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How to Forgive (…When Bitterness Feels Better)

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
December 6, 2021 9:00 pm

How to Forgive (…When Bitterness Feels Better)

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 6, 2021 9:00 pm

Wondering how to forgive--and if it really makes a difference? Author and pastor Stephen Viars explores how forgiveness can turn bitterness on its head.

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I remember when we were first dating and hellos were glorious. Today I had a long time ago, but they were pretty fun, but one of the same things to me was dynamic and said welcome to our maker here here deep and feeling I have here in the haircare. We like to have a movie. Welcome to family life today where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most and will send Dave Wilson and you can find or on our family life. This is family life today. I loved your mom and one of the reason I love your mom was because she had endured so much of divorce losing a child. She had faced the many affairs that your dad had. And yet she really was seeking Jesus. But when we first started dating she would drink at night and then all of the stories came out and I remember saying to you like man your mom is still so lost in the past of not forgiving your dad you notes obviously so I grew up with and her method of dealing with the bitterness and there was bitterness and often covered up.

It was just an underlying seething was to drink in the sort of just step into denial and to hide the pain and I watch that yeah and I thought my mom was better. Not that I realize I have a lot of those. Well, thank God I didn't go to alcohol to, you know, take away the pain, but I needed to figure out how do you take away the real pain all face it. Oh yeah and so that's a topic worth about today again with the VARs who wrote a book about this. He's a pastor in Lafayette Indiana which I love because I'm a college Hoosier and wearing we got back a family today. Welcome back. It's a privilege to be here. Thank you very much.

There were so glad to hear Midsummer listeners heard us before, but your pastor of Faith Church from years 3434 years yeah and also developed a whole counseling center and I just love hearing what you're doing to help people equip people not only their own life with understanding their journey, but to help others and then as you say that I've seen even especially in the church as a pastor.

There's a lot of bitterness well.

The sad reality is I don't have to go out into the pew order to find bitterness in the church I can find out in the pastor's office because that's something with which I struggle. Steve like what is your story. When we write something, it's usually because it's something that we've experienced what part of it is, God bless my wife and me with the opportunity to adopt the sun with special needs son Andrew Ward. He likes to be called the bear, so everybody knows and calls him the bear.

How I see one recalled there.

You know it's interesting. Many times persons with special needs. They latch on to some kind of obsession is just fascinating to watch it unfold like I write up my son's is bears, he's all about bears from start to finish. When I get back home he'll ask me. Were there any beers in Little Rock.

What he means by that is, did you buy me a stuff for Little Rock. I and believe me are our house and help the Bears so he is blind and he also had a number of other abnormalities in the development of his brain and solely is 28 years old but he functions like is about seven or eight. It's been a fascinating fascinating sanctifying journey for my wife and me and for the bear by God's grace. The bear has trusted Christ even had the privilege of sizing. That is a lot of great great things please tell me is not a Chicago Bears family loves the show, especially when the proclaim a lot that you know I hear so ashamed to tell you this but I will tell you just because you asked about how it's affected me.

I remember standing in a Walmart one day and was about two years old. We were just starting to learn how significant his disability was and there was a large family in line ahead of me, kids completely uncontrolled that they appear to be low income, and shame on me for even judging them in that way very unkempt and the father was holding a baby about the age of my son Andrew and I looked into the child's eyes and thought the pastor's son's eyes don't work there son's eyes do you know that's bitterness talking. I'm ashamed to tell you that my heart even has the capacity to think that kind of a wicked thought, but if I don't deal with that I would become a very very bitter me in the Scripture does it links bitterness with jealousy and envy and so that's part of it.

And then there's just also know a church, especially when you have the privilege of pastoring for 34 years in the same place all of your weaknesses are exposed right you can't hide it really Simon, you're living it out there and then were dealing with people who are not perfect pictures of Christ just yet, which I love the church I I'm living my dream.

I love doing what I'm doing but there there's a lot of hurts.

There's a lot of disappointments there's a lot of struggles in this and cursed world and so bitterness is something that I is a pastor have to wrestle with.

I have to learn how to handle disappointments and challenges well but then when you move out into the pews and you move out into the counseling room.

There's no question about the fact that bitterness is a major issue in marriage is a major issue in families.

It's a major issue in the office and it can even be a major issue in church life. It's possible for a church. Frankly, to be a bitter church. But the great news is Jesus Christ as a whole lot more powerful than that. And so we don't have to be bitter people that doesn't have to have the last say it doesn't have to be our story. That's one of the reasons I wrote the book was to try to point men and women to our powerful Savior and his sufficient grace, you mentioned the title. Overcoming bitterness moving from life's greatest hurts to a life filled with joy and thank you for being that honest because I don't think there's a person that hasn't felt what you felt.

We struggled two-minute sometimes. You know, and we don't want to see in ourselves. We feel the jealousy.

But as I think about my mom or so much of our bitterness is relational persons and there's a jealousy there Zambia.

Somebody don't even know it stranger in a store, but when somebody hurts you, does something in you. You identify minute I just heard him bitter. Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe is 10 years ago. It's got me in there and I'm trying to overcome it to get the joy and I feel like I can't get there how you get to the relational bitterness with a family member or friend could be a neighbor. It gets us obviously. And talk about do we forgive, how do we forget about talk about that journey in relational bitterness.

What do I do this is one of the things I love about the sufficiency of the Scripture. So you know in Ephesians 431 32. We have a verse it's a very clear level bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, and I think will memorize this so you have that in verse 431.

What's fascinating is just a few verses before and Ephesians 426 pulses be angry and sin not so hot at those things go together and I think biblically and theologically, we have to define anger before we can define bitterness, but because anger is a God-given emotion which produces energy allowing me to solve problems biblically and to solve problems today. So God can allow me to use that anger to handle things well. However, if I don't use anger in a timely fashion. Today before the sun goes down, then it ferments and it turns into bitterness effect. It's very similar to apple cider run from it on the fall all the apple orchards around us, though, make this great apple cider. It's absolutely delicious is absolutely refreshing. If you drink it right after you bought it but I don't know if this ever happened you.

I know it's happened to me late in the fall that bottle of apple cider.

You pushed to the back of the refrigerator.

It's a hot day I'm out raking leaves or whatever I come grab it out of the refrigerator after it's been there about a month and now it is fermented. It's putrid you spit it out your mouth.

That's what bitterness is its fermented anger, and so part of what I do in my heart with bitterness is talk to God. I practice biblical lament. Many persons struggle with bitterness because they have not learned the discipline of lament authenticity with the Lord. But the second reason many of us are bitter is because we haven't learned the discipline of going and talking with other people. When we believe that they have sinned against us practicing the art of biblical forgiveness so you have a passage like Luke 17, three and four which is a seminal topic on this whole discussion if your brother sins rebuke him if he repents, forgive him, and it's possible that some of our listeners may be bitter individuals because somebody mistreated them in some way. Dave's mom yeah, and your dad never came back and apologized or repented for his actions. The challenge here is even the person who was sinned against still has a responsibility in that matter at all of us may say will that's not fair. God teaches us what he teaches us in his word because it's true.

So I don't get to not do certain things because I don't think there fair and I also have to remember my heavenly father loves me and he's put principles in his word for his glory and for my good and so as a person who is been mistreated when ever it is possible I have both the privilege and the responsibility to go and speak with that person. Though I don't know for sure how the conversation is going to go but I do know this. If I should've, and I didn't than I'm at least partially culpable for my bitterness and I know as a counselor. Those are hard words to say and they are hard words to hear, but God has given us the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to do hard things and I have seen this happen over and over and counseling were a person was embittered with someone else and at the right time and in the right way. I know it's not always possible, but many times it is at the right time and in the right way we bring those parties together. There's authentic confrontation not to hurt the other person not to demoralize the other person but to bring about reconciliation to bring about healing and I have seen persons in some cases say I did. Even though I offended you, I didn't even realize I was.

Thank you so much for telling me.

And now that you've told me that I can think of other people. I probably have others I need to go out forget, but I've seen it work because God's word works were individuals after they have been confronted are willing to ask forgiveness and then you have the beautiful restoration in a relationship. And of course on a church level that has to be happening in a church all the time. A church has to be a place where were authentically talking with one another about the ways that we have sent the ways we been sinned against bringing biblical communication bring about reconciliation and if you don't. This is where Hebrews 1215 get you again use the root absolutely and it causes trouble.

Bitterness causes trouble in a marriage so snowy well I'm bitter but is not to do anything.

Oh, it's gonna do a lot in the passes ends by saying it the files. Many remember then the passage ends by going to the poster boy of bitterness. Esau, what a haunting story Esau.

This is and because Scripture calls him a profane man, a man who refused to embrace his place in the covenant community of God while one of the ways I demonstrate that I truly am a child of God is by obeying his word and going and confronting a person who sinned against me with the goal of bringing about reconciliation, forgiveness and healing. It's hard but it's right and that's one of the roots, the passout of bitterness.

No Esau should have gone to his brother Jacob and talk to him about stealing his birthright. I actually think Esau should have done more than that, but what he should at least should have done that for so he shouldn't of sold it right will absolutely it right. It revealed that he was valuing the red stuff. What's the rest of the red stuff is what Hebrew is for that red's do typical man right it's been like three hours since he ate him for him to die if I don't eat and therefore I'm gonna first say my place in the covenant plan of God and to give up my birthright force to and we kind of chocolate that, but then we start thinking about all the things that were willing to send for for the exact same it's red stuff living. I didn't get my way and now I'm bitter that person didn't commend me like I wanted them to know I'm bitter that person got now I'm bitter now on, but it's red stuff living and I'm Forsaking My Pl. in God's covenant plan for some idle. It's idolatry of the heart for sure. And so to answer your question, I believe he should have spoken to his brother about it, but even more powerful than that he should've admitted his own culpability and that this is a hard point for all of us to hear, but it's true. Bitterness makes us liars.

And here's why. How did Esau tell the story later, he said my brother stole my birthright. That's not true. And here's what bitterness does. I replay the story over and over and over in my head. And every time I play at the other person gets a little bit worse and I get a little this true so went when the Bible says bitterness will cause trouble and defile many.

One of the persons little the file is me by making me a person who's not being honest about the ways I send.

That's why it's so important to deal with it and to do with it right away expert on this. You know better than anybody even Matthew five where Jesus says if you have a conflict with your brother.

Don't even leave your offering.

Go get reconcile go make this right and come back. So here's the question. What if I do all that I'm obedient I go I confront I say man what you did hurt me.

I've been bitter for days or years or decades like you did and I need to I need to talk this through with you and I want to forgive you, so respond and they say what the blank you hear about. I did nothing wrong so they don't own it and they don't understand your hurt. So it doesn't go the way you want on that side, you're doing what you do what's that person as well and had such a powerful question and I'm sure that many of our listeners will say that's what happened to me and you know you started the question with Matthew five which is pretty hard for pastors even to talk about how we think, that worship is the most important thing like especially if you're given because Matthew had talked but if your offering and messing with you is give them what is right. Jesus is or something more important than worship and that is getting things right with your brother so leave your gift at the altar, and go make things right with your brother first and then you said well what if I try to make things right and the other person either won't repent of their the one who sinned against me or if they won't forgive me if I'm the one who sinned against them.

This is where Romans 12 is such a helpful passage in the word of God because Paul says in that passage, if it be possible as much as Wyatt's within you, live at peace with all him. I am so thankful for the comprehensive nature of the word of God. If it's possible, while Paul said that that has to tell us there are some situations, this side of heaven where it's not where you can do everything you were supposed to do and that person either won't repent of their the ones who send are they won't forgive if you're the one who sinned against them in your there to repent that but it is not always possible, but were only responsible for us as much as Wyatt's within you and you think back to the whole Esau, Jacob story, Esau was not responsible for Jacob's trickery or his mother. His mother, that was really messed that family. So Esau was not responsible for everybody else, but Esau for sure was responsible for him as much as life within you, live at peace with all so so what's the difference between bitterness, forgiveness, is there a difference because I hear you saying that I'm thinking okay I eye my responsibility to live in peace and I need to do it. My bitterness they didn't repent. Should I forgive well I think we have to do the exact same thing that Jesus did on the cross where he prayed.

Father forgive them for they know not what they do. That doesn't mean that everybody within the sound of Jesus's voice was forgiven. There was another thief in that story. Who would've heard those words, who certainly did not spend his eternity in heaven and so were not Universalists. However, Jesus was praying and expressing his I would call a forgiving spirit, saying, Lord, I don't want to be better. I don't want to continue to rehearse all this person's failures.

I want to be a forgiving person I want to pray for the person's repentance.

I want to get through this. If it's possible in the situation, but if it's not.

I'm not going to continue to dwell on their failures. I'm not gonna continue to dwell on their hurts because or something more powerful in my life and that's my forgiving Savior and of my Savior has forgiven me of all of the ways that I have failed and if his father has placed Christ's righteousness on my account there so much in the gospel that fills up my heart and life every day. I just don't have time to dwell on about all the failures of everybody else. Part of that is illustrated by the Passover meal you remember at Passover.

The Israelites were instructed that every year they were to have a Passover meal. After they left Egypt.

What was the basis of that meal and the answers bitter herbs to not just any lettuce.

I want a salad, bitter herbs and what's fascinating is that was a lettuce that was indigenous to Egypt's so God wanted them to eat injection food, year after year. That's why lament is so important. We have to be authentic about the pains of our life but aren't you glad it wasn't just a meal of bitter herbs and that was the end of it because you got that bitter taste in your mouth and then next comes the unleavened bread.

And who among us doesn't like fresh-baked bread and of course big like that to show that the rapid nature of the redemption of God. So now the sensations are different because now you got the unleavened bread what's at preparing you for an it's the sweetness of the Passover lamb you talk about a direct path to the cross on the empty tomb. You talk about a direct path of the gospel and so I don't need to spend time thinking about the failures of others even who have not chosen to repent and have a forgiving spirit toward them because my heart and life is consumed with how my wonderful Savior has chosen the forgive me through his shed blood again it's it's beautiful here that because it gives us hope that even though they don't respond the way we want. They may never repent. That's right, never own it. There can be peace in my heart there can actually be peace between us. Yes as it depends on me. They may never respond the way want but when I said to my dad.

You know, I've wrestled with this for years and him him I'm a man I'm X in my mid-30s.

He literally looked at me and said what the blank for he had no idea and I'm not given three years later and I had dealt with it because my wife told me I had to think that I got on his journey were the bitterness.

It's like it's just floated out of my life, not easily. It was work. It was real work but it was gone yeah and I remember saying to him one day. Did you ever regret the divorce with mom.

We never talked about this, by the way, never any immediately. He's like yes well with this like he's thought about forever and he said, so I said I missed out on my relationship with you, and I thought he's in his best way he does have and I'm sorry. That's right, you know, and I didn't need that, but it was nice to hear that, but it was like there was the truth that you would ever tasted live at peace with all men, as far as depends on you identifying a good and there's peace and it's what you're saying. I wonder if your dad would've ever gotten to that place right you severed the relationship okay because he's not saying it the way I want him to say right now I'm never talking to him to spend any time.

What I can get a ballgame to set but but you gave him space you did your part. You did Romans 12 and then you left the rest of the board and isn't it fascinating how God can work in the hearts and lives of people apart from us, but I want to be the heavenly payroll clerk, I want to be the one who makes a right by the end of business today. And yet if will just do what God wants us to do. He may not do it all in this lifetime frighten you absolutely may not. But on the other hand, it would be wrong for us to think well. If the person didn't repent today in my way. He's never going to repent he that is not true.

God can work in miraculous ways.

If will give him room to work and bitterness isn't giving him or he will say Dave you say some nice result of that conversation and the work that you did in forgiving your dad, you became a free man because you enter length with anger. There are so many things that were bottled up and I watched you become free.

Isn't that what we all hope for, because Jesus said I came to set the Different none that I would say freedom starts today with a phone call. It could be an email could be driving over and do whatever he can and can't control result but you can control your heart, you can overcome bitterness.

You can literally get to what you say, a life filled with joy. It's a journey and it's it's worth whatever it takes to start this afternoon. Journey started today. I know there are some of you were listening and you been hearing this and there's been a residency in your own heart. You've heard God's spirit saying to you. This is for you. This is about this relationship. This bitterness, this unforgiveness that you been harboring and I brought this to you today because it's time to deal with this.

It's time to follow what my word says and move toward reconciliation, forgiveness rebuilding trust in a relationship. The path we follow this outline for us in the book that Stephen Byers has written called overcoming bitterness. It's a book we have in our family life to the resource center. It's the book you may need. You can order your copy from or call to order one 800, FL, today is our number again. The title of the book is overcoming bitterness by Stephen Byers. You can order or call 1-800-358-6329 that's one 800 F as in family L as in life, and when the word today to get your copy. You know I wish that you as a regular listener to family life to the be here with us when we open up emails or take telephone calls get prayer request from Westerners just wish you could hear from the people who get in touch with us to tell us about how God has used this daily radio program this podcast in their lives. An article that they read online, something they found on our website resources we've made available events that we have hosted we hear stories of significant dramatic life change relationships that have been healed and made whole couples who were a part who are back together families that were fractured where there is been healing. Maybe that's happened in your own life your own marriage, but I want you to know our mission here at family life to effectively develop godly marriages and families. God is honoring that mission. And because of people like you who help fund this ministry. There are legacies that are being changed. You make that possible.

Every time you donate to this ministry here in the last few weeks of 2021 as we head into a new year. We are asking God to provide the funds we need so that we can begin the new year in a in a strong place. We've had some friends of the ministry come along and say we want to help with that. They put together a matching gift fund $1.5 million every time we receive a donation from a family like today listener were able to match your donation with funds from that matching gift fund. We want to drain that fund drive, so to do that we need to hear from you. We need you to make as generous a donation as you can possibly make you give $100 and we get $100 from a matching gift on your gift is doubled to say thank you for your support.

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Again, these are our thank you gift to you. When you make a year in donation you can do that easily or call one 800 FL today to donate. Thank you for your support and please pray for us that were able to take full advantage of this matching gift as we head into the new year and we hope you can join us again tomorrow. Working to hear from Stephen Byers about what we do when we reached a point where it feels hopeless in trying to bring reconciliation to a relationship.

Is there a point where we give up hope will hear about that tomorrow. Hope you're able to join us on behalf of our hosts Dave and Ann Wilson and Bob team will see you back next time for another edition of family life today family like today's a production of family life accrued ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most

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