I can think of few things more draining than hanging out with someone who is mired in bitterness.
When I remember where I was, back in that pit, I am still amazed and grateful for the ones who listened to me and my kind husband who loved and encouraged me. But I also remember the story of how my two friends grieved and cried over the situation between myself and my great nemesis. They were so sad and frustrated with me! My husband wrote of his deep pain in not being able to help me see truth. Other friends, who just didn’t know what to do, slowly pulled away.
If you are going to get involved with a bitter person, be ready for a tough battle. Get ready to spend a lot of time listening. Pray for extra loads of grace. And remember that we have no power to change anyone.
I think back to the kind friends who spoke truth to me. They said “you are bitter, sister.” I was shocked, taken aback. But I listened. And they were not the first ones to tell me this. Why did I listen to them and not others?
Because I was at my lowest point and was desperate for change. Because I had been crying out to the Lord for help and was ready to listen. Because I believed they truly cared about me. They had demonstrated that by listening to me gripe for hours about the main object of my bitterness. They had sympathized, but not agreed. I felt that they were interested in my welfare and were on my side. So I was ready to hear their gentle words of confrontation.
But it took time. Time for them to prove their care for me. Time they spent listening to the same pity party over and over. And lots of patience and wisdom.
And here’s another thing I have thought about recently: we just don’t know how deep the wounds of others are or understand them fully. Sometimes I hear myself thinking, “they should just do this…” as if I have all the answers. I don’t and I must remember that! Proverbs 14:10 tells us that every heart is different. We can’t see inside the hearts of others. Only Jesus sees and knows. We must ask Him to help and heal in the best way.
So, a few tips in walking with someone:
1. We must be filled with knowledge of what God’s Word says. Colossians 3 says, “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish each other with all wisdom…” We must know what the Bible teaches about anger, forgiveness, harsh words. What does the Bible teach about suffering? About being wronged? We must be ready to point our friend to truth found in scripture.
2. We must be faithful in prayer. We must ask the Lord to do His work in the heart of our friend. We have no power, but wth God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27). Ask and look for miracles!
3. We should ask the Lord for His wisdom in each situation. James 1 promises that we will receive wisdom when we ask for it. Sometimes it’s the right time to listen, sometimes it’s the time to remind or confront. And most importantly: I Corinthians 16:14 says, “Do everything in love”.
4. We must trust God with the results. Our job is to be faithful to pray, love and speak. But the Holy Spirit is the agent of change. It is God’s work to bring people to repentance, not ours. We have no power or strength on our own to transform a life. It is only His doing and so we must ask our gracious Heavenly Father to do the work. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).