The Bitter Heart

Broken. Hurt. Angry. Bitter. An emotional regression and a downward spiral toward division…all too often evidenced in the wider world, even in the church, and sadly in the home. Bitterness is poison to the heart and the fruit of bitterness is destructive to all who lie in her pathway.  Many who are bitter direct their rage toward God, blaming and casting responsibility purposefully or inadvertently in God’s direction. Some blame others, deflecting their bitterness toward those who supposedly created the bitterness in their heart.  No matter the source, the fruits growing out from the root of bitterness  are many. One pastor describes them as “defilement, division, deadness, deception, depression, delirium, damage, and distraction.” Not the kind of fruit any person of faith would want attached to their life!

And, as long as Satan can convince, confuse, and condemn you to believe your bitterness is justified, you will be enticed to remain in the prison of your bitter heart. Yes, the bitter heart is in jail, locked behind the bars of disillusionment and destruction. Job, who has many reasons to remain in such a locked up state of heart and mind, speaks openly of his bitterness:  “I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11); “My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint on myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 10:1). But in the end, even Job is delivered from such emotional prison and “the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before; the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first,” Job 42: 10, 12.

Choosing to stay in a state of bitterness is foolishness. For in a state of bitterness one is kept away from the landscape of joy. A bitter heart is thorny, prickly, and likened to a porcupine, keeping every living object at a distance or harshly struck by the piercing arrows of bitter hatred. To know one with a bitter heart is to see a life wither away into a sorely troubled, emaciated life without much beyond the skeleton of basic existence. Like seeing a starving child or sickly adult, the bitter hearted one is left to struggle simply to breathe and exist. Alone, desperate, troubled, and defiled…the bitter heart is headed to self destruction and spiritual death.

“Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy,” Proverbs 14: 10. Bitterness is what one keeps in one’s heart, no matter if it’s ever shared by the company of others. I know too many bitter people who refuse to admit their brokenness, inner turmoil, emotional abuse, neglect, and collusion. Instead of seeking reconciliation and forgiveness, they hold fast to their angry deception and they are dying a slow, painful relational death…as are those who surround them.  The Apostle Paul speaks directly to such bitter hearts, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 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 misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” Hebrews 12: 15.  For, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness,” 1 John 2:9.  “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth…for where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice…but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” James 3: 14, 16, 17. These biblical truths speak directly to the one who harbors bitterness in the heart. One does not have to live in such a prison; the love of Jesus can indeed set one free to live a life of grace, mercy, peace, and joy.

Are you harboring bitterness in your heart today? To whom or what do you attribute your bitterness? Is it time to be set free from the bondage of your bitter heart? If so, then say yes to the invitation to freedom, grace, and joy in the Lord. Confess your bitterness. Own your brokenness and the hurt you’ve caused and received from another. Release your anger and don’t let it keep a hold on your heart any longer. Pray that God’s Spirit will cast away the enemy’s desire for self and relational destruction. Choose to walk in a renewed and transformed way of being. Don’t turn back; let go and let God heal, strengthen, and restore. Instead of a bitter heart, trust God for a better heart. Allow the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to reign supreme in your heart…with God fully resident in your heart, there will no longer be room for bitterness.

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.