Bitter to Better part 1
Sometimes our lives become like a black cup of coffee. Sometimes we find ourselves, for one reason or another,  bitter. Just bitter at life. Do you ever find yourself like that? Do you ever feel like you need a little cream and sugar in your life? Do you ever feel like you need a lot of cream and sugar in your life? Just give me something to take the bitterness out of my heart. Have you ever been there? I have.
[Relative trying to tempt me into sin yearly story.]
The way that others treat us can really create bitterness in our lives. People who betray us, people who hurt us, people who use us and people who abuse us can really be a source of discouragement and bitterness.
But not only can people arise bitterness in our lives, but the trials of life can bring us down in such a way that bitterness is the result. The loss of a job, sickness and disease and the death of a loved one can be serious sources of discouragement and bitterness.
And we’ve all been there at times. We’ve all felt so bitter that we’ve become numb to the joy and the peace that the Lord wants us to live in. Life has become a chore because we’ve become callous and skeptical of everyone and everything. Bitterness has set in.
Whether its people who have caused us pain or its life’s trials that test us, the pain is hard to deal with. And if we don’t correctly address the situation, any of us could become bitter.
But you know you can go  from bitter to better today with the Lord’s help.
This week we’ll be focusing on what to do when people cause us pain and next week we’ll look at life’s trials that test us. So as we begin, let’s look at what the Lord says about the bitterness that’s in our lives.
[Read Ephesians 4:31.]
God wants us to get rid of the bitterness that’s within us. Get it out of our lives! God says that we should clean house when it comes to all our bitterness and all the negativity that goes along with it. And look at all the baggage that bitterness brings with it: rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice.
How often have you seen someone’s demeanor change because their bitterness has turned into rage and anger? All the time, right? Have you ever heard, “Every time I see that person I just get so angry!” I’ve been there. Just the presence of the person I’m holding bitterness against, even the mention of their name, could set me off. Bitterness has turned into rage and anger.
And how often have we seen someone’s bitterness turn into brawling, or fighting, and slander and malicious intent towards the person they’re angry with? Constantly.
You show me someone who has been bitter for any length of time with another person and there’s a good chance that their bitterness is moving them to take revenge on them. “I’ll get you back for what you did to me!” Whether they’re outspoken in their slander or passively aggressive, they’ll do their best to make others feel the same pain that they feel.
Bitterness unchecked can be a damaging force – not only in the life of the one who’s bitter, but in the lives of those around them.
God doesn’t want us to live like that. God doesn’t want us walking around mad at the world and without the joy that life has to offer. God has promised to bless our lives with love, joy and peace. But bitterness can sometimes rob us of all that God wants to give us.
So what’s the answer? How in the world do we either avoid becoming bitter or get rid of the bitterness that we carry around in our lives? The answer lies in the example of Jesus Himself.
[Read Ephesians 4:32.]
Based on the example of Jesus’ life of kindness, compassion and forgiveness, we are to in like manner treat others the same way. We’re to be kind, we’re to be compassionate and we’re to forgive those who’ve hurt us.
You see, as God is telling us to get rid of the bitterness in our lives, He’s in the same breath telling us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving. And that especially goes for the ones who’ve caused the bitterness.
Many times when someone has wronged us and hurt us badly we just write them
off. We just figure it’s easier to ignore them than deal with them. But the bitterness is still there. And it’ll rear it’s ugly head when that person walks into the room or their name is mentioned.
Sometimes instead of ignoring them, we go after them and try and get them back for what they’ve done. Revenge doesn’t alleviate bitterness, it accelerates it!
Bitterness needs kindness, compassion and forgiveness. (Just like black coffee needs a little cream and sugar.)
So how in the world does this play out? I mean, how do you actually  be kind to someone who has caused you pain?
Well, kindness doesn’t mean that you have to become someone’s bff; (that’s text messaging code for ‘best friends forever’.) It doesn’t mean that you have to go out of your way to befriend that person. I don’t think the Lord would expect you to invite out to lunch the person who told you that, “You’re so clumsy you get tangled up in a cordless phone.” Or, “You better hide the garbage man is coming!” Or, “The last time I saw a face like yours I threw it a fish.” You don’t have to go hang out and be a chummy with them. But when there is time for interaction with them, you must be kind to them.
The word used for kindness here comes from a two different Greek words. One means to touch gently and the other means to be useful. Isn’t that something? Combined we have the word kind or kindness that means to treat someone in a way that’s gentle and useful.
Wait a minute! They weren’t gentle with their words towards me! And nothing they did to me was useful even in the smallest way.
I know. I’ve been there. But other’s actions aren’t my responsibility. My actions are. And the Lord will hold me responsible for how I treated others regardless of how others treated me.
And you know what, when you put this principle into practice, it gives you so much personal freedom. When you are consistently kind to those who are, shall we say, less then kind towards you, you can walk away with a clean conscience. You can walk away victorious over sin. You can walk away being the ‘bigger person’ – which is so much better than stooping to the level of an unkind person.
Okay, let’s think about it practically. Here comes your worst enemy walking down the hall right in your direction. You two are the only people in the hall at that time. What do you do?
a. Start coughing in an effort to act distracted and unable to greet the other person.
b. Ignore them as you walk past but as soon as their peripheral vision of you is gone you turn around and make a ‘mean’ face towards them.
c. Greet them in politely treating them as you would want to be treated.
Jesus wants us to be kind towards one another, imitating His life and bringing
Him glory. Maybe that kindness might even be the step needed to bring you and whoever you’re mad at together. Kindness can make you go from bitter to better.
We’re also instructed to  be compassionate to one another. Even to those who have wronged us. The Scripture tells us to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.” And it’s not a suggestion from the Lord, it’s a command. But when you think about it, it’s so practical.
Compassion is that deep feeling of sympathy and sorrow for someone who’s less fortunate than you. Someone who’s life isn’t what it should be. And if there’s someone out there who feels like they have to tear you down to make themselves feel better, aren’t they the one to be pitied? Aren’t they the one with the real problems? Oh they try and tell us what’s wrong with us while they’re the one with the problems. So instead of looking at that person as a thorn in your flesh, look at them with compassion.
Scripture records many examples of Jesus having compassion for people. Compassion for the sick, compassion for the demon-possessed, compassion for the hungry, compassion for ones who had lost loved ones; Jesus was a man of compassion. Turn over to Matthew chapter 9 where we’ll see an example of Jesus’ compassion.
[Read Matthew 9:35-36.]
Jesus saw people for who they really were – lost souls trying to eke out an existence here on earth. He didn’t see the annoyance they were to Him, He had compassion on them because they were the ones who had the real problems.
And that compassion moved Him to reach out to them in love, heal their infirmaries, and give them the Truth that would change their lives!
Let’s try to not focus so much on the grief that others cause us, but on the grief that must be inside of those people.
Have you ever had someone who is constantly putting you down? Have you ever had someone who is always trying to ‘one-up’ you? You know, you tell a story and then they feel like they have to tell a better story than yours.
“The other day I went fishing and caught a 5 pound bass!”
“Oh yea, well the other day I went fishing and caught a…1000 pound great white shark! Using a cane pole! In a canoe! Blindfolded!”
You know why people do that? Because for one reason or another they feel small inside. They feel insecure about who they really are. So if they can bring you down maybe they will look better.
Now who has the real problem? The person who has to put up with the hurtful remarks or the person who is so insecure they feel like they need to put others down?
The point is, people don’t hurt us because it’s the right thing to do. People don’t hurt us because we need it. People hurt us because they are hurting inside. Have compassion on them. It can make you go from bitter to better.
And finally, the Lord asks us  to forgive those who have sinned against us.
[Read Ephesians 4:31-32.]
This might be the hardest one of all, but I promise you, it’s the most important attitude you need to have towards people who have wronged you.
It’s hard because we hurt. It’s hard because people are often not sorry for what they’ve done. It’s hard because people sometimes keep doing those hurtful things. It’s hard because we want to see justice. It’s hard because guess what, we’re sinners too.
But Jesus forgives us for our sin. Jesus forgives us even when we’ve hurt Him. Jesus forgives us over and over again for the same sins. As a matter of fact, if you are a believer, you are already forgiven for all of your sins – past, present and future. And He died for all our sins – not just the ones we’re sorry for or know about. He died for all our sins and forgives us for them all! We should in turn forgive others regardless of their attitude towards us.
[Read Matthew 18:21-35.]
We need to forgive those who have hurt us.
Should we confront them about what they’ve done? Absolutely.
Should we try our best to resolve the matter? With everything we’ve got.
But at the end of the day, we’re to forgive our fellow man just like Christ forgave us. It doesn’t mean that it still won’t hurt at times. It doesn’t mean that you might not struggle with bitterness at times. But you know, once you forgive someone in your heart for what they’ve done to you, you are no longer a slave to that pain. You are no longer a slave to the bitterness. You are free to go from bitter to better once you decide to not hold someone’s sin against them any more.
Let me say that again. You are free to go from bitter to better once you decide to not hold someone’s sin against them any more.
 Are you struggling with bitterness this morning? Is there someone in your life, or someone from your past, that has hurt you so bad that bitterness has set in?
Seek to show them kindness. Have compassion for them. Forgive them.
We’re going to worship the Lord through communion in a few moments. But before we do, let’s spend a few moments dealing with this. Look inside and see if you’re holding bitterness against someone. Because how can we come to the table that calls us to remember the sacrifice made for our forgiveness when we’re holding onto unforgiveness in our hearts for someone else.
If you need to come to the altar and pray, there’s plenty of room. And if you need someone to pray with, we’ve got plenty of deacons, deaconesses, and myself with whom you can pray with. Forgive others today and go from bitter to better.