Beware of Bitterness

By Marilyn Boyer

I believe Satan hates families, especially families who are training their children to serve God. I believe Satan’s biggest tool to destroy family harmony is bitterness. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble and by it many be defiled.”

Bitterness is a subtle thing. Satan knows he can’t get the average Christian to forsake the faith and follow him, so he settles for a sneak attack, hoping to hinder our usefulness. I Peter 5:9, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Harboring bitterness is never worth it. Bitterness always brings about death to relationships.

As home educators, we need to doubly guard against bitterness. We are investing our time, energies, schedule – in short, our entire lives – into the lives of our children. I think there’s a strong tendency to become bitter when we feel like we’ve invested so much and our kids don’t appreciate it, or haven’t done what we expected them to do. In some ways, we have added pressure from others to see that our kids “conform: to expectations of excellence, academic proficiency, etc. We are tempted to put pressure on our kids to conform to what others think they should be doing. We must guard against this and let God lead each child as He sees fit, not what others pressure us to do.

Parents, we must set the godly example. A clue that you may be harboring bitterness is feeling hurt often. Bitterness masquerades as hurt, which is actually selfishness. Another symptom is that a bitter person is hardly ever able to be pleased. It’s almost like he has a chip on his shoulder, and walks about looking to be offended. He gets offended very easily. When offended, he dredges up all the past offenses toward him and dwells on them. He hasn’t turned whatever it is over to God, but hangs onto it himself. A bitter person is not always exhibiting bitterness. Sometimes it’s masked, but springs up to cause trouble when he is irritated.

The bitter person has a tendency to expect the worst in the person he is harboring bitterness toward. The offender’s faults overshadow their positive qualities in his eyes and he tends to live with a defeated spirit. If you sense any of these characteristics in your life or your loved ones, examine yourself for bitterness and relinquish it. Don’t destroy the very thing you’ve been working on for all these years by allowing bitterness to dwell within. Learn not to take things personally, but give hurts and disappointments to God. We must realize that bitterness seems to be directed at people, but it is ultimately toward God. Confess it to God and give no place to the devil!

God allows trials to come into our lives to make us better. Satan fights to get us to become bitter.  We, as parents, must, first of all, realize that our kids probably won’t appreciate all we’ve done for them until they’re adults, and not even completely then. As they experience seasons of life themselves, what you have sacrificed for them will slowly dawn on them. We must train our children because God expects us to, and we only need to please God, not expect our kids’ approval on each issue.

Secondly, expect your kids to need to question your values, the ones you’ve often fought for and been despised for by others. Your kids don’t just grow up and adopt your beliefs as their own. They need time and freedom to question. Communication is a must. Talk things over with them. Allow space for questions without becoming defensive. Resist the temptation to feel threatened. Try to see things from their point of view. Hold strong to your values, but explain why you have the values you do and how you arrived at that conclusion. They’ll come around to adopting them fro themselves as you help them work through it. It’s kind of like getting saved. You can’t just grow up in a Christian home and be a Christian. You have to deal with your sin and accept Jesus as your personal Lord. So it is with values. Your kids need room to think and reason and then adopt them and cling to them for themselves. Some will struggle more than others; be there to help and support and explain.

You’re the key – drop your load of bitterness at the Savior’s feet and put your arm around your children. Come alongside them and be a Barnabas, encouraging them to give their all to the Savior! You’ll be glad you did, for all eternity!

Note: Some of my favorite parts of this article would not fit in the magazine pages so I have put them on my website for you.