Bitterness bites

Hands down, fall is my favorite time of year pleasant temperatures, blue skies, brilliant colors, rustling leaves and white puffy clouds. I just want to run outside and drink it all in.

I've learned by experience, however, that just because all is beautiful on the outside, does not exactly mean that what is going on in my heart is photogenic.

One of the best ways to ruin a beautiful autumn day is by nursing a bitter spirit. Bitterness can sour our attitude, wreck our relationships, and compromise our influence in our family and community.

In his book entitled, "He Still Moves Stones," Max Lucado writes, "Bitterness is its own prison. The sides are slippery with resentment. A floor of muddy anger stills the feet. The stench of betrayal fills the air and stings the eyes.

"A cloud of self-pity blocks the view of the tiny exit above. Step in and look at the prisoners. Victims are chained to the walls - victims of betrayal and victims of abuse. The dungeon, deep and dark, is beckoning you to enter"

Sadly, that is a choice any of us can make. We've experienced enough hurt. We can choose, like many, to chain ourselves to our hurts, rehearsing our hurts until they're burned into our brains, bleeding out into our words and actions. Or we can choose, like some, to give our hurts to Jesus before they become hates.

Harboring bitterness and resentment towards someone in your heart is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die. Bitterness is like poison.

However, it eats at the vessel which holds it. Such is the cause of numerous physical ailments. Just ask your doctor. Bitterness bites. That is precisely why God tells us to get rid of it.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

"How do I do that?" I hear you asking. We do this in two ways.

First, we humbly bring our bitter spirit before God in prayer, honestly confessing this sin to him, asking the Lord to take it from us.

Secondly, by God's grace, we learn to forgive, just as we have been forgiven. The key to possessing a forgiving spirit is getting a grip on the ugliness of our own depravity, realizing how much sin God's grace has covered on our behalf.

When we honestly look in the mirror and understand that we are no less in need of grace than others, we will not struggle so much to forgive the hurt they have caused us. By grace we can release them to try again.

Kindness and compassion are the sweeteners which serve to bring new life and renewed joy for others, and the gift of forgiveness which blesses others, turns out to be a gift we give ourselves.

November is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving. A spirit of thanksgiving cannot coincide in our hearts with a spirit of bitterness. It must be one or the other.

This month give the gift of forgiveness. You might just be surprised what God will do when you slay the beast of bitterness.

Rev. John and Kathy Friedlund are the newly assigned pastoral couple of Grace E.C. Church of Ninevah.