Bible Studies for Life
Satan is alive and well, always strategizing to bring you down. One of his greatest ways to attack us is by convincing us that that being bitter is acceptable. Yet here is reality:
“As you go through the emotions that we have, hostility is not from God; bitterness, unforgiveness, these are all attacks from Satan.”1
“Relationships can only move forward with forgiveness.”2
Many people live their lives being consumed on the inside. Sometimes the outside looks fine, sometimes it doesn’t, but their inside is burning itself alive. To paraphrase an old saying, “Bitterness is like drinking poison hoping it will kill your enemy.” While some are consumed by bitterness, others find the deliverance that comes through the power of Jesus Christ.
Choosing against bitterness
Recently, we have been looking at the life of Joseph, the Old Testament patriarch. Sold into slavery, betrayed by his master’s wife, and forgotten in prison, Joseph, from a human perspective, had every right to be bitter. He had every right to hold a grudge. He had every right to live a life of silent seething, awaiting the opportunity to exact revenge on those who had wronged him.
Yet, Joseph chose against bitterness. There is no evidence in the Bible that Joseph harbored any desires for revenge. On the contrary, when he was able, he helped his family out of great distress.
After being promoted by the Egyptian Pharaoh to a very powerful position, Joseph was able to provide for the physical needs of the entire country. His family, also feeling the effects of a terrible famine, was blessed by Joseph’s wisdom.
It bears remembering that Joseph could never have been forced to help his brothers and their families. And because they did not recognize Joseph, they never would have known it was their long lost brother who sent them to their doom. But, because Joseph had not allowed bitterness to control him, his brothers were blessed instead of cursed.
Lessons from Joseph about overcoming bitterness
What can we learn from Joseph? Here are three lessons from Joseph about overcoming bitterness.
1. Joseph always remembered God. Joseph recognized God’s hand at work. It was this attitude that allowed him to forgive.
2. Joseph took the opportunities God placed before him. Whether leading in Potiphar’s house, leading in jail, or leading in Pharaoh’s palace, Joseph did not waver. With every open door, Joseph moved forward. Bitterness would have made it difficult for Joseph to have found favor at every turn.
3. Joseph chose to bless those who had hurt him. When the brothers who had sold him into slavery showed up in Egypt hungry and in need of food for their families, Joseph made sure they received provision. He did put them through severe testing, to be sure, but they, their families, his father, and a brother he had never met received enough food to survive.
Question: Will you choose to overcome bitterness by remembering God, taking the opportunities God brings your way, and blessing those who have hurt you?
Being consumed with bitterness is no way for a follower of Jesus to live. Bitterness intrudes on the peace that Jesus died to give us. Forgiveness releases us to enjoy peace and freedom in Christ.
1– Dr. Charles Stanley
2– BSFL Fall 2014, Overcome, Alex Himaya