In order to defeat bitterness, you have to go after it. Remember that bitterness is a root that grows underground, and you must find it and dig it up as you would a root, to get rid of it. This can be a difficult process, so it might help to break it into three easy steps.

Face it. You will never conquer bitterness unless the problem is acknowledged. Ever wonder why we read so much about confession in Scripture? It’s because the only way a disease can ever be healed and removed is by first acknowledging its presence.

Replace it. With the help of the Holy Spirit bitterness must be replaced with forgiveness. The balm of forgiveness is the only medicine that will heal the sore of bitterness. Nothing else—revenge, spite or retaliation—will do it.

Erase it. That is what forgiveness allows you to do—move on as you replace bitterness with the love, mercy and forgiveness that you have received from God. Remember that no matter how badly or unfairly you have been treated by someone, that person is no more guilty than you are of sending Jesus to the cross.

Yet as He was dying, Jesus was able to pray the ultimate prayer of forgiveness, “‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34).

According to legend, when Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper, he had an intense argument with a fellow painter that he never resolved. Fuming and bitter, da Vinci came up with a devious plan to get his enemy back.

He decided to paint the man’s face as the face of Judas Iscariot so it would be captured for all time. When people came to look at his work in progress, they immediately knew who “Judas” was, and da Vinci got great pleasure out of portraying this man as a villain.

Continuing his work, he came to the face he had saved for the very end: the face of Jesus. But da Vinci drew a mental blank. He could not paint a thing.

Finally, he realized that the trouble was he had painted the face of his enemy as the face of Judas Iscariot. His bitterness was keeping him from seeing the face of Christ. Da Vinci went back to the image of Judas and painted a nebulous, unknown face over his enemy’s. Then he went to the painter and asked for forgiveness before returning to finish one of the world’s greatest portraits.

True or not, this story points out an important reality: It is up to the individual afflicted with it to bring about an end to bitterness. Hebrews 12:14 tells us to “pursue peace with all people.” The word “pursue” means “to go after in an aggressive fashion.”

As Christians, we are to take the initiative to bring about peace. You must be the one to mend the broken fences, rebuild the bridges and restore the relationships that have been destroyed by bitterness.

Free to Worship

Did you know that resolving your anger is an important precursor to worship? Jesus told His disciples: “‘If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come offer your gift’” (Matt. 5:23-24). He implies that reconciliation is so important that you should drop what you are doing even if you are in church and go get right with others.

Are you tired of dressing the wounds of your temper and tasting the sour reflux of bitterness? Decide right now not to let other people determine how you are going to act. Instead, let the Holy Spirit take control of your life and consecrate the emotion of anger for His glory. With the power of God, you can defeat anger’s evil offspring.


James Merritt is host of Touching Lives, an international TV and radio ministry that airs weekly on TBN and XM Radio. He is also senior pastor of CrossPointe Church in Duluth, Ga. Jonathan Merritt is a faith and culture writer who has published dozens of articles in national outlets such as Outreach, HomeLife and Christian Single magazines. He is senior editor of PastorsEdge.com, and you can connect with him at jonathanmerritt.com.


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