BLOG: Resisting Bitterness



WRITTEN BY MELISSA H. STRAUTMAN, LMT

Resisting Bitterness – From Lesson #1 of the Book of Ruth

In our 2nd Hour Discipleship Class we have begun a study of the Book of Ruth.  Lesson Three, “Depression” (June 4, 2017), was monumentally enlightening.  I would recommend that every Christian listen and follow this biblical instruction when you or someone you love finds themselves stuck in depression.  You’ll want to bookmark this audio and share it often.

But first …

In Lesson One, “Repent or Run?”, we see Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons run away from Bethlehem where there is a horrible famine.  They go to the land and people God specifically said for them not to go to, the Moabites.  God had earlier condemned the Moabites down through ten generations.  They meant to just visit this land but ended up staying 10 years.  Elimelech dies soon after they arrive.  The two sons make things worse by taking Moabite wives and the sons also perish.  Naomi soon becomes bitter and heads back to Bethlehem because she hears the famine has ended.  One daughter-in-law decides to go back with her, Ruth (King David’s ancestor).

It’s this bitterness moment that is the outward evidence of Naomi’s depression.  Her story is not unlike so many of our friends and family, maybe even us.  I talk about my own journey with ‘spiritual pouting’ back in April’s Always Sinning post.  Naomi doesn’t understand that the famine was discipline from God towards Israel for forgetting He was their God and worshiping other gods.  God wanted them to see this discipline (horrible famine) and repent; not run away like a petulant child.

If Naomi had understood why God was doing all of this, do you think she would have been thankful?  Would you be thankful to be hungry or lose loved ones?  Perhaps not, but if you could see the bigger picture, maybe you would.  All calamity in a fallen world is just a reminder of our sin (past and present) both as individuals and all humankind.  What are God’s children supposed to do with those many reminders (pain, suffering, death, loss, etc)?  We are supposed to fall on our knees and pray; seeking forgiveness where we have sinned, and praying that we can bring glory to God despite our pain.  Naomi was not a very good example of the suffering believer with her dramatic entrance back into Bethlehem.  She was all, “Look at poor me. God has forsaken me”; as if she had nothing to do with her dilemma, and completely ignorant of God’s intentions.

“Sin will always take you further than you want to go, and keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you ever imagined youd have to pay.”  Pastor Steve Wilson

Does God Discipline Us Today?

If God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, then the answer is yes.  God does discipline us today because He tells us that’s what a loving father does for his children.  It shows us and the world that we are legitimate children of the Father.

Hebrews 12:1-11
“Consider Him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by Him.
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and chastises every son whom He receives.”

 “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

 Then the writer of Hebrews says a curious thing:

Hebrews 12:12-15
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  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.”

He is saying that you’d better heed the message behind the calamity and do the right thing (endure discipline & pray for forgiveness) or else it will only get worse for you (lame being further maimed … Naomi losing her family).  God loves you so much that He will continue the discipline until you learn the lesson.  He also says that if we fail to ‘obtain the grace of God’, we will become bitter, have more trouble and sin more.  Yikes!

How Do We Get ‘the Grace of God’?

The only way to get ‘the grace of God’ and avoid further calamity is to endure the discipline that produces in you, repentance.  You can’t run, and it’s pointless to ask God to end your suffering when it’s His purpose that you to be trained by it.  We must trust that God knows what we need better than we do.

Check back next week in Views from the Pew to find out if Naomi finally gets it, and how we can fight depression ourselves as Christians.  We are more than conquerors in Christ, and God has a plan for us to be able to face trials of many kinds with overwhelming joy.  This is a witness that brings glory to God and can advance His kingdom.