Answers to your questions
Question: Some months ago, I suffered a personal loss that made me wish I were dead. I often still feel that way. I know it’s not right, but sometimes I can’t help being angry with God for having let this happen to me. My friends don’t understand either. They sympathized at first, but then they started telling me to get on with my life. Lately they’ve been avoiding me. I’ve never felt so miserable or so alone. What can I do?
It sounds like you’ve been through a lot! Heartbreaks like the one you experienced aren’t easy to get over—especially if you try to do so on your own or turn only to earthly friends for sympathy and comfort. At times like this, it’s important to remember that Jesus understands what we’re going through, and that His is the best kind of sympathy—full of hope and solutions and an extra large measure of His unfailing love. But sad to say, when these situations have been going on for some time, our own attitudes can sometimes hinder the Lord from showing us all the love He would like to. Bitterness is often the main culprit.
“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you,” the Bible warns, “for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives” (Hebrews 12:15 TLB). Bitterness is a serious spiritual problem, but the Lord has a solution that is both simple and sure: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble [and] I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15).
The best way to keep weeds out of your garden is to not let them get planted there in the first place; the best way to prevent bitterness from springing up in your life is to not let any critical or resentful thoughts take root in your mind and heart.
But what if those negative thoughts are already there?—And what if they’ve been there long enough to take root? Your best hope is to call on Jesus, the Master Gardener, to help you rid your garden of those pernicious weeds. You can’t do it yourself, and even He can’t do it without your help and cooperation. The two of you must work together.
You must first be willing to confess your own wrong attitudes in the matter, and truly want to be delivered. Pride, self-righteousness, criticalness, resentment, vengefulness, spite—all of these are sins that not only lead to bitterness, but also keep you in that state. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Regardless of the circumstances that led to your bitterness, you must be willing to admit that the real problem now lies with you. Then you must completely let go of those ill feelings toward the Lord or others.
To let go, you must first forgive. To obtain mercy, you must be merciful; you must stop holding other people’s mistakes and faults against them (Matthew 6:14-15). If that sounds humanly impossible, that’s because it is. You must ask Jesus to give you enough of His love to mercifully forgive those who have wronged you—and He will. “Love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Do those things, and you will also experience the Lord’s mercy.
What then? How do you keep the weeds from invading your garden all over again? You plant flowers in their place and tend them diligently. Make a conscious effort to think only positive, loving thoughts. Read, absorb, think about, and apply God’s Word to your daily life and interactions with others. His Word will put your life back on a positive course and keep it there. Start with Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Ask God to show you His good purpose in every situation, including those that led to your bitterness, and He will. Happy gardening!
Bitterness is very much like the South American vine known as el matador—”the killer.” Beginning at the foot of a tree, the vine slowly works its way to the top, and as it does, it kills the tree. Bitterness may appear harmless when it is small, but if it is allowed to grow, its tendrils of resentment, malice, and hatred will put a stranglehold on the heart and soul.
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