When I looked back at the road that had led me to the other side of the door, I discovered a deadly disease, a hidden cancer that had affected me for years but one that I never truly knew the extent of until this point. It was the deep infection of bitterness. We all have potential for it and many of us have felt its stinging wounds. You may even be struggling with it as you read this post.
This disease of the soul is so easy to contract because adversity happens to all of us - offenses and hurts take place all the time and, in our pain over the situation, it is so easy to begin to resent what happened and even to resent the source of it. This is especially common in marital or family problems where people take sides over an issue and get to a point where they can't even speak to or be with the source of the hurt, let alone even dream of forgiving and moving on.
Until I ventured further into the chasm, I had no idea just how deeply this infection had gone. I was bitter over certain aspects of my father's illness; I was bitter over a crumbling friendship; I was bitter over some recent deaths that had happened as well. Most of all, I was bitter at God. As I reflected on all that was going on, it appeared to me that He had made a mistake...many of them, actually.
We can all find reasons to be bitter - perhaps someone mistreated us and we feel we got the bad end of the stick; maybe we received a terrible diagnosis from which we aren't expected to recover; maybe some tragedy has just taken away somebody dear to us. Whatever the reason, we can very easily resent what has taken place and promise ourselves inwardly that we will never move on.
But not only does this eat away at us on in the inside, it is often contagious. Bitter people breed bitterness in other people. Hebrews 12:14-15 says that it is better to "...follow peace with all men...lest any man fall from the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." To become bitter and resentful toward others and your circumstances not only robs you of a whole and freeing life but it robs others around you of it, too.
When people are bitter about their circumstances, blame seems to be a common outlet for their frustration and pain. They will often find someone else to put the responsibility on and say that it's their fault that life turned out this way. Many will even take it so far as to blame God.
As I referenced before, I was once at this place. In my eyes, God wasn't being fair. Quite honestly, as I kept getting knocked down time after time, I stopped trusting Him at all.
Seriously...who wants to love a God that just keeps letting bad things happen to you?
The longer things went on, the more places and people I sought to hold "accountable" for what was going on in my life:
If only they had done such-and-such, things wouldn't be this way...
And by the way, God, You just keep saying You're a God of love, but until I see things looking up, I'm not going to believe it.
There's an old saying that, "for every time you point your finger, there's another finger pointing back at you." What I came to realize in time is that much of what I sought to lay on others (or on God) as responsible for my situation was, in reality, my own fault. I'm not saying that the actual circumstances were my fault but the bitterness, the anger, the disillusionment were nobody else's fault except my own. I alone was responsible for my emotions and my feelings. Blaming others didn't do anything to fix my circumstances and only served to keep me in denial that much longer. While I had no control over the actions of others, I did have control over my responses and and how I was going to let my situations affect me in the future. No matter how hurtful my outward situation might have been, it was of no benefit to find another source to blame for how I felt. I was the one who had to choose how I was going to deal with my adversity.
I also realized that, while God had allowed these trials to come upon me, He was not the cause of what happened and thus was exempt from any fault as well...because He's the perfect and true God who never does anything amiss. My getting angry at Him was useless - just like it was with anybody else.
Denial often keeps us from seeing the truth, and blaming others for where we are now is a form of denial. We cannot expect ourselves to acknowledge and deal with the hurts of our past until we accept our responsibility in the matter. We must look to ourselves first, and not to others, to determine the source of our bitterness.