What if someone is harboring bitterness – against you? If they are angry with you and unwilling to discuss or reconcile, what then?
What if you have tried to understand and apologize for what you’ve done to offend them, and they only heap more accusations on you? This is difficult and heartbreaking at the very least. A bitter person by definition is someone who has decided what the truth is already – and will not accept any opposing arguments. They believe the worst of you and judge your motives.
Sadly, there really isn’t anything you can do in this situation other than pray and ask God to break through their hard heart. If you are the object of someone’s bitterness, you are probably the last person who can speak truth to them effectively.
I believe three things are likely to happen in this situation if God doesn’t change their heart and mind:
- You become subservient in this relationship to avoid setting them off. You will go along with all their ideas, agree with everything they say and do everything you can do to pacify them and keep them from becoming angry with you.
- Or you will become angry with them because they are unfairly accusing you. Perhaps they are also controlling others with the threat of their anger and you see that as unacceptable, so you fight back.
- You separate yourself from them and become estranged.
None of these are happy outcomes. If you become their doormat, walking around on eggshells in their presence, the relationship will no longer be mutually beneficial for either of you. It’s not healthy for anyone to live this way! If you become angry yourself, then you are engaging in the same sinful behavior they are and the relationship will become more difficult and messy. Sometimes putting distance between you is the safest solution.
But there is another option: believe God. Believe Him to help you respond righteously in an unfair situation. Trust Him to give you the power to endure and react well.
I Peter 2:20-21 says, “Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (NLT)
Sometimes it’s God’s will for us to suffer. Being unfairly accused and reviled is suffering! But we must be careful not to retaliate in sinful ways, with anger or harsh words. We are called to love, forgive, and pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:28). We’re to do good to those who want to harm us. Perhaps the bitter person will see your example of righteousness and be influenced. Maybe others who are aware of the situation will be impressed with your behavior, your testimony and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. We don’t know what God’s purposes always are, but we know He is good and helps those who trust in Him.
But we must take great care not to be affected by the bitter person’s behavior. We must guard our hearts and be vigilant. Whether they are willing to listen to us or not, we must not join them in that same pit of anger. James 1:20 says man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires for us.
Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
Another thing to remember is that the bitter person is wounded and terribly unhappy. They are trapped in their sin and desperately need to be delivered from it. I once was that person and I promise you they are just as miserable as they are making you!
And finally, don’t forget to pray earnestly for the Lord to work. Ask Him to convict and transform, to do the impossible, to break down the barrier of a hard heart and a closed mind. Ask in faith and watch for a miracle!