In the last few years I have noticed that people thrive on being offended.
I guess in some ways, it can make us feel more powerful and important when we can be offended with someone else because it puts us in a place higher than others when you are offended together.
I have been deeply hurt by people in my life that I loved and trusted. And because of the hurt that was left unhealed, I have also been the offender.
When we take up offense, it spreads.
It can start with a simple, “I need to process with you about (subject or someone here)….” and suddenly, you are “processing” your offense with quite a few people.
But you know what I found out? Offense is a deadly virus. It’s infectious. When we carry an offense, others start to carry it too. And when others are offended and have “processed” with you, in the name of “justice,” you will start to be offended with them too.
Offense is ugly, evil and all a part of the enemy’s plan. It taints who we are to the core, affecting our original, God-given identity.
One poison of offense is bitterness.
Bitterness can be caused by severe pain, grief or regret. It can be experiencing major disappointment at being treated unfairly. It can cause these light feelings of irritation that turn into an intense bitterness of the soul regarding it to something or someone. Bitterness can cause a sharp tongue and a lack of “sweet” in the mind.
One bad experience can offend our hearts and cause a bitter root to grow without us even realizing it.
Many of us hold onto bitterness as a way to ‘do something’ about what was done to us. We want justice or vengeance for what was done to us. It may seem like this someone is ‘getting away with it’ if you let this wrong go. Being entrapped in bitterness is a vicious cycle that can be hard to let go of.
Bitterness is a deep rooted weed that steals your inner peace and starts working against you.
It prevents us from bearing fruit in our lives, and if left unattended and unhealed, it can become a generational curse leaving children with a heavy burden to bear.
Watch over each other to make sure that no one misses the revelation of God’s grace. And make sure no one lives with a root of bitterness sprouting within them which will only cause trouble and poison the hearts of many.” - HEBREWS 12:15
There are so many stories in the Bible that give examples of a bitter woman. But let’s take a look at Naomi, a favorite story of mine, and a true redemptive story. When Naomi is first introduced, she has suffered much! Famine, widowhood, living in a strange land and the death of her two sons. Because of all of her losses and deep grief, she shuts down emotionally and tries to push away her two daughter in-laws.
“But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Ruth 1:20-21
Naomi means pleasant, and Mara means bitter. Naomi refuses her own name because she felt that God had dealt her some unfair circumstances. The grief she endured caused a root of bitterness which then caused her to believe the lie that God was the source of her problems. She never pressed into God for comfort, instead she allowed a root of bitterness to overshadow every good thing in her life. Ruth refuses Naomi’s requests, and they return to Naomi’s homeland.
God ends up using the last of Naomi’s personal connections, her distant relative Boaz and daughter-in-law Ruth. God restores happiness and a family line to Naomi’s life. In fact, this very line would eventually include the Messiah, Jesus Christ. (How awesome is that?!) Ruth’s commitment in staying with Naomi is such a fine example of someone remaining patient, loyal and loving towards someone struggling with bitterness.
Of course when trials come, emotions follow. Our feelings are valid! Bitterness is a response to a real pain experienced. But it becomes dangerous territory when we allow those emotions to reign and rule our views and allow the enemy to twist our perception of what God says about our situation.
Bitterness is dangerous when we process with people first and not God first. It's dangerous when we want others' opinions to agree and say they affirm our justice for us. When in fact, God can only bring justice for us.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” -JEREMIAH 17:9
We must remember, it is because of Jesus, it is because of the cross that we do not have the right to be offended and bitter.
When bitterness is evident in our lives, we can turn it around in a way where we don't deny righteousness or justice, but uphold love, mercy and truth.
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1b-2)
~ Stefanie Rodriguez