Burnt But Not Bitter

Joyce MeyerBy Joyce Meyer7 Minutes

I think we’d be amazed if we knew how many people are walking around with bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness in their hearts.

Bitterness often begins with the little things. When people wrong us in some way, it’s tempting to store it away in our memory and never forget. Apart from the help of the Holy Spirit, our natural inclination is to “keep score” and want to make people pay for what they’ve done.

However, this is how a root of bitterness gets planted. First, we get offended, then we allow that offense to fester and grow. Hebrews 12:15 (AMP) says, “See to it that no one falls short of God’s grace; that no root of resentment springs up and causes trouble.”

You see, regardless of how big or small the offense, God commands us to keep a clean heart so we can continue to grow in Him and experience the freedom He has created us for. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

I recently saw a movie that really impacted me. The main character had been mistreated very badly, but he eventually chose to forgive the person. Even his wife asked him, “How can you forgive?” His answer has stuck with me ever since. He replied: “If you forgive, you only have to do that once. But if you hate, you have to do that every day for the rest of your life.”

So, I ask you: Has someone hurt or cheated you? If they have, don’t let them continue hurting you every day of your life. When you choose to forgive someone, you are taking your life back!

For years, I used to be controlled by my emotions. If I was upset at Dave about something, I could go days without talking to him. Or if someone rubbed me the wrong way at church, I was really good at holding a grudge.

Of course, I was the one who lost my peace and joy while the other person had no idea I was even upset. But it wasn’t only me—my anger and bad attitude also created a toxic atmosphere in my house and affected my family and those around me.

It was a great day when I realized I could do the right thing even when I don’t feel like doing it. And when we do, something marvelous happens—our feelings catch up with our decisions.

You see, God desires for us to grow and mature to the place where we’re not always led around by our feelings. He desires for us to obey His Word and choose to forgive others even when we’re right and even when the other person doesn’t seem very sorry. 

The truth is, life isn’t always fair. But God is fair, and He will make wrong things right if we continue to trust Him. If we allow Him to, He can take our bad experience and work it out for our good.

Just look at the life of Joseph. Genesis tells us that as a young man, Joseph had great dreams for his life. But his older brothers resented him and sold him into slavery, and he was taken to Egypt.

Now, let’s stop right here. If Joseph allowed himself to stay hurt and offended and never forgave his brothers, I don’t think anyone would have blamed him. However, Joseph refused to grow bitter and let this stop him. As a result, he found great favor with his master, Potiphar, and was eventually put in charge of his entire household.

Years later, Joseph faced another test when Potiphar threw him in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. But he still didn’t allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root, and the Lord eventually gave Joseph an opportunity to interpret a dream for Pharaoh, who then promoted him to the highest official in Egypt!

Joseph literally went from the pit to the palace. Then, years later, when a famine struck the land, the Lord used Joseph to save his family and the entire house of Israel.

When Joseph finally came face to face with his brothers, they were petrified because of what they had done to him. But look at what Joseph said: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20 AMP).

Because Joseph was willing to forgive all along the way, God was able to take what was wrong and make it right!

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’ve suffered some painful experiences in the past that have left you struggling to forgive. Or maybe little things are slowly chipping away at one of your relationships and bitterness is attempting to take root in your heart.

Whatever it is, the single greatest thing you can do is forgive and trust God to reward you and make things right. I encourage you to pray and ask for God’s help even before someone offends you!

Because when you’re determined to do what’s right—when you’re ready to forgive others and keep your heart free from anger and resentment—it honors God. And the Bible says that when you honor God, He will honor you (1 Samuel 2:30).