Hurt and Bitterness

Hurt and Bitterness

Have you ever been hurt in your life? Hurt is a universal experience. It's impossible to find anyone in today's society who hasn't been hurt. Last week we saw how words can hurt us, and they can hurt for a life-time. Hurt will develop into bitterness if we fail to respond to the help God can give at that time of being hurt. One of the bad things about bitterness is that it doesn't stop… it keeps getting worse. It may only start as a little seed of hurt, but left untreated, it takes root in our soul, grows and festers into a very dangerous thing that hurts many other people. 

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

I read a story this week about a young man who committed a horrible crime in a New York City park. An old man was resting on a bench reading a paper, and a 16-year-old boy pulled out a huge butcher knife, and stabbed the man about 130 times. When the police finally pulled the boy off the body, he was still stabbing him. They arrested him of course, and they tried to find out why he had done this. For the longest time the boy wouldn't say a thing.

The police asked him, “Look, who was this guy?” Finally, the boy said, “I don't know.” They asked, “Well, what did he do to you?” “Nothing.” “What did he say to you?” “Nothing.” They asked, “You mean you just went up to a total stranger, who didn't do or say anything to you, and killed him?” “Uh, huh.” With disbelief they asked, “Why did you do that?” The boy said, “Do you really want to know? I've got an older brother, and he's really smart, and he's a great athlete, and he's good looking and he's talented and he's everything I'm not. My mother keeps on saying, `Why can't you be famous like your older brother?' and I know there's no way that I'll ever be famous by being talented or smart or anything else. I just figured if I can't be famous that way, I'll be famous some other way. So I thought of the worst possible thing I could do and I went out and did it. At least my mother will remember me now.”

According to the news headlines, we could multiply this story of a young boy's bitterness and desire for love and attention many times across this country every day.

An 8 year old girl wrote her pastor, “Can you help me? My father carries a picture around of my younger brother who is 4 and he looks just like Daddy. He also carries a picture of my older sister who is 15 and very pretty. My Daddy doesn't carry my picture around at all. I gave him a picture of me. I cut it and made sure it would fit in his wallet, but he put it in a drawer. Is there any way I can get my Daddy to carry my picture?”
These are real hurts that happen every single day. Sometimes they happen to little kids, and sometimes they happen to older people. They happen in many different ways, abuse in families, divorces, dishonest deals; it doesn’t’ matter, they are all really painful.

It's not a sin to be hurt. Jesus was hurt, but the way we deal with our hurt makes all the difference in the world. Being hurt is a big enough problem in itself, but if that hurt is not handled in the right way, bitterness will set in. In the end, it is bitterness, not “being hurt,” that will destroy us and other people.

Are you bitter? Let's consider of some of the characteristics of a bitter person:

 (1) They withdraw and don’t communicate. They show a lack of concern for others. A bitter person cares very little about anybody else. They are usually unwilling to help anybody.

(2) They're very sensitive and touchy. They often have a stubborn or sulking attitude.

(3) They tend to avoid meeting new people. They become very possessive with just a few friends who are also bitter. They also have an unnatural fear of losing their friends.

(4) They show little or no gratitude at all. They will usually speak words of harsh criticism.
(5) They hold grudges against people, often for a long, long time. They won’t tell you what you did to offend them; they keep you guessing. They find it extremely difficult to forgive. They point out others faults to justify themselves.

(6) They become openly rebellious and keep bad company with other rebels for encouragement. They heartily defend wrong actions and reject God’s Word.

(7) They end up experiencing mood extremes - very high and happy one minute, and the next thing you know, they're so low they are considering suicide or murder.

Many young, bitter people are wandering around on our city streets in the wee hours of the morning. If you ask them, “What's your father think about you being out?” They'd say, “I don't know who he is.” And then if you ask, “Well, what about your mother?” They'd say, “She don't care if I come home or not.” We can understand this kind of hurt. When it turns to bitterness, our streets become a dangerous place for everyone.

Maybe our kids aren’t wandering the streets, so in order to understand this whole problem more clearly, let's take a look at a typical pattern of hurt in our homes to a boy named Johnny. Many of the hurts that shape our lives start out in early childhood, and seem to multiply and compound as we grow older. Stories like Johnny’s are acted out hundreds of thousands of times each day even in so-called good, Christian families. The details change from person to person, but the hurt remains the same.

Johnny is going to be eight pretty soon, and his dad promises to take him fishing on his birthday. So Johnny gets his calendar and circles his birthday with a big red magic marker, and he starts marking off the days. Dad is a busy man and has a lot of stuff on his mind, so Johnny reminds him every few days, “Don't forget we're going fishing on my birthday.” “Yes,” dad says, “We'll get up early and I'll take you.”

On his birthday, Johnny gets up at 4:00 A.M. Dad is up too. Johnny gets dressed in his fishing clothes and tip-toes down the hall. He finds his dad dressed in a suit! He's got his briefcase and plane ticket in his hand and he's about to run out the door. Johnny is sure his dad has made a mistake! “Where are you going Dad? Aren't we going fishing?” Dad says, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, I can't do it today, but we'll do it some other time. Do you know what I bought you? Here, hurry up and open it.” Johnny quietly asks, “We're not going fishing?” His dad says, “Well look, we can go fishing anytime. I want you to open up your present. I've only got a few minutes.” Johnny shuffles slowly to the package, and just stands there looking at it. Dad's about to miss his plane. “Come on, I can't wait much longer.” So Johnny reluctantly begins to pick little pieces of paper off, bit by bit. He was afraid this would happen, for it wasn’t the first time.

God has given kids an amazing ability to quickly forget hurts and disappointments, but if they keep getting hurt again and again by a parent they love, the hurt will develop into bitterness, and then they don't forget. Such is Johnny’s case.

Dad says, “Look, I haven't got time to watch, but I'll see you in a couple of days, O.K.?” Dad flies off on his plane, and Johnny leaves the present half wrapped. He doesn't even open it.

Dad returns from his trip and asks, “Hey, how did you like the present?” Johnny says, “What present?” “Didn't you open it?” “No.” Dad is not too pleased. “Look, do you know how much money I spent on that fishing rod? Do you know what any other kid would give for something like that?” But deep inside Johnny is hurting and his heart is becoming bitter. He is thinking to himself, “I won't say `thank you' because you keep hurting me.” When we get bitter, we begin to lose respect and affection for the person who has hurt us, and we become very ungrateful.

It doesn't stop, it just gets worse. Now Johnny is 15 years old, and many hurts and disappointments have turned his wounded spirit into a bitter one. Dad comes in from work. “Hey, how about washing the dishes.” “Why do I have to wash the dishes?” Johnny complains. “Because I want the dishes washed.” “Why can't someone else wash the dishes?” “Because I'm your father and I'm telling you to wash the dishes, that's why!” “I always wash the dishes, can't anybody else wash the dishes in this house?”

Since Johnny has lost his love and respect for his father, he begins to reject his authority. Dad thinks, “What I've got to do is tighten the rope a little bit here. I've got to lay down the law. We're going to have some respect in this house!” So dad starts making stricter rules. “I want you to mow that lawn. And if you don't mow the lawn I'm going to ground you for a week.” But Johnny doesn't mow the lawn, so Dad says, “Up to your room and stay there for a week.”

A week goes by, and Johnny hasn't left his room. Saturday morning he comes down the stairs, and tries to pass by his dad fast so he won't see him. He's almost to the door when his father says, “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” Johnny replies, “Out,” Dad bellows, “Come back here!” Johnny comes back, and dad says, “I said you couldn't go out for a week.”  Johnny answers, “It's Saturday, the week is over,” “A week is over when I say it's over,” Dad retorts. “My friends are outside waiting for me,” Johnny says. “Well you're not going to see them today. You're going to go back up in your room until I say you can come down,” commands Dad. Then Johnny yells, “Up yours, Jack!” as he slams the front door and stomps outside.

Now dad realizes he really has a problem on his hands. It's called “open rebellion.” Johnny has rejected his father's authority. So now Johnny is his own boss, but actually he finds it kind of lonely and scary. So he looks for other people to hang out with who are “their own bosses,” too. They all have something in common - loneliness and rejection of authority. Many times groups of kids like this are called gangs. The gang doesn't always have to carry baseball bats and knives or sell drugs. It can be any organization, even a church youth group. They can do all kinds of different things together - but because of their mutual loneliness and rebellion, it's still a gang with a lot of bitterness, trying to console each other.

Now that Johnny has become his own boss, he begins to carry out all the evil desires of his heart that he's been keeping inside. He begins to flaunt his sin. Instead of secret sexual immorality, it is open sexual immorality. Instead of secret drug use, it's open drug use. He not only flaunts his sin, he begins to vigorously defend what he knows is wrong. To do this, he rejects God, the Church, and all authority. He makes his own rules and becomes his own god.

Romans 2:2-5 Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 

As a result, Johnny starts experiencing incredible mood extremes. Ecstasy one minute, and deep depression the next. He can't handle being his own god, life has become meaningless, and he sees no way out. So Johnny starts thinking about suicide and murder.

 Suicide is the ultimate statement of selfishness. It says, “I'll punish the world by taking myself out of it. I'll teach them. I’ll take a bunch of them with me.” Johnny may or may not kill himself or others, but unless he finds healing and restoration in Jesus, his ultimate end is a very bad one.

In bitterness, we focus on what that “horrible person” has done to us. We make an internal filing cabinet with their name on it saying, “Rotten Things This Person Has Done To Me.” Every time that person does even the smallest thing that hurts or bothers us, we file it with the rest of the hurts. We rationalize our bitterness this way, “Well, I'm wrong, but they're worse. I have a good reason to be bitter. You don't know what they did to me.”

Sometimes we hold on to bitterness for revenge. “I'll show you, and you're really going to be sorry.” But who is sorry first? We’re the one who are killing ourselves! We are not only hurt spiritually and emotionally, but physically as well. Bitterness and resentment often bring on all sorts of medical problems, such as ulcers and high blood pressure.

People who carry bitterness can't even enjoy a good meal. They start to eat, but all they can think of is the person who hurt them. What’s more, because they are always thinking about the person who hurt them, they will become like the person they focus their attention upon.

Eph 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

To get rid of bitterness, we must start by focusing on Jesus and what He said instead of the one who hurt us. How many of you have ever prayed “The Lord's Prayer”? Do you know what that prayer says? Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Jesus says we will be forgiven just like we forgive others. To forgive someone doesn't mean trusting them or pretending you're not hurt. That isn't Christianity; that's insanity! You need to be honest with yourself and admit that you've really been hurt. But how do we overcome our hurts and forgive? Here are some basic steps. Don’t rush through them. Give them quality time.

1) Make a list of the people who've hurt you. That's pretty easy to do. Then underneath each name, write down everything they've done to hurt you. You may write things like: “My parents didn't keep their promises.” “They gave more love and affection to other members of the family.” “My dad took out his bad temper on me.” “My wife tries to make me into something I'm not.” “My friend wasn't there when I needed him.” “My spouse left me for another person.” “They gave that promotion to someone less qualified,” etc.

2) Make another list of the things you have done to hurt them. That's the hard one, because we don't remember those things as easily. We don't want to imagine we have done anything as bad as they have done. Now, the point of making this list is it's time we saw our wrong. The key that will unlock bitterness and bring us into forgiveness is to see how much we have done. We always tend to magnify other people's offenses and minimize our own. We always play up how bad they've been, and how much we've been picked on. Ask God to show you, and you'll find a very interesting thing. A lot of the ways that people have hurt us, are the very same ways that we’ve hurt others.

3) Take a good look at how you have hurt the Lord. Ask God to show you what you have done to hurt Him. Don't hold onto your excuses. The blood of Christ cleanses sin, not excuses.

Have you ever thought about how much God has been hurt? Remember that the better we know a person, and the closer we are to them, the more we can be hurt if they betray a trust or let us down in some way, deliberately or unconsciously. Now think about this - who is closer to our innermost thoughts, and knows us more deeply than God, Himself? When we hurt Him, we have power to hurt Him more deeply than we could possibly hurt anyone else in the universe.

Genesis 6:6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

God made this beautiful creation, and then He sees people not only hating and killing each other, but hating Him, too. We only see a little bit - He sees it all, continuously. He goes through every hurt a person ever has! You may say, “Where was God when this happened?” I'll tell you where He was - He was there and He was hurting more than you were.

4) Pray, and ask the forgiveness of God and man. This is not a complicated thing, but it is costly. Most people would rather remain bitter and miserable than follow these instructions. Get out the lists of how you have hurt God and others, and let the Lord break you of all pride and self-justification. Ask God's forgiveness for these things one by one. Make a phone call to the people you've hurt and ask their forgiveness, or better yet, talk to them in person. Even a letter saying you're sorry for how you've treated them will begin the work of healing. Don’t mention what they have done to you, only ask forgiveness for what you have done to them.

5) Destroy your files. Remember that list of things that others have done to hurt you? Open the filing cabinets of your mind, take out all the files, and get rid of them. Tear up your list or burn it. You must release it all to God. Forgiveness is opening the filing cabinet before God and clearing the debts. “I'm not going to hold this against them. I'm not even going to keep a record of it.” No record. That's what God does when He forgives you. Do you want Him to remember and recall all the debts He has cleared you of? Of course not, so you must do the same.

Matt. 6.14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Hurt is one of the major problems in society today. We can get hurt so badly that we try to cut ourselves off from feeling altogether. I've met people who said, “I've been hurt too many times. I'm never going to love anybody again.” That's one way people deal with pain - they just withdraw themselves so that they won't be hurt again but that person’s heart begins to get hard, cynical, and bitter.

There is hope. When we come to Jesus for the grace of God, He heals our heart and He takes the cynicism out of our life. He gives us grace to forgive and delivers us of all bitterness. He also gives us wisdom and discernment about who to trust and with whom to be cautious, but His grace enables us to love all people with His love once again.


If you are not a Christian, you don’t have the grace to forgive, but you still have hope. Come as you are, full of hurt and bitterness, to Jesus Christ for salvation. Confess your sin to Him and believe in His atonement for your sin on the Cross. His resurrection is proof that He is eternal life and He will give it to you when you give your mortal life to Him through baptism. You will have a new life born of the Holy Spirit, and then you will have grace to forgive others.