The Science Of Not Becoming Bitter

By Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” Job 33:4

“Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying, I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy, He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths. Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” Job 33:8-13

       The more sincere someone is, the easier it is to become bitter. The more you try to serve God the easier it is to become bitter. Over the years I have found that most of the time it is the Christians who are trying to do the most for God who end up becoming bitter.

Job was such a good man that God bragged on him to the devil. Job was probably the best man who ever lived. He lost his children, his wife, his health, his wealth, and his friends, but he still trusted the Lord. This was not a bad man. He was a great man who had great faith; yet Job became bitter. How could a man of this caliber become bitter?

Let me give you some principles regarding this matter of avoiding bitterness. I will begin by making five statements that will set the stage for the rest of this chapter. These statements may seem strange untul you read the next part of the chapter.

  1. I do not live by my convictions.
  2. I try not to do what I think is best.
  3. I often go against my better judgment.
  4. I often disagree with God.
  5. We may disagree more than we agree.

These may seem like strange statements, but they are the truth in most of our lives, if we will be honest. There are things that seem unfair to me. For example, there are times when I have a tough time understanding how there could be a Hell where people will burn for eternity. There are many things that do not seem fair to me and with which I disagree with God. How do I keep these things from making me bitter?
 

Let me tell you how God and I settle our differences.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11

Now then, I will tell you my step-by-step procedure. This is truly the formula I use to avoid bitterness. This is the method I follow.

  1. I face a decision.
  2. I try to figure the right thing to do.

I want to do right. I do disagree with God, but not because I do not care about doing right. I want to do right as much as a man can want to do right. The fact that I disagree with God has nothing to do with not wanting to do right, but it has everything to do with the fact that I see things differently than God sees them. In trying to figure out the right decision to make, I end up in a disagreement with God. So what do I do in these situations?

  1. I try to figure what God thinks is the right thing to do.

The best way to do that is to get into the Word of God. God is a God of principles. The Bible is a Book that teaches us what is right, so the best way to find out what is right is to get into the Word of God. This should be done before we form our own opinions.

I go to the Bible and try to find a principle in the Bible that tells me what is right to do. Next, I try to find an illustration that shows me what is right. Notice the story of Jehoshaphat and Ahab. This story teaches a principle of God that we need to follow.

Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom, when the wicked king, Ahab, was the king of Israel, the northern kingdom. Jehoshaphat was a good king while Ahab was a wicked king, but they had something in common. Both of them wanted God's people to have Ramoth-in-Gilead. There was a constant fight between the Syrians and Israel for Ramoth-in-Gilead. At one point Syria was too strong for Ahab and Israel as well as for Jehoshaphat and Judah, so Ahab decided to invite Jehoshaphat to talk to him about the possibility of them going in together and recapturing Ramoth in Gilead.

God does not want His people yoking up with heathen people. Ahab was a Baal worshipper; he had led the entire kingdom into pagan worship. Jehoshaphat should never have talked with Ahab because it was a violation of God's Word. Jehoshaphat yielded to the temptation of yoking up with Ahab for this cause. As a result, his son, Jehoram, met Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and they fell in love with one another. As a result, Athaliah went down to the southern kingdom and corrupted it just as her mother, Jezebel, had done to the northern kingdom. Why? Because a good man had yoked up with a bad man for a good cause.

Whenever I am contacted by the mayor of Hammond for a good cause, I refuse to do it, not because I am not for the cause, but because it goes against what is right according to the Bible. It does not make sense to me, but it is what God commands. My job is not to do what I think seems right, but to do what God says is right. When I disagree with God, I must do what is right even if I do not see it. So many make terrible mistakes because they do what seems right to them rather than what God says is right.

Christians need to know the Word of God for this very reason. We must be familiar enough with God's truth that we are able to find God's opinion on a matter.

  1. We often disagree.

You do not have to agree with God to be a good Christian, but you do have to obey what is right. Often God and I will disagree on what is right. What do I do then?

  1. Then I go against my better judgment and do what He thinks is best.

This takes me back to my original five statements. Now, perhaps these statements will not seem so strange after all.

(1) I do not live by MY convictions.

(2) I try not to do what I think is best.

(3) I often go against MY better judgment.

(4) I often disagree with God.

(5) We may disagree more than we agree.
 

Notice where sincere and earnest Christians get in trouble with bitterness.

This is how sincere Christians get bitter. This is their downfall. This is why I contend that those who are trying to do right are in the greatest danger of getting bitter. Let me now show you how this happens to many of us.

  1. We say, “What do I think is right?”

This is a seemingly good question. Many Christians spend too much time asking God to lead them to do what is right, instead of just going to the Bible to find out what is right. If the Bible tells you, then you do not need to ask God because God will not lead you to violate what He has said in His Word. Notice why this is a danger.

When you pray, “Lord lead me to do what is right,” you are still leaving the final decision in your hands. You are saying that you are going to decide what God wants you to do instead of letting God decide what you are going to do. Forget what you think is right, and live doing only that what God says is right. What makes sense to you is based on your limited ability to understand situations the way God does. Never trust your own opinions over God's.

  1. Then we do it. That is exactly what Satan wants.

A sincere Christian decides to do what he sincerely thinks is right, and that is the beginning of his mistake. Why?

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6

A Christian who is sincere and wants to do right can turn to his own way as much as the rebel who has no interest whatsoever in doing right. You will get into serious trouble if you reason what is right and what is wrong. There are few decisions you will face in your life that do not have either a direct command or an illustration of what is right in the Word of God. We need to stay in the Word of God so that we can learn what God wants us to do.

We Baptists have our own version of a word of the knowledge. We criticize the Charismatics for their word of knowledge; then we go out and do what we think is right. There is no difference in the two. Sometimes we like to say that God led us to do something, even though it is not what the Bible says is right. Saying that we are following the leadership of the Holy Spirit is dangerous when we ignore what the Bible says about a matter. That is exactly what happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden. She did what seemed right to her rather than what God said to do.

The devil was not trying to get Eve to go his way; he was trying to get her to go her own way. She may have sincerely felt that she was doing what was right, but what she did was sin. Good Christians fall into sin by doing what they think is right.

  1. It does not turn out for the best.

We do what we think is right, and it does not turn out well. We wonder why things are not going well in spite of the fact that we are sincerely trying to do what we feel is right. I am concerned by Christians who say God is leading them to do something that is in direct violation of something that is in the Word of God. It has become our excuse for doing what we think is best; yet, in so doing , we do wrong. The result is that things do not turn out well for that Christian who does what he sincerely feels is right. Things never will turn out well when we do what we feel is right rather than what the Bible says is right.

  1. We get bitter at God.

This is why sincere Christians get bitter. We go our own way, sincerely, and when it turns out bas, we get bitter. What do we do? We continue doing the same thing. We continue to do what seems right to us, and it continues to go bad. We continue to get more and more bitter. It is amazing the things people say they are “led” to do that are in direct violation to the Word of God. As a result, we get bitter. Notice again what Job said:

“Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying, I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me. Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy, He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths. Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” Job 33:8-13

Most Christians do wrong, not because they are not sincere about doing right, but because they do not know the Bible well enough to know what the Bible says. As a result, they do what they think is right. When it does not turn out right, they get bitter.

  1. We want God to explain His reasoning to us.

“Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” Job 33:13

God's wisdom is above man's; yet when we see things not turning out right because we have gone our own way, we cannot understand, and we feel like God owes us an explanation. Our way makes sense to us and looks like the right way, but it is in conflict with what God commands. Because our way seems to make sense, we wonder why God will not bless us since we did what was sincerely right in our own minds.

Many times I have had Christians who were not going God's way come to me and ask me why God was allowing things to go so badly in their lives. They were bitter at God because they felt they deserved better since they were sincerely doing what seemed best to them, in spite of the fact that it was in disagreement with God.

  1.  We get more bitter.

When we do what we think is right, it does not turn out right; yet, most of the time we continue in that pattern because we still do not know God's Word well enough to know what God says is right in a matter. So when things do not turn out right again, we get even more bitter. That pattern continues.

  1. We get even more bitter, and on and on.

Whenever we do what we think is best, it is personal humanism. We like to criticize the political humanism of society; yet we do the exact same thing on a personal level. We do what we think seems right because we do not live in the Word of God enough to know what is right. We do what we think is right rather than what God says is right.

The Devil is that one who knows that the quickest way to destroy us is to get us to do what we think is right rather than what the Bible teaches is right. That is humanism.
 

How To Avoid Bitterness

Now I am going to try to give the formula for preventing ourselves from getting bitter, not only at God, but also at other people.

  1. Only one has perfect justice.

Only God has perfect judgment. That means that when we disagree with someone, there is the potential that the other one is right and we are wrong. Since God is the only One who is always right, we must accept the fact that at times of disagreement we may be the one who is wrong. Too often we assume we are right because we are sincere, but others may be just as sincere as we are. We must not hold to much confidence in our own opinions and ideas. We are prone to be wrong.

  1. No two people have the same justice.

There are times when others are going to see justice differently than I do, and at those times I must accept the fact that the other person may be right and I may be wrong.

I must remind myself of this all of the time, or else I may get bitter at others when I see justice differently than they do. There are so many times when I am in the position of seeing things differently than another, but I do not want to get bitter. Sometimes we get bitter at even those to whom we are the closest, including the one to whom we are married.

Sincere people need to give others the courtesy of believing that they are sincere when the two of them disagree.

  1. I must not expect everyone's justice to reconcile with mine.

I must allow others to see things differently than I see them. My opinion must not be final in my mind. There are many times when others will handle matters differently than I would have handled them, but I must be willing to allow them their differences. I must not insist that their judgment must reconcile with mine.

  1. I allow sincere people to differ with me.

There are many good and sincere people who see things differently than I see them. It is important for me to recognize that they may be as sincere as I am about my opinion. Rather than demanding that my opinion is right, I must allow them their opinion, based on their sincerity.

  1. God is the only One who always has perfect justice.
     
  2. When we disagree, I trust His justice, not mine.

This is the way that I keep from getting bitter with God. It is the way I keep from getting bitter with those with whom I disagree. This is the science of keeping ourselves from being bitter. You may be sincere, but you better beware of bitterness and do what you ought to do to avoid it.

You may think that you would never get bitter at God, but I have seen it happen to many good and sincere Christians who allowed their opinions to blind themselves to the fact that only God's opinion matters. Many sincere Christians have allowed their usefulness for God to be destroyed by bitterness that could have been avoided.

Job was perhaps the greatest man who ever lived; yet Job became bitter because He questioned God when he could not see things the way God saw them. Use these formulas to prevent bitterness from hurting you.

SOURCE: Chapter 15 from the excellent book by Dr. Jack Hyles, “The Science Of The Christian Life” (1994)


“My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” —Job 10:1

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