by Shea Oakley
When we are filled with bitterness from a perception that we have been treated unfairly and have not received what we deserve from God it becomes impossible to fully accept whatever it is that He might truly want to give us.
The harboring of resentment against God is an effective block to His blessing our lives in other ways.
On the surface the very idea that any of us fallen human beings have not received "what we deserve" from God is, to say the least, problematic. What we deserve apart from the grace of God in Christ is destruction. But for Christians, more often the feeling is connected with the idea that we have not received what we think other believers have received. Beyond that we might have an idea that, as children of God, we are now entitled to attain on our terms the abundant life Jesus promised us.
What we would like on those terms might be any number of things: a mate, or better health, or more money, or more obedient children. Whatever the desire, the common denominator is that we want it our way and we want it now. This seems to be a particularly widespread problem among Western Christians. We live in a society that believes in the concept of entitlement. "You deserve the best" is the message behind every advertisement for the myriad material things available to us in the First World, and far too many of us who claim the name of Christ have unconsciously bought into this lie.
The hard truth of the matter, however, is that we are individually responsible to repent from the spirit of entitlement. If we do not, the result will be bitterness towards a God whom we have duped ourselves into believing will not give us what we "need." More accurately, He will not give us what we want when we want it.
This is not to say that human beings do not have legitimate needs. It is also sometimes difficult for us to determine the difference between a deeply-felt want and a need. It is amazing how much a certain want can feel like something we can no more do without than we could do without breathing (ask any lonely single Christian who has yet to find a mate). Beyond that, what seems like a want might actually be a need but one that God, in His perfect timing, will fulfill at a later date than we would like.
Whatever the nature of the thing in question, it is easy-particularly after waiting for something for a long time and not receiving it-to be tempted to bitterness toward the One from whom we know all blessings ultimately flow. The tragic thing is that if we harbor that bitterness for long we will close ourselves off to other blessings He may want to give us right now, blessings that might even assuage our sense of loss at not getting whatever the thing is we so want at the moment.
As in so many aspects of the Christian life the antidote for bitterness is a renewed sense of trust in a God who is not only all-giving, but all-wise. No one wants to give us the abundant life more than our Lord, but He knows far better than we the perfect time and the perfect way to give it to us. We must learn to truly believe this if we want to be at peace with our circumstances and have some measure of contentment in this life. As we are willing to believe the truth about the wisdom of His Lordship over both our wants and our needs we will find the strength to give up our frustrated bitterness and wait patiently for God to give us all good things.
Copyright 2007 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved
Shea Oakley has written for a number of Christian web magazines.
He makes his home in West Milford, New Jersey.