Bitterness is a silent killer of life and destroyer of marital destiny. Many marriages have been destroyed because one partner decided to harbour bitterness against the other. Bitterness is an unnecessary weight, it is deadly.It stores itself in the soul, and slowly poisons the one who carries it. It’s a blade meant for another that eventually severs the hand that tightly conceals it. Take a look at this setting and see what bitterness can do to your marital relationship: The problems with your spouse are real, and your anger is justified. However, what keep your marriage from healing are not only the problems your spouse has to overcome, but also the prideful bitterness you guard in your heart. Little by little, day by day, you have allowed this bitterness to poison you. Your spouse does something disappointing, instead of confronting the problem, you silently hold it against him/her. He/she continues to make the same mistakes, and you continue to harbor your resentment. This pattern goes on for years and the love you once felt for your spouse goes numbed and your heart becomes hardened. Eventually the marriage breaks up and you blame it on your spouse and the devil. You spend the rest of your life miserable and extremely bitter. This could have been avoided if you have chosen the part of forgiveness.
What causes Bitterness?
In every marriage, husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It’s bound to happen because none of us is perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted. Bitterness comes when you hold on to hurt and refuse to forgive the person that hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature for example, lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments etc that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left to take in more. That’s when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.
What’s Wrong With Bitterness?
A hardened heart can cause a lot of pain. Here are three reasons why bitterness should be removed from your heart as soon as possible:
#1. Bitterness harbors unforgiveness. You may feel justified in your anger. You may think that your spouse doesn’t deserve your forgiveness until he/she straightens him/herself out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you? Rom 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God’s grace, He didn’t wait for us to “get our acts together” before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn’t deserve it. On the Cross of Calvary, when Jesus was to be crucified for the sin of the world, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our spouses? Not only should you desire forgiveness simply because it was given so freely to you, but also, the Bible tells us that there are consequences for unforgiveness. Jesus said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:14-15). Seek forgiveness not only for the sake of your spouse, but also for yourself. I wonder how many hurting marriages would be healed if Christian husbands and wives learned to love “mercy” as much as they love “justice”?
#2. Bitterness doesn’t give your spouse a chance to repent. If you’ve been suppressing your hurt, your spouse may not even know he/she has offended you. Bitterness often comes from hurt that has been suppressed without communication, like filling up a bottle with pressure eventually that bottle will explode. In the same way, the outburst in your heart can result in a broken marriage, and your spouse never even saw it coming. If that is the case, go ahead and tell your spouse what’s been bothering you. Sit down and try to work it out. Perhaps, your spouse does know of your unhappiness, but he/she chooses to continue in the same patterns. This does not negate your responsibility to remove the bitterness from your heart. You still need to give him/her the chance to repent, although stronger measures, such as, marriage counseling may need to take place. You may ask, “How many times does my spouse have to do something before I’m justified in my bitterness?” In Matt18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive someone, even questioning as many as seven times. But Jesus said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” No matter how many times your spouse may do something, you are still responsible to forgive him/her.
#3. Bitterness spreads. Have you ever seen a piece of stale bread? It appears that there is only one ruined area, but if you looked at the bread through a microscope, you would see long roots spreading throughout the slice. What appears on the surface doesn’t reflect what’s really happening below. Bitterness grows the same way. One little bit of bitterness can start to spread throughout your heart, and contaminate your whole body. It will start to manifest itself in your attitude, character, and even your health. In addition, the spreading can also affect your children and your family. Have you ever noticed how one person’s criticism makes everyone else critical, too? It’s the same with bitterness. Paul compares it to yeast when he writes, “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump” (Gal 5:6). When you bring bitterness into your life it extends to your family, your brethren in the church and everyone else who is involved in your life.
Getting Rid of Bitterness
You may feel like there is little hope left for your marriage relationship. You may be so full of bitterness that you’ve convinced yourself that your marriage could never be healed, but let me assure you that the healing must begin with yourself. With God, all things are possible (Matt 19:26).
Here are four steps to take to begin your healing from bitterness.
#1. Confess your bitterness as a sin. It’s so easy to justify our attitude when we’ve been hurt, but the Bible teaches that bitterness is a sin.
Heb12:14-15 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many are defiled.” You must seek peace with your spouse and the grace to forgive.
#2. Ask for God’s strength to forgive your spouse and diligently seek that forgiveness. In Eph4:31-32, Paul exhorts us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” It’s hard to be tender-hearted to a spouse who has hurt you, but it is possible. We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit (Col2:9-11).
#3. Make a list of your hurts and find a time to talk to your spouse about it. After you’ve made your list, pray about which things you can let go. You may want to physically scratch off each one that you can forgive as an act of faith. Then for those transgressions that are left, ask God to give you the strength to talk to your spouse about them. Before talking to your spouse, let him/her know that you plan to set aside some undistracted time for you to talk about some issues. As you talk, keep the discussion productive. Start by confessing your own sins to him/her. Then talk to him/her about your hurts. Don’t just dump all your irritations and criticisms on him/her, but speak in love with gentleness and rationale. Once you begin, your spouse may deny his/her behavior or even become irritated. But the object of the discussion is to expose the wounds, not to accuse. Keep love the main motivator of your communication.
#4. Worry about changing yourself, not your spouse. You cannot change your spouse only God can. But what you can do is allow God to change your heart. If you have a log of bitterness in your own eye, how can you take the speck out of your spouse’s eye? (Matt 7:3). You, too, have made choices in this relationship that have hurt your spouse and need to be mended. Even though your spouse’s sin goes unresolved for now, he/she will answer for them one day before God (Matt10:26). In the same way, God will hold you responsible for the bitterness in your heart.
May the love of Christ reign supreme in your heart as you take the bold step towards your healing from all forms of bitterness in your heart.
It is well with your home in Jesus Name. Amen.