A young woman asked me to meet with her recently to help her learn how to deal with bitterness. She had suffered harm at the hands of a fellow believer in the form of hurtful accusations and outright hypocrisy. Though months had gone by she found that bitterness toward this person kept creeping back into her thinking. I could relate. Several years back I found myself in a similar situation when my integrity was called into question unjustly by a fellow believer. I had always thought the enemies Jesus commanded me to love were persons I labeled as such, either because they were unbelievers or because they drove me crazy. I believed an enemy was someone I chose. Most days I didn't have anyone on that list. Yet suddenly I was confronted with the truth that my enemy could choose me, out of the blue, as I went about my life — that despite my best efforts to live at peace with all men, someone could still choose to walk in enmity toward me. And that someone could even be a believer. This was a new kind of hurt for me, the kind that tempted me to drink deeply of bitterness.
Here is what I wanted during that time: I wanted my adversary to be brought to justice. I wanted my side of the story to be heard and my hurt to be acknowledged. I wanted vindication in front of those who'd heard my integrity questioned — not tomorrow or next year — today.
That’s not what happened. Because God is better to me than I deserve, no opportunity came for any of my wants to be met. And in that season of "wormwood and gall" (Lam. 3:19) he taught me truths I would've otherwise never sought.
Here are a few bitterness-blocking realizations I learned to cling to:
1. God knows the real story.
Every justification I wanted to raise was already known to God. I had no need to correct him. He knew both sides of the story perfectly, and more importantly he knew the truth that lay somewhere between.
My sense of urgency to clear my name was, in my case at least, misplaced and self-reliant. So instead of fighting to make my side of the story known, I learned to let my words be few. And I asked God to show me where I had shaded the truth to mollify my hurt or downplay my own sin.