I was thinking about some friends and loved ones who were going through some serious trials, when the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "If they just wouldn't get bitter, I could help them and heal them." You see, when we allow bitterness to creep into our hearts and minds, it cuts us off from the Person and power that we need the most in difficult times. Scripture warns us, "Don't let your suffering embitter you at the only One who can deliver you." (Job 36:18 TLB) I hear from people on a regular basis who are going through hard times, and I can tell by what they say that they have allowed bitterness to take root in their hearts by getting angry at God and His dealings with them. And it grieves my heart because I know that the way they respond to their trials will play a major part in their outcome. Before I got serious about my relationship with the Lord many years ago, I never made the connection between how I responded to heartache and hardship, and my final outcome. Like most people, I thought that I could get angry and resentful, and even mistreat people, and still get the same results in the end. Often, I felt justified feeling sorry for myself, or holding grudges against others. I even thought that being mad at God was my personal right, when He allowed me to suffer more than I felt I deserved. I didn't realize that I was not leaving room for the Lord to work mightily on my behalf whenever I responded wrongly to my trials.
After I surrendered my life to the Lord for real those many years ago, I began an in-depth study of the Bible. That's when I discovered that while my bitterness was not giving God the opportunity to act on my behalf, it WAS giving Satan and his dark forces an open door to my life and my circumstances. The apostle Paul wrote: "When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]." (Ephesians 4:26-27 AMP) And as I gave the devil permission to destroy my life through my bitterness and unforgiveness, I experienced more and more troubles, and drifted further from the Lord and His good plans for me.
God has taught me that when His people go through difficult times, our perspective and focus are crucial. That's one reason why the author of Hebrews wrote that we should constantly be "Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who…for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds." (Hebrews 12:2-3 AMP) Jesus is our example for living our lives on this earth, and if we ask for His perspective on our circumstances, and compare our trials with His, we will begin to see things through His eyes, and we will have all the power and wisdom we need to respond in a Christlike manner. And exemplifying Christ in our situation will enable us to lay hold of all the blessings, rewards, and victories God has in store for those who honor and obey Him.
If you are a believer like me, and people around you know it, then sooner or later, when those folks are going through trying times, they are going to hit you with some challenging questions about God. Why is this happening to me? What kind of God allows people to suffer like this? And on and on. The apostle Peter has some advice for you and me in times like these. "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV) God will give you the right words at the right time to speak words of wisdom, truth, and encouragement to these people, if you ask Him to. And you will have planted seeds of hope in their hearts that can ultimately change their lives and draw them to Christ.
Jesus declared, "Blessed is the one who does not lose his faith in Me." (Luke 7:23 TLB) There are extraordinary blessings awaiting the believer who refuses to allow doubt, discouragement, and bitterness to rob them of their inheritance in Christ. Are you ready to give God the opportunity to show Himself strong in your life and circumstances today?
Prayer: Lord, when trouble comes my way, help me to respond in a Christlike manner - full of faith, forgiveness, and hope. Guard me from the bitterness, resentment, and self-pity that can open the door to the forces of darkness whose only purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) Remind me often that how I respond to hardship and heartache will play a major part in my final outcome. Thank You that as I keep my eyes on You, and trust You to work everything out for my good - including my trials - You will bless me and use me in new and exciting ways for Your glory! (Romans 8:28)
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