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Overcome Bitterness


Genesis 45:3-11
Bible Studies for Life, Nov. 16


“When I think about him, all I have is anger and hatred,” the woman confessed, “I wish he was dead!”

Many people are mistreated and hurt deeply by those they love and by those who call Jesus Lord. The hurt runs deep and the pain is real. Left unchecked, those events can lead us into the darkest prison with no walls and no bars.

However, we can mask the prison and hide it away out of site from most of our friends and family. Sometimes we can even find ourselves surprised by unforgiveness we forgot about, but unforgiveness changes us and can make us bitter! Unforgiveness is a cancer eating away at our soul and destroying us from the inside out. How do we keep painful events from becoming bitter roots in our lives?


Genesis 45:3-4

Joseph had every right to be angry. He had suffered from the actions of his brothers for over 22 years. When he encounters his brothers, the past was not forgotten. The reminder of the past may sometimes burst forth fear, regret, guilt, anger, and hurt. Especially, if we forget in order that we may not have to genuinely forgive.

Twenty-two years after they threw Joseph in a pit, the event still haunted his brothers (42:21-22). When they finally realized they were standing before Joseph, they were speechless. Joseph even brought up the past and did not ignore it. He said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.”

Forgiveness does not ignore the past nor does it have to forget the past. Genuine forgiveness is neither forgetting nor excusing the past. Nor is it simply a feeling or a conditional response from another. Genuine forgiveness can remember the past, but views the events and the person[s] through different lenses.

What seems to be the greatest obstacle to forgiving others?


Genesis 45:5-8

Forgiveness is what we do toward someone and not toward an event. Having a proper perspective is critical to our hearts being moved toward forgiveness.

Joseph’s perspective had been intensely focused on God for 22 years. He had come to the place where God’s plan outweighed the actions of his brothers or the events of suffering he had endured. He understood he was where he was because of God. The word Joseph used for God is the same word used in Genesis 1:1.

Elohim created all things from nothing. Elohim brought him to the place he was in Egypt. Joseph’s faith kept his heart focused on God and not the hurt. He was able to move beyond the hurt and embrace those who hurt him. His focus made the difference in being better rather than being bitter.

Why is “understanding forgiveness in what we do toward a person and not an event” important?


Genesis 45:9-11

The prolific symptom of an unforgiving heart is not hatred or anger, but revenge. Genuine forgiveness seeks not to harm or hold an event against another any longer. Forgiveness is releasing another from retribution.

Joseph had been given the authority to have his brothers killed and questions would not be asked. However, he chose not to seek revenge, rather his love compelled him to seek a blessing for them. His life compelled him to see the bigger picture, his love compelled him to look beyond the wrong done, and his faith gave him the perspective and strength to endure the tough times.

When have you sought the good for someone who hurt you?


The one who hurts most

Forgiveness is a choice and not simply a feeling. However, we will receive a feeling after we have forgiven. Ephesians 4:31-32 clearly indicates a choice is involved when it states, “All bitterness … must be removed from you.” Genuine forgiveness is an unconditional decision to release others from our induced punishment.

Our unforgiveness never punishes or hurts the offender; we are always the one hurt the greatest when we do not forgive. When we release others, we are released from the dark prison unforgiveness and bitterness can bring.

Forgiveness is a necessary opportunity all God’s children must give at some point. However, we must remember our success is never measured in the response or actions of our offender, but in our obedience to our Father.

Colossians 3:13 declares, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Ken Sande writes, “We are not called to forgive others in order to earn God’s love; rather, having experienced his love, we have the basis and motive to forgive others.”

We forgive because we have been forgiven much. However, how do we forgive when we have been hurt so deeply?

We have three assets at our disposal that are invaluable when dealing with hurt, unforgiveness, and bitterness.

First, we have time. Sometimes, the deeper the hurt the longer time is needed. Forgiveness does not always come in an instant. Most deep hurts will take time for genuine forgiveness to take root.

In addition, our success is greatly enhanced when we access our second commodity on a regular basis, the Scriptures. Within the pages of God’s Word, we find direction and hope to forgive. Scripture allows us to align our thinking and view with God’s thinking and view. When our mind aligns with God’s mind, we are transformed to forgive unconditionally.

The third asset is the Holy Spirit. Genuine forgiveness is never accomplished apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowers us to embody the divine act of forgiving others. Through prayer and God’s Word, the Holy Spirit transforms us and frees us from the prison in which we find ourselves trapped.

Recognize you have unforgiveness in your heart, surrender your time to Scripture and prayer, and allow the Holy Spirit to change your view of the person and bring unconditional forgiveness and freedom to your life.