Summary: A hard look at bitterness and how to get rid of it God’s way.
BITTER BONES AND ANGRY EYEBROWS
INTRODUCTION… E. Stanley Jones, Reader’s Digest, December 1981
A rattlesnake, if cornered, will sometimes become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is—a biting of oneself. We think that we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.
I. BIBLICAL NARRATIVES
I want us to get a good handle on bitterness and anger and I can think of no better way than to look at some Biblical examples of these two emotions. We’ll look briefly at three Biblical narratives and the place that bitterness and anger played in them.
RUTH CHAPTER 1 à 1:20-21
Ruth Chapter 1 begins the wonderful story of loss and redemption in the life of one woman named Ruth. Chapter 1 begins by telling us that there was a famine in the land and a man named Elimelech took his wife and two sons out of Israel to a land with food. While there, his two sons married. Life was good. It was good until about the tenth year. Her husband died. Her two sons died. We don’t really know the reason and I suppose it really does not matter—this woman, we know her as Naomi, had lost the three most important people in her life. Death had claimed those she loved.
Naomi was blessed in some ways because she had two daughters-in-law. Unfortunately in this day and age, to own land or have a job, a person must have been of the male gender and having two more women in her life really didn’t help much. Her entire life fell apart. She was in a foreign country, her family was dead, and now the time had come to return home. She returns home with Ruth, the one daughter-in-law who pledged to be by her side. The whole town welcomed and was stirred by their return. What did Naomi say?
READ RUTH 1:20-21
1. Naomi says that her life is very bitter
2. She blames God for her circumstances
3. She feels there is no goodness, only misfortune in her life
1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 1 à 1:10-15
Our second Biblical narrative also focuses on a woman and her name is Hannah. 1 Samuel chapter 1 records that she is a woman caught in a tough situation. She is one of two wives in a relationship with a man who by all accounts is a good and godly man. He is a wonderful and supportive husband. Verse 2 tells us that the other wife had children year after year and was a virtual baby factory and yet, Hannah had no children. Not only that, but the “rival wife” would taunt her and irritate her. This situation went on year after year after year.
Hannah was trapped. Children surrounded her, yet none of them were her own. She had to deal with this other woman on a daily basis. The situation did not improve as time went on. One year, while the family worshipped, Hannah must have just hit rock bottom and she began to pray to the Lord. What did she pray?
READ 1 SAMUEL 1:10-15
1. Hannah was bitter down to her soul
2. I would add that she perhaps is angry about her situation
3. She feels that God can save her if He is willing
1 SAMUEL CHAPTERS 18-19 à 18:6-11
Chapters 18 and 19 give us the beginning of the end for the first King of Israel. His name was Saul and he was chosen as the first King, though he is never cast in a good light. King Saul allowed a young man named David to fight the Philistines and gave him task after task, which he did well. David prospered in everything that he attempted to do. The situation was becoming unbearable for Saul. This man David was becoming popular and a hero. What did Saul do?
READ 1 SAMUEL 18:6-11
1. Saul became so angry that it turned to bitterness
2. Other negative emotions started to torment Saul
3. Saul took action to kill David
II. BITTERNESS AND ANGER
We are all familiar with emotions, but they are sometimes difficult to define. Emotions deal with that feeling part of life and are also connecting with the thinking part of life (since thinking some thoughts produces positive or negative emotions). Americans are very feeling-oriented people… wouldn’t you agree? I saw a Diet Coke commercial the other day that had a slogan: “If it feels good, do it.” Many times it is feelings that lead us into certain jobs or even marriages. Feelings change… and so do our jobs and our marriage partners (Meier and Minirth: Introduction to Psychology and Counseling, pg 73). We come to church only when we feel like it. We pray only when we feel we need to. Many times our lives are driven and controlled by our emotions and their effects on our lives.