Joel Osteen — Beating Bitterness
I want to talk to you today about, "Beating bitterness". We all go through things that are not fair. People do us wrong, we didn't get the promotion, came down with an illness. You can't stop life from happening to you but you can choose how you respond.
If you hold on to the hurt, you go around dwelling on the offense, thinking, "Why did they say that about me? Why did I lose my loved one? Why did that friend walk away"? Then you're opening the door to bitterness. When you're bitter, it affects every area of your life. Bitterness poisons your attitude to where you see things in a negative light.
Bitter people don't have good relationships, they're easily offended, they'll jump down your throat for the smallest thing. It's not you, it's the bitterness coming out, and you may have a good reason to be bitter, something was unfair, but holding on to it is only going to make it worse. It's going to steal your dreams, rob you of your joy. Bitterness can keep you from your destiny.
Now I know people that are still bitter over something that happened 30 years ago. Bitter because they were mistreated growing up. Bitter because a relationship didn't work out. You have to let it go. God sees what's happening, he knows what wasn't fair, he knows who walked away, and he knows how to make it up to you. He knows how to bring you out better. Let it go and trust him to be your vindicator.
The longer you hold on, the harder it is to get rid of. The more you dwell on it, the more you relive it, the more you let it bother you, the deeper it gets planted. The key is forgive quickly. Let go of things you don't understand quickly.
When the questions come up, "Why did this happen? This isn't fair". When you feel the bitterness trying to take root, right then, "God, I'm turning this over to you. I know you're my vindicator. I know you'll make my wrongs right. You said you'd give me beauty for these ashes".
I've found bitterness is always knocking at the door. You didn't get the contract, bitterness will come. Have a chip on your shoulder, that's not fair. The medical report wasn't what you wanted, bitterness will show up. You prayed, you believed, why didn't God answer your prayer? That's bitterness trying to come in. At the office, a co-worker says something to try to make you look bad in front of people.
Just a little offense, just a small seed. If you ignore it, no big deal. But if you start dwelling on it, start thinking of how you can pay them back, next time you see them you give them the cold shoulder, then that little seed will begin to take root. Before long, it will grow and pollute other areas of your life.
That's why it says in Hebrews: "Make sure that no root of bitterness springs forth and causes trouble and many become contaminated by it". Notice, it refers to bitterness as a root. You can't see a root. It's hidden, it's underground. But here's the problem. A bitter root produces bitter fruit. If you have a root of bitterness it will contaminate your life.
I know a young man that became disgruntled with his employer. His boss was an older man and he didn't feel like he'd been treated fairly. He moved on to another state but over the years he never let it go. He became more and more offended, kept talking about it, bringing up all the ways he wasn't treated right.
His boss was good to him, he was generous and kind. There were just little things this young man kept dwelling on, blowing it out of proportion, and because he wouldn't let it go, that small offense turned into a root of bitterness. He used to be happy, fun to be around. Now he's bitter, sour, has a chip on his shoulder. It's affecting his relationships. It's affecting his career.
Proverbs says: "Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life". One of our most important responsibilities is to keep our heart pure. Life is too short to live offended, not forgiving, bitter over what didn't work out. You have to guard your heart. It's easy to let what's on the outside get on the inside. It takes discipline to say, "I'm not going to dwell on that offense. I'm not going to go around feeling sorry for myself because something didn't work out".
You only have so much emotional energy each day. It's not an unlimited supply. Do you know how much energy it takes to hold a grudge, to go around offended? That's wasting valuable energy that you need for your dreams, for your children, for your destiny. Quit letting what's on the outside get on the inside, start guarding your heart.
The Apostle Paul had plenty of opportunities to live offended. He said in one place, "Alexander the coppersmith did me great wrong but I'm not worried. I know God will pay him back". That's a mature attitude. "Somebody did me great wrong but I'm not upset, not bitter, don't have a chip on my shoulder. I know God is fighting my battles. I know God will be my vindicator". W
hat's interesting is you can't see a root but a root is where the tree gets life. We see the outside, the leaves, the branches, but the roots are what's feeding the tree. When your roots are healthy, positive, hopeful, then that's feeding you encouragement, life, strength, hope. The problem is if you have bitter roots, you're not being fed the right things.
You wonder why you don't have any energy, why you don't laugh anymore, why you don't dream like you used to. It's because those bitter roots are feeding you bitterness, self-pity, anger. That's draining all the strength, the passion, the joy. They're feeding you what they are.
The good news is you don't have to live with bitter roots. You need to ask God to show you what's causing you to be bitter. Maybe there's somebody you need to forgive. Maybe it's a dream that didn't work out. You're still sour about it. Maybe it's a mistake you made and you're still beating yourself up. If you'll be honest with yourself and say, "God, help me to get rid of this root of bitterness. God, I'm still angry over what happened when I was 10, still sour over the person that left. Still grieving over my loved one that I lost 12 years ago. God, I don't want to be bitter. I want my passion back. I want to love again like I used to. I want to dream again. God, help me to let it go and move forward". That's the first step to getting rid of a bitter root.
Find out what it is and ask God to help you. You can't do it on your own. Ask him to help you forgive the person that hurt you. Ask him to help you release the bitterness, the resentment. When you get those contaminants out, you'll not only feel the weight lift off of you but you'll get your joy back. You'll start dreaming again and you'll see the new things God has in store.
Years ago there was a great outbreak of disease in a small village in Africa. People were being overcome by nausea and sickness and after a couple of months it was so bad people started dying. Word quickly reached the main city and they sent out experts to try to find out what the problem was. After several days of testing they discovered their water was contaminated. This little village got its water from a mountain stream.
The researchers began to travel upstream to find out where the problem was. They traveled for days and days and didn't see anything wrong. They finally came to the source of the stream. Everything on the surface looked fine. They decided to send some divers down to get as close to the source as possible. Much to their surprise, they found a big mother pig and all of her piglets were stuck right there at the source.
Somehow, the pigs had fallen in and drowned and became wedged right at the opening. Now, all this crystal clear water was being contaminated as it flowed past the dead pigs. All they had to do was remove the pigs and once again the water was perfectly fine.
It's the same principle in life. We all have unfair things that happen, things we don't understand, and too often, instead of forgiving the people that hurt us, instead of letting go of the wrong, we've held on to it and, like those pigs, it's contaminated our stream. We wonder why we're negative, why we can't get along in relationships, why we keep losing our temper.
We think, "This is just who I am". No, that is not who you are. You were created in the image of God. He made you to be happy, healthy, whole, secure, not bitter, angry, resentful. You need to go back and get rid of what's contaminating your stream. You need to find those pigs, forgive the people that did you wrong. They hurt you once; don't let they can't stop your destiny unless you allow them to. You're not forgiving for their sake. You're forgiving for your sake so your stream doesn't stay polluted.
Quit reliving that dream that didn't work out, that business that failed, the contract that didn't go through. Let it go. God has another dream. That was a test. You had to go through those closed doors before you could come to your open doors. It may not have been fair but God saw what happened, and if you'll get rid of the pigs, if you'll turn it over to him, start dreaming again, start believing again, start hoping again, God will pay you back for what didn't work out. He's going to open doors you he's going to bring people better than you ever imagined. What's in your future is much greater than anything you've lost. Now, my challenge: don't let a dead pig keep you from your destiny. Don't let a bitter root contaminate your life. It's time to move forward.
In the scripture a lady named Naomi had some tough times. She was living in a city called Moab. She was a widow. Her husband had died and years later both of her sons were killed, and sometimes life doesn't seem fair. You have more than your share of bad breaks. It's easy to get bitter and give up on your dreams but God wouldn't have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny and, yes, it's difficult but God promises he will give you grace for every season.
He won't let you go through more than you can handle. When that bitterness comes you have to put your foot down and say, "No, I'm not going there. I know God is still in control. I know his plans for me are for good". What you're going through may not be good but God knows how to bring good out of it. But every thought will tell you, "It's never going to get better. You might as well be bitter".
Don't believe those lies. You wouldn't be alive unless God had something amazing in front of you. He has a purpose for you to fulfill. Naomi had gone through so much she thought she was done. She even changed her name. Naomi means "My joy". She changed it to Mara. Mara means "Bitter".
Now when people called her Naomi, she would tell them, "Don't call me that. Call me Mara. I'm bitter, I'm broken, my dreams are shattered. Just let me live in my pain". She let the bitterness get on the inside. Maybe she had a reason. She had been through a lot of losses but just because you've been through loss doesn't mean you're not going to win again.
Doesn't mean you've seen your best days. You may have had bad breaks but don't change your name. God is not finished with you. The enemy doesn't have the final say, God does. Naomi moved back home to Bethlehem. Her daughter-in-law Ruth went with her and I can imagine when her friends saw her they came running out, "Naomi, I can't believe it's you". She said, "Don't be happy for me. I went out full but I'm coming home empty". She was saying, "I went out with my husband, my two sons, but look, now it's just me".
Have you ever gone out full, big dreams, big goals, but things didn't work out the way you had planned? The marriage didn't make it, pregnancy didn't last, contract didn't go through. Like Naomi, you could easily be bitter. But here's how merciful God is. Even though Naomi thought she was done, even though she gave up on her dreams, God said in effect, "Naomi, you started in joy and you're going to finish in joy. You may have changed your name but I didn't change your name. You had trouble in Moab. Don't worry, I have a blessing waiting for you in Bethlehem".
What's interesting is even though Naomi changed her name, the scripture never refers to her as Mara. Have you changed your name, so to speak, to Mara? Are you living bitter, negative, thinking about everything that didn't work out? Do yourself a favor. Get rid of those names you've put on yourself and go back to being who God created you God didn't change your name. He still calls you blessed, prosperous, favored, healthy, strong, victorious.
Go back to your original name. You may have had trouble in Moab, so to speak, but get ready. God has a blessing waiting for you in Bethlehem. Instead of sitting around bitter, Naomi started helping her daughter-in-law Ruth. There was a man Ruth was interested in and Naomi started giving her relationship advice. She told Ruth, "Put on this perfume and wear this outfit and go see this man named Boaz". Naomi turned her focus away from her own problems and started helping somebody else. Her joy began to come back.
When you're tempted to be bitter, one of the best things you can do is get your mind off yourself and go be a blessing to others. Ruth ended up marrying Boaz and they had a baby named Obed. When Naomi saw that little baby she was so excited, it was like something breathed new life, new purpose, back into her spirit.
The scripture says: "A son was born to Naomi". Wasn't even her baby but she took that little baby and raised him like he was her own. This once bitter woman was now more fulfilled than ever. She never dreamed she would be that happy again. God is saying, "My blessing is going to override your bitterness. My favor is going to make up for your pain".
What God has planned for you cannot be stopped by people, by bad breaks, by loss. Even if you change your name, God is so merciful he's still going to do something amazing. He's still going to get you to where you're supposed to be.