How Do I Cope with Bitterness?

How can we forgive but still feel resentment at times?
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier
Some while ago my husband left me for another woman. I have tried to entertain a forgiving spirit (even though he has never asked for my forgiveness), but at times, especially if I see him in public somewhere, I have flashes of anger and resentment. I feel guilty about this, and I am concerned for my soul. Can you offer any suggestions?"

While I cannot know the facts in your case, my initial impression is that your disposition appears to be generous. Your emotions, understandably, are very normal.

I must commend you for your forgiving spirit. Although ultimate forgiveness lies only with God, there is a temperament of compassion and a willingness to forgive that must characterize the truly spiritual person.

This is not easy to achieve when a person has been wounded so deeply. But the person who can summon the spiritual toughness to pardon his offenders will find a treasure of tranquility to their soul.

Paul writes about the courageous demeanor for which the conscientious child of God should strive. And note the two sides of the coin, as emphasized by the apostle.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32).

If we reflect on the almost countless sins for which we have needed forgiveness from God, how can we grudgingly maintain an atmosphere of hostility toward those who have offended us, even when the offense is so painful.

This uncompassionate attitude is hostile to the Lord (cf. Mt. 18:28ff; especially see “wroth,” i.e., “angry” – v. 34). It is a significant detriment to the soul that seethes and ruminates over past injuries.

Having said that, one would have to be of greater fortitude than most of us, not to retain at least occasional and fleeting moments of pain and anger. While memory is a great blessing, it can be a library of anguish as well.

The issue, then, is this.

The person who wants to be healthy spiritually must not let former frustrations consume him. When moments of rage and bitterness “fly o’er your head, let them not nest in thy hair.”

Shake it off. Ask the Lord for grace to cope. And redirect your attention to things more pleasant on which to meditate (see Phil. 4:8).

But we need not, in my judgment, be overly burdened for the frailty of having an occasional lapse of frustration over wounds not yet completely healed.