The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy. Proverbs 14:10
In the book of Ruth Chapter 1 Naomi arrives back in Bethlehem with only Ruth the Moabite in tow. Those who knew Naomi and her family prior to their departure for Moab must have been shocked by her appearance upon their return, for they were asking among themselves it was really Naomi! We can assume there was some dramatic change in Naomi’s appearance to cause such a stir and in vvs 19-21 we are given a clue.
Naomi says to the other women, “Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD himself has caused me to suffer.” And “. . . call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?”
Naomi blames God for making her life bitter and empty. She lost her husband and all her sons in Moab. Her one daughter in law left her and the other, Ruth, has returned to Bethlehem with her. But all Naomi can see is that she no longer has what she loved. Her bitterness reflects a heart of unbelief in the justice and sovereignty of God. She is holding on to the anger for the loss of her home and family and is standing in judgment over God. In the entire text of Ruth chapter 1, we see nothing of Naomi’s quest to understand the purposes of God in her suffering. We only read that she is angry and bitter for what she has lost.
Perhaps you struggle with the same type of bitterness. Sometimes women who have lost children to illness or accident blame God for their loss. “God, how could you take my beloved child from me? Don’t You know how much I loved him? How could You do this to me?”
An abandoned wife may become bitter as they wonder: “God, don’t You see how much I am struggling to raise these kids while he is out living the highlife? How can you let him get away with this? I am the one who was faithful, and now I am the one who is miserable while he has it made! Don’t you care about me? Why aren’t you punishing him?”
A single woman who longs for someone to share her life with and has faithfully prayed for years for a husband me become bitter as she comes to believe God is not providing something she needs. She may thing, “God don’t you care that I am so lonely? What is wrong with me that no one is interested in me?”
The honest person flounders and sees a crooked person prospering. “God, how can You stand by and let this happen? I am an honest person and my finances are failing to meet the needs! How can You let her get away with such thievery? I have a family to feed, God; why are you doing this to me?”
Bitterness arises out of a belief that God will not punish the people who hurt you, that God does not hear your plea, or that He does not care about your plight. Since God is apparently not going to intervene in your circumstances, you stand in as judge, jury, and executioner in the lives of other people.
This becomes a circular pattern. The more you dwell on what has been done to you, the injustice you have suffered, or the loss you have incurred, the deeper the root of bitterness goes. You already know that carrying around a load of bitterness is exhausting.
Bitterness hardens your heart on the inside and your features on the outside. It also defiles those around you because it is contagious. The dark cloud of bitterness will eventually permeate everything you are and everything you do. Life becomes one disappointment after the other and only serves to increase your discontent with God’s plan for your life.
Discontent is a large component of bitterness. You are dissatisfied with what God’s plan is for your life and angry that God is not doing things your way. Oh my friends, bitterness is a road that leads to further pain and misery for you. I urge you to spend some time examining your heart for these cancerous roots. You don’t have to live this way any longer, I can say with certainty that it is not God’s will for your life.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
If the Lord wills, next time we will learn how to attack bitterness His way!