“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
1 John 2:9-11
This subject has been on my heart for the past several months. The Holy Spirit has been training me to fight bitterness and surrender my pain to God in this season of change, adjustment, and exhaustion. Preparing for marriage is no joke, y’all. As T and I ready ourselves for life’s next adventure, the enemy is using every tactic he has to come against us. He is trying to steal, kill, and destroy God’s most beautiful creation, marriage. Stress and busyness have tried to steal our joy and energy. Exhaustion and misunderstanding have tried to kill relationships. Bitterness and selfishness have tried to destroy T and I’s relationship. Fortunately, God won’t stand for any of it, and neither will we. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered a tendency for bitterness in my heart throughout this engagement. My gut reaction to conflict, aggression, and chaos is obsession. I obsess over what he/she said, I obsess over analyzing their intentions behind their words or expression or choice, and I obsess over protecting myself from letting them hurt me again. I set expectations for whoever has wounded me, falling victim to my hurt and allowing bitterness to bloom.
They are always going to hurt me.
They don’t love/support me.
I can’t trust them ever again.
I’m worthless in their eyes.
These thoughts build a wall against forgiveness, fortifying my bitter heart against Christ’s redeeming love. When Jesus hung on the cross, naked and ashamed, He clothed himself in my pain and brokenness. He felt every moment of self-pity, every moment of shame, every moment of hate that I will ever experience. When He burst through the gates of Hell with fire in his eyes and the keys to death in his triumphant hand, He left the memory of every sin smoldering to ash behind him. My sins were the cause of Christ’s death, but He shook off the burden of bitterness in favor of love. God has every reason to hold my sins against me, but he doesn’t. He sees me in my pain and brokenness, and loves me without expecting anything in return.
So if I’m supposed to be like Christ, how does my bitterness reflect His glory?
Bitterness is a slap in the face to Christ’s love. It is a direct disobedience to the greatest commandment: love God, and love others. There is no love in bitterness, there is no compassion in the unforgiven, there is no mercy in judgment. In fact, mercy triumphs over judgment. Therefore, when I obsess over the wounds I’ve been dealt by others and allow myself to steep in anger and self-righteousness, I build a wall against Christ’s love.
God revealed all of this to me a few weekends ago during a women’s conference at my church. The conference’s theme and title was Breakthrough, but I didn’t believe that I really had any strongholds to break through. I didn’t have a tragic childhood, I’d never had any mental disorders or health scares, and I didn’t think I was currently struggling with anything that was holding me back from God. Isn’t it sweet how God cares about us enough to take us down from our self-imposed pedestals before we fall off and hurt ourselves?
As I was worshipping, I had a mama moment. Personally, God has called me to mother the orphaned and outcast, and to pursue motherhood above any career or ambition. This is going to sound crazy, but instead of getting goosebumps or visions when I’m having an intimate moment with the Spirit, I’ll feel the weight of a child’s hand in mine, or the sensation of holding a baby against my chest. These moments are rare, but they usually precede a major shift in my heart and life. They are also usually baptized in a torrent of tears and ugly sobs, because Jesus wept so why can’t I? I started sobbing for the children God has given me and will give to me, sobbing for their suffering, sobbing for the darkness they walked through every day. Clear as day, the Holy Spirit spoke to me: everyone is suffering in their own way, where are your tears for those who have hurt you? How can I expect you to love my children if you can’t forgive ______?
What do you mean “where are your tears for those who have hurt you?” Don’t you realize that the people who have hurt me deserve my bitterness? They haven’t earned my forgiveness. They’re not poor, they don’t wonder where their next meal will come from, they have every opportunity in the world! Why on earth would I have sympathy for their perfect, American, middle class lives?
Everyone is suffering in their own way.
But God, don’t you remember how she belittled and embarrassed me? Don’t you remember how he abandoned me and lied to me? Don’t you remember how she jumped at the opportunity to criticize my every move? Don’t you remember how he left me defenseless? How on earth can my heart possibly break for their suffering when they’ve caused so much of mine?
It is my job to judge. It is your job to love.
As I sat there, dumbfounded by revelation, I realized that God wanted to breakthrough the resentment I held against childhood bullies, past love interests, and hurt people who hurt people. I thought I was living in the light, but I had hate towards my brothers and sisters in Christ. Bitterness had blinded my eyes to the fact that these people had hurt me because they too, were broken; their struggles were interior rather than exterior. I long to bring restoration to orphans because their pain is obviously life threatening, it’s exterior. But shouldn’t I long to bring restoration to my peers, even if their pain isn’t as noticeable? Maybe he had abandoned me because he had never been taught how to love. Maybe she had criticized and bullied me because she can’t stand who she sees in the mirror. God began revealing the darkness that engulfed my aggressors’ hearts, comparing it with the darkness that engulfs orphans and widows. God doesn’t see brokenness on a circumstantial scale. He doesn’t look at orphans any differently than he looks at businessmen. He sees all of us equally. He loves all of us equally, and that love casts out darkness. He’s given us His love so we can love others, not so we can hoard it and hold it out of certain people’s reach. Jesus died for those who afflicted him, not for those who had perfectly loved him.
So if I’m supposed to be like Christ, how can I harbor resentment in my heart towards his broken children?
Photo Courtesy of Wayfarer Photography