We can’t travel through life without experiencing hurt and disappointment. The simple truth is that people let us down—and we let them down too. Those hurts and disappointments can lead to bitterness that will consume us if we let it.
How do you know if you’re a prisoner of bitterness? Consider these questions.
Do little things irritate you? Do you blame others for your trials and troubles? Do you feel emotionally flat, quickly become fatigued, or lose interest in life? Are you easily frustrated and get defensive? Are you negative and critical of others? Do you justify your bad attitude by placing the blame on them? Do you withhold communication and withdraw from others? Do you envy someone else’s life? Do you replay scenarios in your head and reopen old wounds? Are you plotting revenge?
If you answered yes to anything above, a poisonous root of bitterness may be growing in your heart. I suggest you deal with it now before it chokes the life out of you.
Bitterness is a trick Satan uses to imprison us. He wants us to perish in the poison of bitterness and take others down with us. That’s why the writer of Hebrews 12:15 warns us to “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you” (NLT).
I experienced many disappointments as a child, and bitterness took root in my heart. Those letdowns hurt and made me angry. Over time, unresolved anger fed the bitter root. It grew and enslaved me.
In the prison of bitterness, I blamed others for my circumstances. I lost everything precious—my mind, children, health, and freedom. When I finally realized the problem was my bitter heart, I found freedom with God’s help and the truth of His Word.
Here are some keys to coming out of a prison of bitterness:
Forgive the offender and the offense. The world wants us to be bitter, but Jesus calls us to be better (Romans 12:2). That’s why He instructs us to forgive one another as many times as it takes (Matthew 18:22).
While He was hanging on the cross. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NLT). Jesus understands our pain. He was hurt, abused, unjustly judged, and crucified. Yet He forgave those who hurt Him and modeled the way to a life of freedom with His dying breath.
Forgiving the offenders and letting go of the offense is difficult. But it is the only way to keep bitterness from poisoning our relationships with God and others.
We like to keep an account of the wrongs that are done to us. Specifically naming the offense releases it to God and clears the cache. And that prevents bitterness from building up and taking root.
Repent of sinful, unholy reactions. According to Ephesians 4:31, bitterness is an evil, sinful behavior in the eyes of God. Therefore, we must repent and ask God’s forgiveness for harboring offense in our hearts. Sin keeps us from experiencing God’s best, and sin spreads to corrupt the hearts of others.
Look for a community of believers that can hold you accountable. Hebrews 12:15 instructs us to “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” It’s hard to do that alone.
God’s plan for you does not involve your being imprisoned by bitterness. You, as His child, have a higher calling. Don’t let Satan outwit you (2 Corinthians 2:10–11). The enemy wants you to believe that you are a victim and that you deserve to get even with those who offend you.. But bitterness leads to darkness and death, and God has called you out of the darkness (1 Peter 2:9).
Bitterness comes when we fail to forgive those who’ve hurt us. Therefore, forgiveness is the cure for a poisoned and bitter heart (Ephesians 4:32). A transformed mind and life must include forgiving others, past, present, and future.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Tell the Lord and receive His forgiveness for harboring bitterness in your heart. Then, ask Him to help you release both the offender and the offense. He will help you.
God never calls us to His higher purposes without equipping us to step forward in faith and live in His will (Hebrews 13:20–21).
SHERIDAN CORREA, MA is a trauma-care biblical counselor. Once mentally ill, drug-addicted, and incarcerated, she has been radically transformed by Jesus Christ and lives a life of victory in all areas of life. She now ministers the same hope and freedom to those held captive by their past and current circumstances. She joined the Victorious Living family in 2022 as the digital content manager.