care of it to the glory of God. Don’t waste another moment in the pursuit of bitter things. There is too much sweet out there to enjoy!

In Jesus, Only By Grace,