How To Turn Bitterness into Blessings

Bible Book: Ephesians  4 : 30-32
Subject: Bitterness; Anger; Revenge

How To Turn Bitterness Into Blessings

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Ephesians 4:30-32: "30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." (NKJV)

A woman came home one day and found her four children huddled in the den around something very interesting. She tip-toed over to see what it was and saw that they had brought four baby skunks into the house and were admiring them on the floor. She screamed, which frightened the children and the skunks. The children said, “Mother, what is the matter?” She replied with a command, “Run, run outside as fast as you can.” The children promptly jumped up to run; however, each one took a skunk with him!

Sometimes when we are trying to escape hurt, hardship and danger, we take the problem or trouble with us. That is what happens to a person who becomes bitter. You cannot run away from it, for it is with you all the time. Tonight we are going to learn how to leave the foul odor of bitterness behind us and gain God's victory in the process.

This is important, for bitterness can stay with us for a lifetime, making us miserable. The story is told of a personal ad in a newspaper which read, “If Jack Smith, who left his wife and baby twenty years ago will come back, the aforementioned baby would like to knock his socks off!” You can see from that advertisement that bitterness leaves a deep mark in one's life, memory and psyche. We need to note that holding on to a grudge, to bitterness, displeases to God, damages us and can cause great harm to others. Let's consider how we can turn bitterness into blessings in our lives.

First, note from the Bible ...

I. The Condemnation of Bitterness

Clearly the Bible condemns bitterness, since many Bible passages state that we are not to hold a grudge against another person. We are told in Hebrews 10:30, "For we know Him who said, vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” In other words, God sees and knows what has been done to you and He can take care of it, if only you will let go of it. Now granted, this is not speaking of legal matters where broken contracts and libel are involved. The Bible is not speaking of the legal system taking on cases where someone has been mistreated in a legal matter, but rather the scripture is speaking of issues of a personal matter. Even in legal matters, we are to act in a manner that reflects Jesus and our faith in Him.

Note three elements in the nature of bitterness.

A. The Sinful nature of Bitterness

Bitterness is a sin. Ephesians 4:31 contains a command that we are to get rid of ALL bitterness. Some people, in some circumstances, feel they are justified in holding a grudge; however, the Bible makes it clear that holding a grudge is against the will and command of the Lord for a believer.

B. The Satanic nature of Bitterness

Remember that Satan is the accuser and he never allows an accusation to go unmentioned. When you are an accuser, you are in league with the devil. When someone has hurt you personally and you allow a root of bitterness to grow up in your heart you are working with the forces of darkness. Look at I John 2:9 which reads, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”

C. The Shameful nature of Bitterness

Bitterness is shameful for a Christian because it keeps us from revealing the forgiveness we have received from Christ. Think of what our sins did to our Lord, yet He was not bitter toward us. He told us to love the way He loves.

Now. consider ...

II. The Course of Bitterness

Bitterness is the result of our feeling that we have been hurt, that somehow we have not been treated fairly and that the person or persons responsible for the hurt have not been made to pay for it. Paul describes bitterness as following a course or pattern involving four parts.

A. Poison

The word bitterness speaks of a poison. Indeed, bitterness is a poison in the emotions of the person who holds a grudge against another. Just as poisoned food brings pain to the stomach and physical system of a human being, so bitterness brings pain to the emotions and spirit. This can lead to physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and social problems on a monumental scale if not dealt with properly.

B. Passion

The next word in the text speaks of the passion that builds up when a person allows bitterness to take root in the heart. Bitterness may be vented toward people or toward God. One woman, for example, who survived the sinking of the Titanic, but whose husband died on the great ship, became so bitter toward God that she said, “God went down with the Titanic.”

I have heard that Ted Turner has a similar problem. When he was young, his sister became very ill. He prayed for God to heal her but she died. He turned against God and even today mocks Christians and makes fun of us. Ted Turner became bitter toward God because, in essence, Ted Turner could not be God and get his on way.

It is far more likely that we become embittered against people who hurt us or treat us unfairly. This creates a passion in us that rises up like a flame in our hearts from time-to-time.

C. The Punishment

The third phase of the course of bitterness is punishment. There is a desire in us to see the person or persons who have hurt us punished for what they have done. We want them to pay for what the pain they have caused us. We may even try to exact the punishment ourselves. This has led to physical violence, including murder. If unchecked, bitterness may erupt at any time and cause harm that you may never be able to undo.

D. The Publicity

The final phase is publicity. The person who is bitter begins to make known their feelings through punishment or because they just cannot be silent. Criticism, hatred and all manner of evil speaking comes from this phase of bitterness.

Perhaps the worst thing that can come from bitterness, beyond the damage it can do to our own hearts, is the effect it can have upon our witness to others. Lost people around us see our corrupt response and it can even cause harm to our Christian brothers and sisters.

Look at Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” This clearly indicates that bitterness can cause an unsaved person to miss the grace of God. Sadly, many do miss the grace of God and/or are defiled by a root of bitterness which has sprung to full growth in the life of a child of God. This, in turn, defiles many. What a sad reality bitterness is in one's heart and life.

Note what we can do with bitterness ...

III. The Confession of Bitterness

Romans 12:17-19 states, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” We must confess bitterness as a sin.

A. Confront it in your Heart

Be honest with God about ant bitter feelings you have toward others. Bitterness begins in the hidden recesses of your heart, but when we feed that feeling it quickly becomes public. This creates a climate for hatred and anger and is a sin against our loving, forgiving, Holy God. It defies His Word and defeats His will. Look squarely at your heart and deal with the truth of bitterness that is in you.

Also, ...

B. Cleanse it from your Soul

Cleanse if from your soul by confessing it to the Lord. Don't ever say that you can't get over what was done to you. Many have testimonies of overcoming incredible mistreatment by turning to Jesus to find the strength and peace that is needed. Only He can forgive and only He can give you peace and comfort in the place of bitterness. Tell God the truth about this sin and turn from it. Before going on with bitterness toward someone who has hurt you, stop and confess to God that your feelings are wrong and that you desire His forgiveness in your own heart. Ask the Lord to deal with the issues involved. You can trust Him with your deepest hurts and your worst enemies.

Then, you can ...

C. Keep it from your Future

You might say, “Well enough, I can forgive but I cannot forget.” The truth is that you must keep plucking up the root each time it tries to grow. Anyone who has a yard to maintain knows that pulling up a weed does not solve the problem of weeds. Another weed will rise up in the next few days. Then, you have to go out a pull up the weed again. The "root" of bitterness is just like that in your heart. You must keep pulling it up every time it appears.

How do you do this? You remember that Jesus forgave you. He could have held all your sins against you but He did not and He does not. If He can forgive you, can you not forgive others? Has anyone ever treated you as badly as you have treated Jesus? No! Yet, many still want to hold a grudge toward others and feel justified in doing so. May God help us to lay down the burden of bitterness by remembering how our Lord forgave us even though our sins placed Him on the cross.

One way to deal with bitterness is to create a mental file folder in your mind. When the thought of hurt comes to you, pull out that mental folder holding the file against that person and mark it, “Paid in Full.” Every time the hurt arises again, mentally pull out the folder and note that you forgave the debt and mentally close the folder up and put it away.

Just think of how God forgave you. He has written, “Paid in Full,” on your account through the blood Jesus. We can and should do the same for others. Be assured, you will have to pull out that mental file folder many times to review that you have already forgiven the debt owed to you by the person who has hurt you. Soon, however, the fact of the forgiveness you have offered will take hold and you will begin to experience incredible peace. That is God's will for your heart and mine.

Now, let me say something important at this point. I know that I cannot possibly identify with the pain some of you deal with. You may have experienced physical, sexual or mental abuse beyond that which any of us can understand. But, your bitterness only hurts you. It keeps you from enjoying life. To hold on to it only gives the person who hurt you the ability to continue to harm you through your own bitterness. Rest in the arms of Jesus. Let His forgiveness help you practice that same forgiveness toward others. I know what some of you are thinking: “Yes, I am forgiven because I confessed and asked for it. The person who hurt me has never done that.” Yes, that is perhaps true, but the forgiveness God gives you is already available before you ask. If your heart is set to forgive, you can live in peace even when the person has not asked for it. You are not offering peace to the person who hurt you, but rather you are finding peace for yourself. Remember, God has told us that He will deal with the offender - that is not our job. He will take care of that which is done against us - our duty is to forgive and live in God's peace.


God wants you to have victory over bitterness. You can climb above it and beyond it. Let me share a biblical example.

Joseph is the perfect example of how we are to react when we are hurt by those we love or trust. His own brothers decided to kill him. They changed their minds and threw him into a pit. Then they took him out of the pit and sold him into slavery. He became a servant in Egypt. He was imprisoned on trumped up charges and was in prison for years. Image the bitterness that could have built up inside him during all those miserable years.

Later, Joseph he was elevated to the position as Prime Minister of Egypt. His brothers came to Egypt, not knowing that Joseph was there, that he was alive and certainly not knowing that he held such an important position. What did Joseph do when he had those brothers in his hand? He loved them, blessed them and forgave them. He said, as recorded in Genesis 50:20, “You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good.” Yes!!! When you can trust God with your welfare and well being, He will take that which was meant for harm and make it turn out for our good. Just read Romans 8:28!

If you try to extract revenge, or hold hard feelings in your heart, you will never truly enjoy the blessings God has planned for you. In fact, the arrows of hatred you shoot at others will fall on your own heads.

An ancient Roman story goes like this - soldiers of Caesar became dissatisfied with their regimen and rations. They knew they could not complain to Caesar, so they became angry with the gods. Many of them shot their arrows toward the heavens, hoping to hit the gods. Several of the soldiers were wounded or killed as their own arrows fell back on them. That can actually happen to us if we continue to hold a grudge and nurture it in our hearts.

Right now, in this service, write “Paid in Full” on the hurt that is in your heart. Sure, it will rise up again to haunt you, but you can go back and remember that you took care of that. You can slide the file back into a corner and go on with your life. You can trust God to help you and to use even those awful moments to make you all He means for you to be.

Most importantly, make peace with God. If you have never trusted Him, turn to Him now. He forgives sin through the blood of His Son. Our Lord poured out His blood in sacrifice for our sins. Accept His forgiveness and forgive as He forgave.