A Note from Chris Adams: Sometimes you meet a woman who is just mad. Or maybe it appears more as depressed. Something just isn’t right, but you may not be able to put your finger on it. It may be a deep point of hurt or disappointment that has led to bitterness that penetrates everything about her. What do you do? Dr. Deb Douglas, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA addresses that issue in this article and gives a very practical activity you can use to help a woman work through this bitterness to find healing and joy.
Bitterness and resentment show up on the faces of women. There’s a scowl and a set of permanent wrinkles from grimacing intently.
Bitterness is contagious. Naomi’s words recorded in Ruth 1:13 describe her eagerness to protect her daughters-in-law from bitterness, “…No, my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me.” The events in Naomi’s life had left her with a root of bitterness that controlled her life, rendering her with an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.
Bitterness and resentment ruin what is left after life has wrung us out. The accompanying anger changes how we see others, creates jealousy, and leaves us stuck in the hurts of life.
The image of a bitter woman you know has probably come to mind as you read these words. Or maybe that woman is you. Thankfully, a woman does not have to stay bitter. There is freedom available, but it takes some work and some deep digging into our hearts.
How can we help women (and ourselves) be free from bitterness and resentment?
Begin the process by praying for the bitter woman. Pray for her freedom. Pray for her to have courage to face whatever she may discover in the process.
- Do not tell a woman simply to get over it. If she could, she would have done so already!
- Dig it out! One of the most hurtful statements we can make is, “Fake it until you make it” when it comes to bitterness. This attitude encourages women to bury rather than deal with their hurts. Instead, give her a notebook and encourage her to write down the names of the people she holds resentment against. She may have to do some deep digging to discover the source of some of her roots of bitterness. Write one name per page at least.
- Under the name on each page, write down a brief description of the events that caused the resentment or bitterness to take root. This can be difficult. The root may be buried deeply, even forgotten after years of denying it existed.
- Next, write what impact the events had. How did the event change her life? What has carrying the bitterness and resentment that resulted from the event done?
- This next step is challenging. She must write down how she responded and what her part in the event was. Did she close her heart to the person who caused it? Did she move away or change her life? Did resentment impact how she acted toward others?
- Help the hurting woman to pray through each hurt and each event that caused bitterness and resentment. As she prays, encourage her to begin the process of forgiveness.
- Forgiveness takes time. It’s a process.
- God brings to mind chunks of things for us to forgive as we are able to forgive. This can make it seem as if forgiveness hasn’t occurred, but the reality is God is guiding us one step at a time through the forgiveness process.
- Forgiveness is slow at times. The feeling of forgiveness follows the fact of forgiveness eventually, but not necessarily immediately. It’s feelings following facts. By writing the words, “I forgive” in the margins next to each offense as it is forgiven, the hurt woman can go back to the written proof of her act of forgiveness when she lacks the feeling of forgiveness.
- Be prepared with the names of Christian counselors to help if she needs more than you can do.
How will this bitterness exercise help? Writing down the hurts and their impact will allow the woman to process each portion of the hurt and come to a place of understanding what happened in the past. This process is not a magic cure; instead it begins the journey through past hurts, a journey that is often a step-by-step walk through painful territory. Show her that it’s worth the hard work to find healing from bitterness.
With God’s help, the journey can be made and the destination of living without bitterness is worth the trip! A woman freed up from bitterness is a beautiful woman!
“Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble…” —Hebrews 12:15
“All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice.” —Ephesians 4:31
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.