Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: If you’ve been hurt deeply, here’s some hope from Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God wants to give you grace to move on past that circumstance, past that hurt. It’s not that the hurt didn’t happen. It’s not that the circumstance wasn’t real. It’s not that it wasn’t painful, but God wants to give you grace to move on and set you free from whatever that disappointment and hurt was in your life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, coauthor of Lies Young Women Believe, coming Spring 2008.

The last few weeks, we’ve been looking at what happens when a person experiences true revival. Last week, we saw the link between revival and a clear conscience. This week, we’ll focus on forgiveness.

When God revives your heart, you have a power to forgive like never before. If you’re following along with the related material in the workbook Seeking Him, today you’ll work on pages 169-172 on the power of radical forgiveness.

Nancy: How many of you have read the novel or seen the movie of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations? You may remember that one of the main characters in that story is an eccentric old lady named Miss Havisham.

Years earlier, before the story opens, on her wedding day she was dressing for the wedding, waiting for nine o’clock when her fiancé was to arrive. There was a huge feast that had been prepared.

There was an enormous wedding cake, but at 20 minutes to nine, Miss Havisham received a message that the groom had run away with another woman and was not going to be coming to the wedding.

From that moment on, this woman made it her goal in life to get revenge on men. She refused to move on with life. She chose instead to live in the past. She continued to wear her wedding dress and veil for years. She would never take it off.

All time froze at that moment. In fact, all the clocks in her house were stopped at 20 minutes to nine when this tragedy had taken place in her life. She just did not go on. Her dress and her veil became tattered and yellowed and faded over the years, but she just stayed that way.

She put heavy drapes on all the windows so the sun could never shine into her house. She lived in seclusion with her adopted daughter, and the cake and the feast—they were all left to rot on the tables. Eventually, the mice and the spiders carried them off.

The main character in the story is a boy named Pip, who comes to visit Miss Havisham. On the first time he comes, it happens to be her birthday, but she won’t let anyone mention her birthday because that was the day when she was supposed to get married.

In the course of the conversation with Pip, she says, “On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of decay was brought here,” and it really is a heap of decay.

There are these huge spider webs everywhere. The place is just in this ugly, grotesque state of decay. She says, “It,” (that is, the heap of decay) “and I have worn away together. The mice have gnawed at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me.”

Of course, those teeth that had gnawed at Miss Havisham were the teeth of bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, and as I think about Miss Havisham in that scene with all that decay around her, I think that is a picture of so many women today, refusing to move on, living in the past, being held hostage to some offense, some wound, some situation that perhaps took place years ago.

In fact, that could be you. It may be that you are missing out on the life God wants you to enjoy today, and you know exactly when it was that those clocks stopped in your life. You can think back to the scene, the place, the day, the time, the circumstances. It may have been years ago.

But today, you are living in a heap of decay. The teeth of bitterness and resentment have gnawed at you and worn you away and destroyed you, or it may be that the event for you was something that happened recently.

You see, the fact is, you don’t have to end up like Miss Havisham. Nobody has to end up that way. She didn’t have to end up that way.

God wants to give you grace to move on past that circumstance, past that hurt. It’s not that the hurt didn’t happen. It’s not that the circumstance wasn’t real. It’s not that it wasn’t painful, but God wants to give you grace to move on and set you free from whatever that disappointment and hurt was in your life.

Let me just reset for a moment here; you know that for the past several weeks we’ve been in the Seeking Him series. For the first several weeks of that series, we talked about how to experience revival in our vertical relationship with God.

We talked about things like humility and honesty and repentance and holiness. Now, in the second half of the series, we’re dealing with the practical outworking of revival as it affects our relationships with other people.

It reminds me of the Ten Commandments. The first four are the ones that have to do with your relationship with God, your vertical relationship. The last six have to do with your relationships with others.

Of course it’s important to put the vertical relationship first, because if that’s not right, there’s no way to have right relationships with other people. As we’ve been learning to live in humility and honesty and repentance and holiness, now that has to work its way out into the way we relate to other people.

It has to work in the laboratory of life, within the walls of our own homes. Last week we talked in this series about the importance of having a clear conscience. That is dealing with our offenses toward others. Now we want to turn the corner this week and talk about how to deal with others’ offenses toward us.

You notice the order we put these in. Clear conscience first, and then this issue of bitterness and forgiveness second. So many people want to deal with others’ offenses toward them first, and God’s Word says, “No, you first deal with your offenses toward others. Get that beam out of your own eye so that you can then be involved in helping others deal with their offenses” (Matthew 7:5, paraphrased).

So this week we want to talk about how to deal with the wounds that we have received from others, and there are several passages we’ll look at over the next several days, but one key passage in this whole issue of bitterness comes from Hebrews chapter 12.

We’ll be in this passage again this week, but let me read two verses in Hebrews 12, verses 15 and 16. Verse 15 says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.”

That passage (and we’ll get more into it later) talks about three root issues in believers’ lives that we have to deal with if we’re going to have revival.

  • One is bitterness, which we’re talking about this week.
  • The second is moral impurity—it talks about sexual immorality there, which we’ll talk about next week.
  • And the third root is the whole thing of temporal values, losing perspective of what really matters.

We’ve got to deal with these issues. The writer to the Hebrews says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.” See to it. I think that says that we have a responsibility to help keep each other from becoming bitter.

I want to see to it this week that no one listening to my voice fails to obtain the grace of God. I want to see to it that you don’t fail to obtain the grace of God and that you deal with every root of bitterness that may be present in your life, because if you don’t, this passage says you will be troubled and many others will become contaminated by your root of bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31-32 is another passage that is familiar to us on this subject. It says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Bitterness—put it away, this passage says. Get rid of it. Deal with it. Don’t hang on to it. Don’t let it make you a prisoner as it did Miss Havisham. In the New Testament, as you study bitterness is essentially a response of anger or resentment to painful or difficult circumstances or people.

Paul says, “Get rid of it. Don’t let any bitterness lodge in your heart.” Get rid of it. Don’t hold on to it. The enemy wants to keep you bitter, because he knows if he keeps you bitter, your life is going to be fruitless.

It’s going to be frustrated. You’re going to live a frazzled, damaged Christian life. You’re going to end up in that heap of decay. There are several words the New Testament associates with bitterness, and I want to take a look at some of those, because it will give us a feel of why bitterness is so serious.

For example, in Ephesians 4:31, bitterness is linked with rage, with anger, and with malice. It’s not a good thing. In Colossians three, verse 19, bitterness is contrasted with love. It says, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (NKJV).

Interestingly, some of the translations read it just the way I did, “Do not be bitter toward them.” Some of the other translations say, “Do not be harsh with your wives.” So, husbands are not to be bitter toward their wives. They’re not to be harsh toward them.

Isn’t it interesting that one word could be translated both ways, because bitterness invariably gets linked with harsh behavior. If you’re bitter toward someone, you’re not going to speak graciously and sweetly toward them or about them. There’s going to be harshness that comes with that bitterness.

In Romans three, bitterness is associated with cursing, and in James three, bitterness is tied to jealousy. Jealousy, cursing, harsh treatment, rage, anger, malice—do you want those things to be in your life? No, you don’t. Why do we let roots of bitterness stay in our hearts?

Bitterness grieves the Spirit of God. That’s probably the worst thing about it. It grieves the Spirit of God. It demonstrates a lack of trust in God’s plan and His love. It demonstrates resistance of the will of God. We don’t like what God has done. We don’t like the choices He has made.

We may not say we’re bitter toward God. It may be that ex-mate or that boss or that neighbor or that child that is the focus of our bitterness, but ultimately, all bitterness is directed against God.

So bitterness grieves the Spirit of God because it’s a resistance against God. But our bitterness also affects others. People who are not forbearing, who are not forgiving generally become hard and cold. They often become depressed and even physically sick.

There are many physical ailments today that doctors will tell you are affected by our unwillingness to forgive. People who are bitter become hard to live with. They can become negative, critical, cantankerous. I don’t want to be a bitter woman, but you know, often it’s easier to see bitterness in other people than it is to see it in ourselves.

That’s why we need people around us who love us enough to say, “Do you need to deal with an issue of forgiveness? Could you be becoming bitter?” Not only does bitterness grieve the Spirit of God and affect others around us, but ultimately it will destroy you.

It’s like an acid. It destroys the container in which it’s held. It’s so destructive. Bitterness is a wrong response to people and circumstances over which we have no control—things we can’t change, things we can’t fix—and we become bitter in our response to them.

Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 12, and I want us to examine a passage that talks to us about God’s perspective on dealing with trouble, hardship, and painful circumstances.

We read, beginning in verse five, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him.” The whole subject of this passage is the discipline of the Lord. Some of your translations will say “chastening.” His discipline, His chastening.

We’re going to see that God’s discipline is intended for the good of His children. He’s our Heavenly Father, and He is inflicting various types of chastening and discipline on His children for their good.

So he says, “When you experience the discipline of the Lord, don’t regard it lightly, and don’t be weary.” Some of your translations say, “Don’t faint.” Don’t give up. Don’t despair when you’re experiencing the discipline of the Lord through the circumstances of life.

Instead, see those circumstances, the writer is going on to say, “as an expression of God’s love.” You say, “God must love me an awful lot to let me experience all these circumstances.” You know what, He does, and not only are those circumstances an expression of God’s love, but they’re also an evidence of your relationship with God.

Look at verse six: “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” If you’re being chastened by the Lord, it’s an evidence that you’re a child of God.

He goes on to say in verses seven and eight, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children, and not sons.”

Verse 9: “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” So what is to be our response to the disciplining hand of God? These circumstances in life that are disappointing, that are hurtful; they’re painful; they’re hard.

Rather than becoming bitter over them, what are we to do? We’re to endure them. We’re to submit to our Father’s hand and heart that is bringing these circumstances into our lives for our good. God intends for this experience, whatever it is you’re going through that is creating those feelings of bitterness, God intends for that experience to actually be profitable for you.

You say, “How could it be profitable?” Well, look at the next paragraph. Verses ten and 11, “For they [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

So the writer to the Hebrews is saying, “There’s an end in sight. There’s an objective. God has a purpose in this. He wants to produce the fruit of righteousness in your life.” So, yes, you have to endure the painful discipline and chastening hand of God in order to get from here to there.

Don’t become bitter. Don’t throw up your hands in despair. Don’t give up. Don’t faint. Don’t drop out of the race. Don’t lash out at the people or the circumstances that have hurt you. Trust your Father’s hand and heart. This is for your good.

“Therefore,” he says in verses 12-14, “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

What is that paragraph saying? It says “Press on, through the discipline, through the pain.” Don’t drop out of the race. I’ve watched a marathon runner in that last part of the marathon, and I’ve seen my friend with drooping hands and weak knees and just wanting to give up before the finish line.

There are people there on the sidelines cheering and saying, “You can make it. You can make it!” That’s easy to say when you’re on the sidelines, right? But God stands on the sidelines and says to us, “Lift up those drooping hands. Strengthen your weak knees. Don’t drop out of the race.”

Then the writer says here that God wants to use the discipline to heal what is lame in you. There are parts of our spiritual bodies that are weak, that are needy, that are fragile, that need to be strengthened, and God uses the pain and the discipline to heal that which is lame.

There’s a positive process taking place here through the discipline. God wants us, in the midst of this, to strive to live at peace with those who are around us, including those who may have caused your pain. Strive for peace with everyone.

You are not responsible for how the offender relates to you, but you are responsible for how you relate to the offender. Strive for peace with everyone. Get rid of the bitterness. This person is an instrument in God’s hand. Let God have His way in your life, and trust God to have His way in the offender’s life, as well.

“Strive not only for peace, but also,” he says, “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” What does that mean? I think the writer is saying, “Have a holy response to the pain. Why? Because through the pain, you are going to see and experience God in a way that might not otherwise have been possible.

“Pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” You can’t become holy without the pain, and you can’t see God without the holiness. So if you want to see the Lord, if you want to have an intimate relationship with Him, you’ve got to be willing to submit to the pain.

I talked with a friend recently whose husband’s business partner has been making some very foolish and ugly decisions that may drive this business into bankruptcy. The partner knows it, doesn’t care, is pursuing this course of action anyway.

As we talked, and there’s no insight yet—she doesn’t know how it’s going to end. They may go bankrupt, but to hear in my friend and to sense in her the great joy and freedom and the sweet fruit that is being developed in her life through this hard, long, painful process, she said, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

She’s not saying that looking back. She’s saying that in the midst of the fire, and that’s a holy response to the pain. Then the writer closes in verse 15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

That’s the alternative. If you don’t receive God’s grace, you’ll become bitter. God has grace to give you for that trial, for that struggle, for that problem, for that disappointment, but if you don’t humble yourself and receive His grace, you will become bitter, and that bitterness will trouble you, and it will defile many people around you.

So what’s the cure for bitterness? Receive and appropriate the grace of God to deal with your circumstance, to respond to the difficult person. Learn to see God’s hand in your circumstances, His purposes, His design.

Receive the trial as a gift from God intended for your good, for your sanctification. God is wanting to conform you to the image of Christ, and He will use that circumstance to do that if you won’t become bitter.

As you go through it, call on God, as we’ve been learning to do through this series. Call on God for grace. “Lord, I can’t handle this person. I can’t handle this circumstance. I can’t handle this pain. I need You.”

And again, and again, and again, God will send His grace racing to the scene of your need. And then look beyond the immediate circumstances to the ultimate outcome that God wants to bring about in your life.

What is it? He’s making you holy. He’s making you like Jesus—Jesus, who learned obedience through the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). You see, if you can see the final outcome, which is holiness, Christ-likeness, the glory of God in your life, wouldn’t you be willing to endure rather than to become bitter?

It’s really your choice whether you end up a bitter, angry, resentful person, or you end up holy and Christ-like, because you received those circumstances from the hand of God, as a gift from God, and you chose to receive the grace of God rather than become bitter.

Father, how I pray that even in this moment, there would be bitterness being released and forgiveness being embraced. Thank You for the way that You have forgiven us, O Lord, for Your incredible grace and mercy in our lives.

I pray You would be setting captives free, that we could move on with life and move into the fullness and the fruitfulness of all that You have for us as we choose the pathway of forgiveness. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, helping a lot of women begin to escape the pull of bitterness today. If you’re ready to embrace forgiveness and freedom, I hope you’ll read Nancy’s helpful book, Choosing Forgiveness.

You’ll read about those who forgave when it seemed impossible. You’ll learn how to find freedom from bitterness. Don’t let unforgiveness drag on. Get a copy of Choosing Forgiveness and begin the process of healing.

When you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send Choosing Forgiveness as our way of saying thanks. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or look for it at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’ve heard from a lot of women lately who’ve been enjoying a daily devotional from Nancy. You can, too. Sign up for Seeking Him, the daily devotional email. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to learn more.

When is it right to confront someone about their offense, and when should you overlook it? Nancy will take up those issues tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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