Devotions

Indicators of Hidden Bitterness

October 8, 2020
“Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:24 (NLT)
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I remember several years ago when a friend of mine really hurt my feelings, and I got all bent out of shape. And, honey, everyone in my house knew Mama wasn’t happy. I tried everything to usher gentleness back into my tone and my temper.

I quoted verses.

I rebuked Satan.

I bossed my feelings around with Truth.

I even tried to take a nap.

But none of these activities soothed me.

What really sent me over the edge, though, was a smell that started to fill my home that not even three strongly scented candles could mask.

Unfortunately, as the mysterious, awful smell continued to waft through my home, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was or where it was coming from.

Finally, I realized one of my daughters had placed a kitchen trash can in the corner of my bedroom so she could toss scraps of paper as she worked on a school project. Before she brought the trash can into my bedroom, some food had obviously been thrown away that had surpassed gross and moved into the final stages of rot.

I didn’t have the heart to find out what the rot was; I just knew the trash can had to go. Immediately.

The smell was an outside indication of an internal situation. And the trash can wasn’t the only thing that stunk that night. So did my attitude.

My reaction was also an outside indication of an internal situation.

The reason I couldn’t be soothed by quoting Scripture, bossing my feelings, rebuking Satan or even taking a nap is because God wanted me to be aware of my stink — something inside of me that stunk — a place starting to rot.

I’d been hurt by a friend and didn't want to confront the issue or forgive the person who had hurt me. I’d stuffed bitterness in my heart and tried to pretend it wasn’t there. But the rot was there, and the stink from deep within my heart kept spilling out.

God didn’t want me to temporarily mask the situation by feeling better in the moment. He wanted me to address the root of my rot — to see it, admit it, expose it and let Him clean it up. Immediately.

In our key verse, we’re reminded of King David’s plea to the Lord, “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:24). We must have this same attitude when it comes to our own lives.

How we react is a crucial gauge of what’s really going on inside us. A little rot can spread fast and furiously if not dealt with swiftly and seriously. And unhealed hurt often becomes unleashed hurt spewed out on others.

That’s why it’s so crucial to pay attention to our reactions and look for indicators of hidden bitterness as we ask the Lord to point out harmful attitudes in our hearts today.

Here are some telltale signs of this particular root of rot:

  • I throw out statements like, “You always … You never … Why can’t we ever?”
  • I start gathering ammunition from past situations to build my case.
  • I use words and a tone outside my normal character.
  • I snap and explode on other people whose offenses don’t warrant that kind of reaction.
  • I justify my reaction by pointing out how hard my life is right now.
  • I make passive-aggressive statements to prove a point.
  • I demand an apology, all the while knowing I should be giving one.
  • I feel skepticism that most people can’t be trusted and cynicism about the world in general.

Please know … when people or issues or situations bump into our happy, it’s not wrong to feel annoyed. But if that annoyance leads to a reaction out of proportion to the issue at hand, we can bank on the fact that there’s unaddressed pain at the root of our eruption. As my counselor Jim Cress says, “If our reaction is hysterical, it is historical.”

These indicators are not fun to admit, but we can’t address what we don’t acknowledge. And here’s the beauty of the situation: The quicker we see a root of rot, the quicker we can invite God in to help us address our pain, heal our heart and get rid of the stink. We can make sure not one bit of the hurt done to us is multiplied back out by us.

Dear Lord, bring to light anything in my heart that needs healing and attention. And help me to address these areas with Your grace and Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY

Ephesians 4:31-32: “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 one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (ESV)

RELATED RESOURCES

When pain feels deeply personal, do you find it hard to keep your reactions biblical? You aren’t alone. Walk through a step-by-step process to free yourself from the hurt of your past and feel less offended today with the help of Lysa TerKeurst’s newest book, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget. Preorder your copy here, and start reading the first 3 chapters immediately!

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REFLECT AND RESPOND

Was there anything on Lysa’s list that you didn’t realize could be an indication of hidden bitterness? Is there one you’re asking God to help you address in your own life? Join the conversation today.

© 2020 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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