Pain comes to us all. We all experience different types and severity of pain throughout our lives. Mine started in childhood. I grew up in a family where I wasn’t liked very much. What you grow up with is your “normal”, and I didn’t think about it until I attended a Christian college and observed the families of my friends. Some of the people I met came from loving families with wonderful, godly parents. In comparison, I realized how much I had missed!
I got married during my last year in college and the wedding planning process was not a pleasant one. My mother and I agreed on very little and argued constantly, mostly over money. My parents wanted to spend money on things that were important to them, not the things that were important to me. One of our big fights was over the wedding photography and my parents insisted that my brother could take the pictures well enough. They didn’t see the need to hire a professional, and I was so upset, I just knew the pictures would be awful. And they were! My dreams of having a beautiful wedding album were gone. For years I would wake up in the middle of the night and cry about my wedding photos.
After I had children, I was dismayed at my parents’ lack of interest or attention to them. I wanted my kids to have doting grandparents, and they didn’t, at least on my side. We did have my husband’s parents, brother and family living nearby and that side of the family became very dear and necessary to me. But a few years later, a job change caused them to move over 1,000 miles away. That same year, my older sister was diagnosed with lung cancer and a dear friend at church confessed to a heinous crime and went to prison. The following year, my sister passed away and I was done.
I felt like God had abandoned me, and I couldn’t handle the pain. I fell into depression and was a complete zombie. It took well over a year before I somewhat recovered.
Years later as I studied the book of James, I realized I had not believed God or followed His prescription for dealing with the hard things I’d faced.
James 1: 2-4 tells us to count it all joy when we face trials and that perseverance and maturity will be the result. How does that work?
I can’t even imagine praying, “Lord, thank you, I’m counting it all joy that my dear sister is dead!” What?? But perhaps my prayer could have been, “Lord, thank you that you love me and are good and I am trusting that you are going to bring good things out of this tragedy. Please heal my heart and equip me to go on. I don’t like it at all, but I accept it as Your will for my life. Please show me how to trust you more and love you and others through this!”
James 1 tells us:
- We are to trust God, believe Him, and obey Him. Believe that He is sovereign and good and working all things together in His perfect plan.
- We develop perseverance and our faith is strengthened and grown as a result of enduring and clinging to Him.
- If we lack wisdom, we can ask and He will supply it so we can live rightly, and move forward with our lives.
- In other places we are told that Jesus is our healer. As He heals our wounds, we are eager to see others healed and blessed. See Psalm 30:2, Jeremiah 33:6, Malachi 4:2, Luke 9:11, James 5:16, I Peter 2:24.
Instead, what I did:
- I wallowed in self-pity and became angry at God and everyone around me: “Nothing goes right for me, no one loves me, God can’t be trusted, my life is hopeless.” I persisted in unbelief.
- I turned away from God and into myself. I buried myself in books, movies and food to numb my pain. I neglected my husband and children.
- I rarely prayed, instead I turned to medication and sought counseling.
Please let me be clear, I don’t believe it’s wrong to seek out counseling or take medication for depression. But my Christian counselor and other books said that depression can be caused by sin. My sinful response to my pain may have caused or heightened my depression.
And even after I “recovered” I still had no joy. I was still angry much of the time, for any and all reasons! It was affecting my family and everyone around me. Finally a trusted friend confronted me and called it by its name: Bitterness.
This so shocked and appalled me that I determined I was going to figure out what it was, and beg the Lord to heal and change me! He did, and the end of the story is a miracle of what God can do! All praise and glory go to Him and I’m eternally grateful.
Scripture gives us two clear passages that warn us and define bitterness for us.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (In contrast, or instead…) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.Hebrews 12:15
From these two passages, I began my journey to discover how I’d become bitter, and how to break free.
I wrote my story down in a book “Bitter Truth: My Story of Bitterness, Grace and Repentance.” Later I wrote a workbook/Bible study called “Bitter Truth Study Guide: 10 Lessons to Fight Bitterness”. Both are available on Amazon.com or in the Glen Eyrie bookstore.
Whatever kind of pain you’ve experienced and no matter how badly you reacted in the aftermath, Jesus can redeem it and bring healing and joy! I am living proof of this.