“Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind).
And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31, 32, The Amplified Bible)
Over and over in the New Testament we are warned against allowing bitterness into our lives. In the passage above, the Apostle Paul says to let it “…be banished from you”. That’s pretty strong. The key to doing that is found in the following verse: “… forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” When we hold on to unforgiveness, bitterness is allowed to take root in our hearts and from there grows resentment, anger and ill will.
We justify ourselves by focusing on what was done to us by someone one else. “You just don’t know what he said to me” or “You don’t know what she did”. But God didn’t say “forgive them if they deserve it”. He only instructed us to forgive and to banish all bitterness from us. When we allow unforgiveness and bitterness to remain in our hearts, we are the ones who bear the consequences.
“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10) When we wallow in self-pity, we wallow alone.
One example in the Old Testament is the story of David and Michal. Theirs was a love story turned bad. (You can read their entire story in 1 Samuel chapters 18, 19 and 25, and 2 Samuel chapters 3 and 6.)
Michal was the younger daughter of King Saul, the sister of Jonathan, and she was David’s first wife. First Samuel 18:20 says she loved David and after they were married, she defied her father and helped David escape when Saul was trying to kill him. (1 Samuel 9:11-19) Years passed, and she was abandoned by David. Her father gave her to another man in marriage and David took other wives. After Saul died, David finally decided to send for her. By this time he has six sons, all by different wives. Michal is not coming home to a husband whose has been lonely and yearning for her. And she is forced to leave a husband who probably loves her. 2 Samuel 3:16 says “But her husband went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim.” We don’t have any details of their reunion, but I suspect it probably was not the joyous reunion of long lost lovers.
The next detail of their story we have in Scripture, takes place when King David brings the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem and he danced “with all his might” before the Lord. It was a great time of celebrating. David made burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. He blessed all the people with cakes and meats – it was a party. The Scripture says he returned to bless his household and Michal came out to meet him. Nothing can throw a wet blanket on a good time like an angry, bitter woman. She accosted David and tried to shame him about his behavior. Michal had let her anger and bitterness turn to hatred.
David was not moved by her tirade. His heart was right with the Lord at that moment and he knew what he had done was approved by God. He let her know he would continue to worship the Lord who had chosen him to be king.
The sad end to the story just says “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” (2 Samuel 6:23) Years of hurt, anger and bitterness had finally bubbled out and she bore the consequences. To be without a child in that day was a sign of God’s displeasure. No doubt it was a continued source of pain for her to the end of her life.
Michal had a right to be hurt by David actions – he’d abandoned her, taken other women and then forced her back with him. Sometimes we have the right to be hurt by others actions or words, but we must not allow that hurt to fester into bitterness and anger. It’s for our own good that we must forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.
“Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” (Hebrews 12:14-16, The Message)
By choosing to hold on to her anger, bitterness and hurt, Michal missed all the blessings that could have been hers. She was left out of David’s generosity. She could have joined the party and received the blessing David wanted to share with his household. She could possibly even had a child.
What blessings are we missing by holding on to things from the past? If we want the Holy Spirit to heal our past hurts, we must first chose to forgive and chose to let go of any bitterness we may be holding on to. Sometimes we don’t feel like we can forgive but we’re not called to do it on our own power. We can’t. We may not even want to. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God will give us the grace to forgive if we make the decision and chose to forgive. And with forgiveness comes peace. With forgiveness comes the joy of knowing we’re walking in obedience to God.
Peace and blessings to you all from our Lord Jesus Christ