7 Helps When you are Tempted to be BITTER TOWARD GOD
As Christians we will suffer in this life. It has been graciously granted to us not only to be believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him (Phil 1:29). Suffering is part of living in a fallen world under the curse of sin.
As we suffer, sometimes we are tempted to given in to bitter thoughts toward God. We are tempted to think what theologian Dane Ortlund calls “hard thoughts” of God. We do this when we believe that God doesn’t care about us. Or that He is unconcerned with our suffering. When this is happened, we are tempted to bitter toward God and think of the worst about Him.
Here are 7 helps for when you are tempted to be bitter God. I’m sure I’ve got a lot of these precious insights hammered into my head through these wonderful Puritans works (“Crook in the Lot” and “Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod”). These are helps that I need to preach to myself:
1. Remember: you don’t know the rest of the story of your life. God may bring about something extraordinarily wonderful, in this life, out of this particular bleak and painful providence. It may turn out like Joseph, who was sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned for years, but ended up being the saving cause of his entire family (Genesis). There may be something you can see that will come of this for the good others and the glory of God. On the other hand, you might not get to see it, and you may just have to walk by faith and trust God with it. But is pride to assume you know how your life will play out and give in to bitter thoughts because of a particular painful providence.
2. Remember: God really is sovereign and He really is working all things for you good (Rom 8:28). Praise God that this is true in the triumphs and tragedies of our lives. He works ALL things for our good, even the unspeakably painful things. (I can testify to the reality of this. I lost my mother when she was only 52, and I can see how God worked that incredibly painful situation for my good).
3. Consider: You may not understand why God has brought about this suffering, but God understand why and His purposes are good. God knows what He is doing and you can trust Him in this. You don’t have to know why God brings about things the way He does.
4. Behold: God is with you in the midst of your pain. All of your tears are in His bottle (Ps 56:8). He is not unaware of your pain, but merciful toward you in the midst of it. We can bring our pain to God; further, it is good to remember that it is normal and okay to feel pain in souls. The question is how we approach and deal with the painful circumstances: will I honor Christ in them or give way to bitter thoughts against God? Thomas Brooks helpfully explains the fact that there is a difference between moaning and murmuring, groaning and grumbling. We see the Psalmists moan and groan to God, but we see Scripture lead us away from murmuring and grumbling.
5. Reach out to other Christians: You are not meant to suffer alone. We are to “grieve with those who grieve” (Rom 12:15). God has kindly given us other people to share our hurts in this life. This is a huge help to turn away from bitterness toward God.
6. Remember: Jesus suffered far more than any of us ever will in this life, and He did it for us (Matt 20:28). None of the suffering we experience in this fallen world can compare to what Jesus went through on the cross. He experienced the wrath of God (propitiation) and was forsaken for us. He did this to save us from our sins and bring us back to God. We can look to Jesus as a savior who has suffered.
7. Consider: God promises a kingdom where all famine, death, and tragedy is completely and forever gone. Jesus came to “abolish death and bring life and immortality to life in the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10). Everyone who believes in Christ has hope of an eternal kingdom free from death. Pondering heaven, the truth of it, leads us away from bitterness and helps us to embrace an eternal perspective as we suffer.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:16-18)
(These thoughts were taken from my sermon prep on Ruth 1, for Cross of Christ Fellowship)