When you start to harbor bitterness


Below-the-surface bitterness will eat you up, boil over from within you, burn you. Like fissures in the ground; like volcanoes.

You must not harbor it.

But if we’re not to harbor it, what are we to do? We’re to forgive. Forgive? But forgiveness hurts deeply. Forgiveness feels like the opposite of my natural, self-protective stance. Forgiveness is scary.  Forgiveness feels so hard.  Forgiveness is a miracle of His grace. Yes. It is.

“…Actually no one who has been deeply wronged ‘just forgives’! If someone wrongs you, there are only two options: (1) you make them suffer, or (2) you refuse revenge and forgive them and then you suffer. And if we can’t forgive without suffering, how much more must God suffer in order to forgive us? If we unavoidably sense the obligation and debt and injustice of sin in our soul, how much more does God know it? On the cross we see God forgiving us, and that was possible only if God suffered. On the cross God’s love satisfied his own justice by suffering, bearing the penalty for sin. There is never forgiveness without suffering, nails, thorns, sweat, blood. Never.” (Tim Keller)

Yes, as your Lord suffered with sweat and blood, the deep wrong committed against you may not be casually and easily “just forgiven.” But, by the supernatural work of the Spirit, you can, when you sense yourself beginning to battle inner bitterness, pray to “cut the legs out from under bitterness and low-boiling anger.” I’ve found this short video helpful: How do I forgive someone who refuses to say sorry? Pray, as you watch and listen. Pray to be able to understand, and to obey God’s best for you. His ways are foreign to your natural ways.

But you’ve been recreated for His way; for entering into “strange and foreign grief on behalf of another person.” For forgiveness. For refusal of revenge or harbored bitterness. For refusal, even though you suffer.

“Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13)

Painting: Volcano, by Lionel Walden (1861-1933)



About Jill

I'm a wife, mom to three beautiful children, and work as children's ministry director at Redeemer PCA in Athens, GA, a place our family treasures as our church home. It's been thirty years since the Lord saved me, and to this day I'm astounded at His steadfast love shed upon unfaithful me. My hope would be that I might speak and write in ways God would use to soften hearts toward Him, that we would together be enamored by the glorious beauty of Jesus and awakened to His love unimagined. Thanks so much for reading!
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2 Responses to When you start to harbor bitterness

  1. This is beautiful and so timely. Thank you.

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