The Joy Of Bitterness

Ever wonder why some people seem to get a perverted sense of joy out of the negative things in life? It seems that witnessing the hardships of other makes them happy. There is a verse in the Psalms that speaks to this.. it goes like this:
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.
It reminds me of a time in my life when I was not getting along with my boss at work. It seemed that she did not like me and was always picking on me. One day I was praying about this situation and I became aware.. aware of how much bitterness I had amassed towards her. I was cut like a sharp sword by the news. I began to pray and started to renounce with tears the bitterness that had captured me. As I prayed I asked God to fill me up with love towards my boss. And something happened - my attitude began to change and my relationship with my boss improved.

I think that bitterness is such a deceitful emotion.. the way that it grabs hold of us is so subtle.. the feelings of self-righteousness that accompany it are so powerful. Often when we are hurt or in pain we long for justice.. we want restitution for the unfair ways that we have been treated. And when justice does not seem to come we create a perverted form of justice and welcome bitterness.. and soon bitterness grows from a root to a full grown tree. Once bitterness gets a hold of us we find that it enraptures our life with perversion - and no one can share in it's perverted joy.. even though we freely share it.

I know that I don't usually go to these places here but today I wanted to share this with you because I know the perverted joy of bitterness. I still find myself having to deal with bitter thoughts towards friends and bitter feelings towards God. I wish it were not so but I have found that hardship and difficulties can still set me on a dark path of bitterness. Happily my spiritual radar is a bit more sensitive to bitterness and I find that I deal with it a bit sooner.. but it still sometimes sneaks in under the radar.

If you find yourself caught up in bitter thoughts I suggest that you do what I did.. renounce the bitterness.. call it out and repent of it.. and ask God to fill you with love. Love may not come over night.. sometimes I have prayed many times.. sometimes bitterness is cut down a branch at a time.. sometimes bitterness is defeated one loving act at a time. The good news is that the bitter tree will fall.. evil will be overcome.. as we pray.

The Will of God

Today's post is a reposting of Patricia Nordman's insightful review of Dr. Leslie D. Weatherhead's book "The Will of God". I will add a few comments at the end.

"Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matthew 18:14 NAS).

During World War II Dr. Leslie D. Weatherhead gave five talks on the will of God to his City Temple congregation in England. Fortunately for the rest of the world, they were published. Every time I hear "It's God's will," I think of this remarkable little book and how it clarified God's will for me.

Dr. Weatherhead separated God's will into three parts: 1) Intentional; 2) Circumstantial, and 3) Ultimate (ICU).

  1. God's INTENTIONAL WILL is for our good. This is Adam and Eve in the Garden. When God created Adam and Eve, it was His intention that they live forever and be happy. But they sinned and were expelled from Paradise.
  2. His CIRCUMSTANTIAL WILL is because of the circumstances in our lives. It is within this will that we find God's permissive will. This is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is Job 42:2: "I know (faith) that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."; It is the all of Romans 8:28, that glorious rod and staff of the grieving: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." I know (wisdom) I can (possibility) do (accomplishment) all things whatsoever He asks!
  3. His ULTIMATE WILL is for His glory and our good. This is Christ's resurrection and our resurrection. It is us all in the New Earth.
The wonderful revelation as I read this book is that God's intentional will finally becomes His ultimate will, even as we go through the circumstances of our life. Dr. Weatherhead gives the example of the young man in London whose intention was to be an architect but, because the war changed his circumstances, he joined the Army. At the time this was the honorable course. The young man could not control the evil circumstances of Hitler and his desire to conquer the world, but he could control his reaction to them.

As I read the book I was comforted in the fact that nothing falls outside the circle of Divine Providence:
  1. the knowledge of God embraces it;
  2. His power is sovereign over it;
  3. His mercy holds it creatively.
The key here is God's goodness. The parent does not will evil for his or her child; neither would a perfect God will evil for His children. At the time Dr. Weatherhead gave his talks, the people in England needed desperately to know that there was a living and loving God in spite of the horror going on.

We need to understand God's will and its components before we tell the person prostrate with grief that "It's God's will." As I read this incredible treatise, I viewed us as being in God's ICU unit and God taking care of us as only He can do, no matter what our circumstances.

Thank You, Father, for being our Physician in Your ICU unit!

I liked the three divisions. It does seem that there is a permissive aspect to the will of God. Here is an excerpt from something I wrote about God's will a few years ago:
God's will is so inclusive and is so greater than our religious ideas often lead us to believe. There is truly no delineation between the sacred and the secular. Each of us have a sacred call in, and of, our heart. Connecting with that heart call and desire takes a bit of courage.
Sometimes when I think about the will of God I go to the verse that follows the one in the eighth chapter of Romans that speaks of God causing all things to work together for good. It speaks of the reason that he does it.. it says that God works all for our good so that we might be like Jesus. In the end I think that this is the overarching will of God for humanity - that we would be like Him.. and I add my amen to that.

On being completely poured out and drained..

Sometimes someone says something that is so healing and life giving. Following is such a thing. It was written in an email by a guy named Mike to my blog friend Jill Hollis whose body is being ravaged daily by an evil disease called ALS.
What I am hearing is not that you hate your LIFE, but that you hate what your BODY is doing to you and its consequences. Unfortunately, when things go way wrong with your body then it seems like it is your whole life. In my mind, that is not only normal, but if you didn't feel that way, something would be seriously wrong. I don't think the Scriptures that say to "give thanks in all circumstances" mean you must always enjoy what you are experiencing or not feel depressed. When Jesus was in the garden, I think he HATED what was happening to him and how he was feeling, too. He wept....repeatedly. He was so wrought with emotion, blood beaded up on his forehead. When he looked for comfort from his best friends, they were sound asleep. When he prayed, he asked that the future be different, knowing all along that it wouldn't be.

Hating what is happening, wishing it were all different, being disappointed at how those around you are dealing with your circumstances...Jesus felt and experienced all those things and the remarkable thing is that God never once chastised him for having those feelings. It's okay to be completely poured out and drained. What God hopes and expects from us is that when we get to our lowest, we will simply do what Jesus did and talk to Him - honestly, openly, and with complete sincerity about what you are feeling.
Thanks Mike! This is such wise and compassionate counsel. Could not have said it better.

Defeating Sin: An Issue of Inner Strength

Just a few brief thoughts this morning about defeating sin in our lives.
Here is how I commented at Jeff's blog this morning:

I think that the issue of sin is an issue of keeping our innermost being strong . If we feed and exercise our innermost being then we will be able to defeat sin because sin happens when our outer being is in control. So the issue is one of strength.. if we are strong on the inside then we can exert control over sin.

My favorite verse about sin is James 4:17:
"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
Our innermost being knows the right thing to do. Sadly our outer being sometimes wins.. and we sin.

Redeeming Pain and Relationships

My blogging friend Mike recently posted about Joseph and his struggle to rise above his beginnings. Here is the comment I left on his blog:
Whenever I think about Joseph I remember that he was a teenage boy who lost his mother to death and had a hurting father who saw Joseph's pain and tried to help by giving him a wonderful cloak.

Another wonderful aspect is the way that God changed his heart after his brother's showed up in Egypt. I love it how God helps us to let go of the past and find something redeeming about it.
Just a few short thoughts about redemption.. how our pain often needs to be redeemed.. and how God can work in redemptive ways to restore broken relationships.

I can relate so well because I have a son who once lost a mother when he was a teen.. and a ten year old daughter who witnessed, with her brother and father, her mother die.. I can relate to wanting to ease their pain with gifts.. and I can relate to seeing redemption in the midst of that pain. I am amazed by God's redemptive purposes.