Bitterness comes to steal our joy. It comes to steal our lives and even who we are as a person. Bitterness also seems to come at the most inconvenient times. It comes in the moments when we need joy most in our lives. I’ve never been a very bitter person. I have always been one that has been able to overlook the bad going on around me and focus on the good. However, this year I’ve found myself consumed in bitterness. I’ve been bitter about the pandemic, the division caused by the election, and so much more. This bitterness has brought out parts of me that have made me ashamed. I’ve been more jealous. I always see the cup half empty. And I’ve been angry. Yes, there are parts of our lives that we are going to get upset about, but this anger has entered a new level. It consumes me. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. This year has brought out the worst in a lot of us. This year has left us feeling bitter.
A definition of bitterness from the Oxford Dictionary is “anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment.” You could say that this year has left us feeling as if our lives are unfair. And on top of the worldly problems are our own problems. It’s easy to get to a place where we are disappointed in our own situations. Eventually we begin falling into resentment. We resent our situations and the unfair treatment. All of this builds and builds until we are bitter. The best way for me to describe bitterness is like a child’s tantrum. It can start out over something small that didn’t go our way. And then it can build into anger/resentment (the screaming and crying) which leads to a really bad mood. Except unlike a child having a tantrum, this “bad mood” lingers for days in our lives. This “bad mood” leaves us feeling ungrateful of our lives and bitter towards the people who treat us wrong.
The concept of bitterness could not relate more to the life of Naomi whose name literally became known as “bitter.” Naomi lost almost everyone in her life. She lost her husband and her two sons, leaving her only two daughters-in-law. All of her losses seemed to be unfair. She resented those losses and her life. I mean who wouldn’t? She lost the people that were closest to her. Her daughters-in-law insisted on staying with her because they loved Naomi. This would’ve been unheard of in this time. The normal thing for these daughters-in-law to do would be to go back home to their family after their husbands had died. Naomi was insistent that they go back home. One of the daughters-in-law, Orpah, obeyed Naomi and went back home to her people, while Ruth, the other daughter-in-law, stayed with Naomi and didn’t go back to her people. Ruth’s home was Naomi.
19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi;[a] call me Mara,[b] for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” – Ruth 1:19-21
The name Naomi is translated as “pleasant,” but the name Mara is translated as “bitter.” Naomi used to be pleasant, but then life was unfair. A series of heart breaks left her bitter and empty. She felt that God had dealt with her bitterly through the times that were brought upon her. Can you relate to this? I know I can. She was full, but then life left her feeling empty. She was so bitter that she lost who she was. She was so miserable that she wanted to be isolated. She tried so hard to push Ruth and Oprah out of her life because when you’re bitter, you push away the blessings and gifts that God has given you. Bitterness is like a disease that tries to take every part of your life until it feels that it has taken away all of the good.
But that is not where Naomi’s story ended. Long story short, Ruth met a man named Boaz when she was working in the fields one day. This man found favor in Ruth and ended up marrying her. Ruth had a baby with Boaz, and Naomi found herself surrounded by family. At the end of the story, the bitterness that had once consumed Naomi seemed to have gone away. She was finally concentrated not on what she had lost but, instead, what she had gained. Ruth was the hope that Naomi had needed. I believe Ruth was God’s presence in Naomi’s life. She was a constant reminder that there was still good and good would always remain. Good was not leaving. God was not leaving.
Bitterness is a blinder to the good in our lives. In every situation, there is some sort of good. There are lessons to be learned. There are people to be met. There are good times to be had (if we allow them). So much of our lives is about perspective. We can either look at the cup half full or half empty. We can either look at the blessings right in front of our eyes or look all around that blessing and never recognize or appreciate it. A hard lesson I’ve learned in this season of life is that bitterness is a choice. I’ve chosen to let it be my lens. But now, I’ve decided I’m done seeing my life through the lens of bitterness. I hope you all do the same as well. There is no way we can enjoy this time we have on earth if all we concentrate on is the bad. There will always be something you can complain about, but don’t. Is that really how we want to spend our time here? Life is hard right now. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We’ve suffered loss after loss. My goodness. It just doesn’t stop. We’re losing loved ones like Naomi did. We are suffering from depression. We are fighting sickness. We are battling differences of opinions. And we’re battling our own baggage. But let’s not be bitter. Let’s look right ahead at the Ruth in our lives, instead of focusing on everything else that seems unfair.
Life can be unfair. And it can really suck. But being bitter is only going to make life harder.
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; – Hebrews 12:15