Out of the Bondage of Bitterness

I had the perfect recipe brewing for letting bitterness take root, for letting it fester, consume me by taking over my thoughts, and even for seeking revenge. I believe most people wouldn’t have blamed me if I had taken any one or all of those actions. After all, I did have a husband who had been unfaithful to me.

A husband who had, not just once, but repeatedly for nearly the entire length of our two-year marriage chosen other women over me. People would have understood my anger. My bitterness. My unforgiveness of “the big one” in marriage.

Kayla Anderson BitternessThankfully, before I knew what was to be in the coming days, the Lord knew the path my life would take and only three weeks into marriage, He led me to sneak into the back row of the church my dad was a youth pastor at while he was speaking to a group of teenagers. Dad’s message for that night about all about forgiveness. He shared a story about a friend he had who repeatedly hurt him in the same way over and over again. Dad shared that he had learned to forgive ahead of time – anticipating another similar hurt, he prepared in his heart that he would forgive again before it even happened.

I purposed to take that nugget of wisdom and store it. The first time I learned about the unfaithfulness of my ex-husband, I was shaken to my core. I didn’t expect it or anticipate it; I never saw it coming. However, I chose to forgive as my husband wept and repented. And then I recalled what Dad had said – and I decided to box up and store away some forgiveness for any future offenses of this nature.

A few weeks later, I found myself reaching into the forgiveness box again (and all too quickly again and again, and about every 2 or 3 weeks for the remainder of our marriage). This all continued for two years until finally my ex-husband ultimately decided that he really did think his life would just be better off without me in it.

In the aftermath of this all, I had some girlfriends astonished that I would go through this ordeal over and over with him for two years. “Why are you putting up with that!?” “Why are you not just so angry with him?” “Why do you keep forgiving him and giving him more chances when he keeps hurting you like that?” they would ask me.

Why? Well, because God is the God of forgiveness. Because God is the God of healing and of restoration. And because I wanted those things He offered so much more than I wanted to hold onto anger or bitterness. God didn’t tell us to forgive one time and only give one more chance – He just simply instructed and called us to forgive.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘ I  tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.” Matthew 18:21-22

Bitterness Kayla AndersonForgiveness does not always mean that you have to stay but it does mean that you have to choose to release all of the emotions binding up your heart and mind. I wasn’t certain of our future but I had chosen to fight for our marriage until the choice was out of my hands and decided by the other person in my marriage. I wanted to choose forgiveness over and over again, regardless of how “foolish” that might lookto the rest of the world. Beth Moore, one of my favorite authors, wrote that “forgiveness may be excruciating for a moment, but anger and bitterness are excruciating for a lifetime.” I wanted wholeness and healing from the pain and sought it with my whole heart, broken as it was. I wanted to be free of the bondage of bitterness or anger that could take root in my life and spread like weeds if I allowed it.

“Keep a sharp eye out for the weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” Hebrews 12:15, The Message

We all battle hurt feelings, being let down, feeling betrayed, humiliated or angry at the hand of another person. However, it’s our choice of how we are going to handle those feelings. I knew I didn’t want to nurse a grudge and refuse to forgive. I knew that choosing to not forgive him would cost me a whole lot more than it would cost my ex-husband.

Bitterness is willfully choosing to hold on to hurt or angry feelings and forgiveness is willfully choosing to release it. Because while sometimes it can feel like we are unable to or justified in choosing not to forgive, sometimes we need to realize that we are simply unwilling to forgive. Just as loving someone is a choice, so is the act of forgiveness because that’s exactly what it is – an act, not a feeling.

I didn’t feel forgiving towards my ex-husband. You know what I really felt? I felt angry, betrayed, humiliated and like a used piece of trash just tossed to the wayside. I felt hurt that he had not taken his marriage vows as seriously as I took them and that I was now going to be a 21-year- old divorcee, used and abused, and without the life companion that I so deeply longed for.

However, feelings aside, I deeply wanted that healing from the Lord which would bring wholeness again. That redemption for my life and my story. I begged God to take my broken heart, to fill in the cracks and smooth them out again. To move towards having a healthy heart again, I knew it needed to start with forgiveness and releasing any potential of bitterness in my current situation. Though I didn’t feel it, I needed to act upon it.

Forgiveness is an act of surrender: surrendering to God’s will, God’s instruction, and God’s plan for redemption. We don’t have the ability in ourselves to forgive others but God can empower us to extend forgiveness, even in the hardest of situations where we are left feeling completely shipwrecked by the actions of another. Something we often can misunderstand is that forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s not agreeing or condoning what happened, it’s an acceptance of what has happened and then releasing it to the Lord in exchange of healing.

Forgiveness is a gift that God has given us to free ourselves of the bondage of bitterness and control that someone else had over our life. Forgiveness is a gift because Jesus died on the cross for us to forgive us of our sins.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Friends, did you catch that? We all have great potential to want to hold on to our wounds inflicted upon us and let them fester…but we don’t have to. So rather than clinging to bitterness, offense and resentment, may we all learn to cling to the forgiveness and healing of our wounds which is found in Jesus. For by His wounds, we are healed.


Kayla AndersonKayla Anderson is married (for better or for worse) to the one who she knows without a doubt that God created her to be companions with.  Together they have four young children, Ezekiel, Asher, Ellery and Alder, and run a hand-crafted soap shop.  She is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and is in a season of learning how to gracefully be the central point and glue of their family.  Thank the Lord that she has Him to look to for wisdom, guidance and strength!  She loves reading in the quiet, early morning hours, decorating their sweet little home, writing has been part of her soul since she learned how to write letters, and her love of coffee runs deeper than her coffee pot.  You can find more from Kayla on her blog or Instagram.
Advertisements

Choosing Thankfulness

I know bitterness holds people back. It feels like being stuck. The “bitter old woman” is a bit of a cliché, but when I hear that phrase, I think of someone who is somehow cemented in the past, unforgiving, and resentful.

This has certainly been true of me at various points in my life. I’ve been bitter about events that have occurred and enraged at the failures of people in my life.

Sarah Clews BitternessThe Bible has a lot of say about bitterness, including Proverbs 14:10, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.

Last May I found my heart at a bit of an emotional precipice. While trying to turn left across a busy highway at a tricky spot, we were in a car accident. Although it was a serious accident (our car was totaled and airbags deployed), miraculously no one was seriously hurt including our three little girls who were in the car at the time. As I tried to sort through my feelings afterwards, I realized I had a choice. I could look at the accident two ways.

On one hand, I could think to myself, “Where was God on that day? Why didn’t he protect us from being in the accident?” On the other hand, I could think, “Wow, I’m so thankful God spared us from any serious injuries or death. He obviously prevented something worse from happening.” I could choose to become bitter that the accident had occurred at all, or I could choose to be thankful that God protected us from much worse.

bitterness Sarah ClewsAlthough it took months for me to feel comfortable in the car again and there are still things I’m working on, I did choose thankfulness. If I had chosen bitterness, it would have kept me fastened to that moment, unable to move forward because of my resentment. Because God led me to choose thankfulness, I was able to look forward with hope. God still has a purpose for my life. He chose to spare my family, and I believe He has a special plan for us.

Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

That place of being stuck, bitterness, is a place of unforgiveness, anger and hopelessness. Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” How much trouble has bitterness caused? God calls us to more—to forgiveness and hope. He calls us to press on  and seek the crown of life which He has promised.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews loves being the wife of Carson and mother to three little girls. She received her degree in English from Corban University and still loves the craft of writing. She also helps her husband run a martial arts school. In her free time, Sarah enjoys talking with grown ups (!), finding new authors, doing online research, and reading her favorite childhood stories to her girls.

2 Things I had to Face While Reading Jennie Allen’s Newest Book

I am always ready for a new Jennie Allen book. The lady can preach, teach, and lead, and has no problem bringing truth the world needs to hear. She points people at Jesus and she invites the masses to join her in the great adventure: living in the light of God. I was thrilled to be able to join the launch team for Nothing to Prove and was looking forward to diving in, but in doing so I was forced to face motivations, sin, and hurt that had been hibernating.

jennieallen-nothing-to-proveHere is the thing about hibernating sin: it is still hindering us from the freedom God offers even when it’s quiet, and this is why He is willing to shine light on it if we will come to Him humbly. When I begin a new non-fiction book I ask God three things:

  1. Please, teach me.
  2. Give me discernment. Show me how to separate biblical wisdom from worldly philosophy.
  3. Help me to be humble, willing to confront things within me that are not from you.

Well, He did all those things, and here is just a piece of what I learned.

I Love To Numb Out

When I am surfing on unseen WiFi waves, I am also often hiding. When my kids get too loud, phone up. When I don’t feel like talking to my husband about that thing I need to address or apologize for, play next episode. When the plight of our country is begging for prayer, scroll level: Master. But as Allen said, “The danger for us is not that we would enjoy the cheap wine on earth, but that we would grow addicted to it….If I didn’t believe the lie that these shallow empty pursuits would satisfy me, I guarantee you I wouldn’t keep exchanging mirages for Jesus” (90).

So yes, a good show with deep story is not bad in and of itself, but if it is a form of self-medication or becomes an addiction — If it steals rather than gives, it must be eliminated. I would rather be alive than numb, and I am willing to fight for that. Because, yes, “I want to see Jesus in my everyday life, not just when I arrive in heaven. I want to love Him more than I want to appear religious. I want to love people enough to lead them to the One who can heal them. I want to be healed myself. I want to initiate for the good of those around me rather than pad my existence with comfort and ease” (155).

I Was Trying to Prove Something

People pleasing is not typically my modus operandi, I have my own issues that hold me back, but this isn’t a predominant one. To the marrow of my bones I know that God is enough (if you question this truth, this book is for you). I have learned this because I’ve blown it big time. The dark night of the soul and I are well acquainted. But God, oh yes, but God came to my rescue.

“Guess what the person being rescued has to do? Trust the rescuer and cooperate with the process. You and I don’t need to be the hero to save the world we just get to be part of the story of the greatest hero of all time. Which is good news, because being hero is a lot of pressure and a lot of dadgum work.” (135)

nothing-to-prove-jennie-allenAs I read, asked the questions, and meditated on the scriptures Allen encourages the reader to engage with, I found within me something I was trying to prove. It stung. Two sentences, each only four words, echoed within me, “Look at me now. You couldn’t stop me.” They were not directed at the masses or even friends, but at those who have hurt me most. Those who have forsaken me, and received my weightiest forgiveness. Here directed toward individuals was a deep, hidden, and pride-filled whisper many would excuse and mark  as understandable. While most motivators in my life may be submitted to the Lord, it was clear this one was not. I checked to make sure I had truly forgiven, got down on my knees, put my face to the floor and confessed the pride with sorrow. Then I sought God for the strength to go about doing the work of crucifying this nasty, internal, self-focused, provocation. I am His, which means I don’t have to settle for anything less than freedom.

There is so much more I could tell you about this book, but seriously, why read my words about it when you could read it for yourself? It will convict you, encourage you, and be a tool for God to use so that you can be freed by the great love He has for you. Read it. Be taught and reminded that He is enough. You can cease striving. When you are His, you have nothing to prove.


Readers, One final quote, because it is just SO good. “And then I did it, the most freeing brilliantly foolish thing in my life: I led with everything I had been hiding” (102). What would you do if nothing was holding you back? Would you forgive that person and leave that situation that replays in your mind over and over in the past and be free. Would you make that phone call? Fill out that application? Volunteer for that organization? Write that book (psst…this one is mine)? What would you do? Tell us in the comments, and come back and tell us about your experience with Nothing to Prove. We would love to hear it. You can also join in with other women for the Nothing to Prove Book Club hosted by Jennie Allen.

DON’T MISS OUR NOTHING TO PROVE GIVEAWAY OVER ON INSTAGRAM! SEE POST FROM 1/31/2017 (ENDS 2/6/2017).

chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue can often be found with her nose in a book and coffee in hand. She enjoys freelance writing, Biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at Portland Moms Blog and her words have appeared at (in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Love for the Hurt Person

Author: Sarah Clews

I’ve been tempted to believe I am one of those people who will be betrayed. I feel it has tried to be the theme for my last year or so. People I thought were my friends really weren’t, and those I thought I could trust proved me wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised. We live in a fallen world with a fallen nature. But after you’ve given so much to something or someone, often at no cost, and then those you have come along side burn you, it’s hard to not feel hurt. I’m sure I am not alone. Many have felt the pain of turning in trust and then being stabbed in the back.

It’s  easy for me to take on the identity of a hurt person, but I find that only leads to more turmoil. When hurting, my shoulders slump as I physically try to protect myself from these emotional wounds. I withdraw, shying away from social events and finding myself unable to trust even those I rationally know I can trust. I find myself overwhelmed by paranoia and anxiety.

Recently, while driving around town, I was thinking over the last year and touching on some of the hurts I had experienced. I don’t want to be this bitter, walled off person, but it’s hard when you feel like you’re being burned over and over.

I thought of Jesus and the ways in which He was betrayed. His disciples, his 12 closest friends, wouldn’t even admit they knew him when stuff went down. One of his disciples, a friend of several years (Judas), sold him out to the Pharisees for money.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple years, it’s that some people will cross lines they never thought they would for money. I doubt Judas started following Jesus knowing he would betray him. But when Jesus became an obstacle to potential riches, Judas did just that.

Judas, the great betrayer, wasn’t just an acquaintance. He was a disciple of Jesus who sat at his feet and KNEW Jesus was the Messiah. He sold out Jesus for about $600 (the modern day equivalent of 30 pieces of silver).

It’s important to remember that even if Judas didn’t know he would be the betrayer, Jesus did. He KNEW, and He loved him anyway.

When it comes down to it, this is what separates Christ followers from everyone else. It’s loving anyway, over and over again. Love is the first quality listed in Galatians when Paul talks about the fruit that should overflow out of believers.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” Galatians 5:22

I have been hurt. And I have felt betrayed.  Those feelings don’t magically go away. I don’t have to live the rest of my life hurt. Instead, I can choose love. I will love anyway, in spite of it all, because loving with the kind of love Jesus is all about is what brings freedom to the betrayed, change to a broken world, and hope to those who have been hurt.

~~~

Readers, Where can you choose love today?

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, writer and prolific reader. You can find more of her writing at Just Little Things. Interested in submitting your work? Check out our submissions page.

When the Good Opinion is Lost

This one is for the Jane Austen fans out there, you may recall Mr. Darcy saying in Pride and Prejudice, “My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” This arrogant statement is laced with finality. *Spoiler Alert*  Mr. Darcy does change his mind in the end about a certain young lady (Lizzy Bennett) and actually marries her! They get a new beginning.

One of my favorite things about God is His willingness to give us new beginnings. What a hopeless world it would be without forgiveness, particularly God’s forgiveness! Recently, I found myself feeling heartsick as I looked at my 3 year old daughter as she sobbed. I had gotten upset with her and made a judgment error in my parenting. She felt I had been harsh with her and I was cut to the heart. I apologized, she forgave, and I knew we would begin again. Young children, like God, are relentlessly forgiving. But I didn’t want to forgive myself. I didn’t want to let myself have a new beginning.

Maybe this is why I am particularly addicted to “firsts.” The first day of the month. The first day of the year. They represent a new start to me. It’s a time when I feel I can give myself permission to let go, move on, and start over. This is silly of course and more symbolic than anything. With God, when I repent and confess my sins, I will always be made clean. My God is not a God of guilt. I love Psalm 103:11-12:

“For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

God gives us the ultimate chance at a new beginning . God isn’t saving our sins up to use them as a weapon later.  He removes them completely. They are no longer held against us. I think it’s human nature to wallow in guilt and self-pity. As if by punishing ourselves, we can make up for our own wrongs.

Remember: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus already paid the ultimate price, and He commands us to leave the shackles of the past behind. We get a new beginning. We are new creations. Let’s embrace that.

Readers, What do you need to leave behind so you can step into your new beginning?

 

Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, writer and prolific reader. You can find more of her writing at Just Little Things.

SHARE:

0 Comments: