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I was once scheduled to speak at an annual women's conference at the Potter's House in Dallas. Before I arrived, I prepared the teaching I planned to give, "Is There a Lady in the House?" in which I describe two kinds of women: the industrious one lauded in Proverbs 31 and the "keeper at home" Paul writes about in Titus 2. But just as I was getting up to preach, the Lord told me, "You can't preach that message tonight."
At first I tried to convince Him to change His mind. But He reminded me that I was on assignment. I knew I had to say whatever He instructed, empowered and encouraged me to say--regardless of the risk or cost. And He wanted me to ask not "Is there a lady in the house?" but "Is there bitterness in the house?"
A Root of Bitterness
Why bitterness? Because we cannot be the women God desires us to be when there is a root of bitterness in our souls.
You know what bitterness in the natural is. Something that leaves an acrid, lingering taste in your mouth. Something that is unpleasant, distasteful, galling and unpalatable.
Bitterness of soul is also unpleasant. It develops as a result of facing something that is grievous, difficult to accept or extremely painful. It is marked by harshness, resentment and deep animosity. And it sounds something like this:
"I'm married, but my husband would rather be with someone else."
"I've been faithful to God, but He hasn't fulfilled my desire to marry yet, and I'm almost 40 years old."
"I give my tithes and offerings every week, and still I drive a raggedy car, have no husband and live in a one-bedroom apartment with my three fatherless children."
"I can preach and teach, and I'm anointed, but no one calls me to speak at conferences or meetings."
"I was a virgin when I got married in the church. Thirty days after my wedding, I found myself infected with a sexually transmitted disease I caught from my husband."
"I joined a church that I desperately want to be an active part of, but the pastor's wife resists me, the women ignore me, the men despise me and the pastor overlooks me."
"I raised my children to know and love God. I sacrificed time and money to educate them at a private Christian school. One year after graduation, my son dropped out of college and stopped attending church. He also started smoking dope and got his girlfriend pregnant. What did I do to deserve this?"
Bitterness manifests itself in various ways, but the overall effect is to keep us from living the kind of life God intends. It cripples us and prevents us from becoming the great, gracious, exciting women of God we are meant to be.
Instead of being loving and forgiving, we're angry and uptight. Instead of walking by faith, we're full of fear, worry and doubt. Instead of teaching other women to love, train and discipline their children, we're abusing our own. Instead of developing proper relationships with our husbands, we're building walls to protect ourselves from all men.
Can we win over bitterness? Unequivocally, yes! God never asks us to do anything He has not equipped us beforehand to do.
In Ephesians 4:31-32 He commands: "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (NKJV).
He also warns: "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Heb. 12:14-15).
Both these texts suggest that one of the most effective weapons Satan uses against Christians is bitterness. Bitterness will kill your spirit. It will wipe the smile off your heart and drain the river of blessings from your soul. Bitterness will paralyze your effectiveness for God.
But there is an answer.
The first step on the road to overcoming bitterness is to decide that regardless of what happens to you, you will overcome it. Put on the mind of Christ, as Paul encourages us to do--"Let this mind [attitude and purpose] be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5)--and expect victory. Then do the following:
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