Summary: Bitterness is an emotion that can eat us from the inside out like poison or cancer. Like the biblical character Joseph, there are things we can do to keep bitterness from destroying us.
A. Abe Lemons was head basketball coach at the University of Texas for six years starting in 1976.
1. Lemons turned the Texas Longhorn basketball program around, but when DeLoss Dodds took over as the athletic director they soon were butting heads, and at the end of the 1982 season, Dodds fired him.
2. Lemons was once asked if he was bitter at Deloss Dodds for firing him, and he replied, “Not at all, but I plan to buy a glass-bottomed car so I can watch the look on his face when I run over him.” – sounds a little bitter, wouldn’t you say?
B. A writer named Anne Peterson tells the story of a woman named Jenny.
1. Jenny was 92 years old when she died, but for the 50 years that Anne knew Jenny, Jenny told the story over and over of a time her sister would not give her the dollar she needed to buy a pair of shoes.
2. Her passionate retelling of the story made it seem like the offense had happened just days ago.
3. Jenny retold the story so many times that Anne had memorized every detail.
4. One message came through loud and clear - Jenny would never forgive her sister for withholding that dollar from her.
5. Just like a magnet, the retelling of the story pulled Jenny back into all her hurt and bitterness.
C. Have you ever been wronged by someone, and then found yourself seething with feelings of anger and bitterness?
1. In our broken world filled with sin, this is not an uncommon experience.
2. Maybe a family member or friend has betrayed your trust and left you feeling wounded.
3. Maybe someone misunderstood your words and assumed the worst, slandering your reputation.
4. As we ponder the ways we’ve been hurt, we can easily allow bitterness consume our souls.
D. Bitterness starts out small.
1. An offense burrows its way into our hearts.
2. We replay it in our minds, creating deep ruts that are hard to get out of.
3. We retell our hurts to any available listener and we enlist support, pushing us further into our resentment.
4. We interpret the offense as intentional and our offender as full of spite.
5. We look for other reasons, both real or imagined, to dislike our villain.
6. With each new piece of information, we form another layer of bitterness.
7. Bitterness becomes like a slow poison or cancer destroying us from the inside out.
8. We fool ourselves into thinking no one will know or notice, but anger and resentment have a way of seeping into everything.
a. Bitterness is like a beach ball that we try to submerge in the water, but no matter how valiant our efforts, it pops up with all its vitality, splashing everyone around.
9. The book of Hebrews warns us about allowing bitterness to take root: “Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many.” (Hebrews 12:15).
E. Today, as we continue our sermon series on emotions, I want us to explore feelings of bitterness.
1. God has created us with the ability to feel the emotion of bitterness.
2. Wikipedia says that bitterness (or resentment) is a complex, multilayered emotion that has been described as a mixture of disappointment and disgust, anger and fear.
3. Inherent in resentment and bitterness is a perception of unfairness and it is a generalized defense against unfair situations and abusive relationships.
4. Bitterness and anger are connected and similar, but bitterness is a more long-term consistent feeling of anger, rather than the short-fuse, explosive kind of anger.
5. There are numrous reasons why a person might be sure they deserve to spend the rest of their lives being bitter and resentful, but would it be worth it? Would it be helpful? Not a chance!
6. So, God has given us the ability to feel anger and resentment so that we can be aware of injustice and other kinds of personal injury.
7. When we are injured and harmed, we should feel the pain and bitterness of it, allow that pain and bitterness to lead us to do what we can to protect ourselves and bring resolution and healing.
F. Let’s use our imagination and think of taking a sip of a bitter drink or sucking on a wedge of lemon or lime - that’s the sensation of distaste and revulsion the emotion of bitterness should cause in us.
1. But God doesn’t want us to allow the bitterness and sourness to grow and fester.
2. Let’s do what the old saying suggests: “If life gives you lemons, then make lemonade.”
3. God wants us to bring life’s lemons to Him, so that God can sweeten them and make us more holy and good.