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The Chain of Bitterness



There are things that we have to walk away from in life. Chains that will bind us up despite the freedom given to us in Christ, and if we aren’t willing to let them go, will keep us from living in the fullness of God’s plan for our lives.

In this message, Brad Jones wants us to not only realize what chains of bitterness we are holding on to due to the actions of people, but the chains of bitterness are we holding in regards to our relationship with God.

Key Takeaway

You may think you have a right to hold to some bitterness and unforgiveness, but it's robbing you. God has so much joy in store for you that you don't want to miss out on.

Bitterness is the self-inflicted loathing of psychologically hoping to change the situation by directing anger toward the person who wronged us. We internalize and identify with it.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible of people who could have chosen to become bitter, but didn't: Joseph, Job, Hannah, Ruth. However, Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, took her losses as a personal punishment from God. She changed her name to "Mara" which means bitter. See Ruth 1:19-21. She was doing nothing to hide it. Does she ever turn it around?

How can we walk in freedom?

Luke 15:11-32

The parable of the lost son normally focuses on the younger son who disrespects with father, runs off, and squanders all of his inheritance, and when he comes to his senses finally returns home. However, there is an older brother in this story and if we're honest, we're usually the older brother. He was bitter. He had to watch his dad wait patiently at the front door every day for his brother to return. He had to continue to help with the running of the house. He had to deal with the disrespect of his younger brother to his entire family. He never got a party. He never got a day off. And he was mad when his brother came home and let his dad have it.

What can we learn from Naomi and the older brother?

1) We have to see and recognize our own chain. We have to see our bitterness. We like to think it's the size of a little chain necklace, but it's actually massive. We use it as a coping mechanism, our right, or what we deserve. See Proverbs 14:10. We have a place to cast it off though. See 1 Peter 5:7.

2) We can't just unload on God and walk away, we need to listen to Him. He has something to say to us that we need to hear. The older brother spoke to his father without respect, but the father answered tenderly. He let his son know that he was with him the whole time and had access to everything. We need to stop obsessing over what's been done to us and start obsessing over what God did for us. Our freedom starts with listening. Praying and fasting. Leaning into what God is saying, leaning away from what the world is saying.

What's interesting is that Luke didn't really finish the story. He leaves us with the father and older son sitting outside while the party is going on inside. The son has a choice to make. He can stay out, sitting in his bitterness. Or he can go inside and celebrate with his father. Everyone is having a great time, the older brother is the only one missing out.

3) Forgiveness. It's the key that can undo the hold that the enemy has on you. Ephesians 4: 31-32 says to get rid of all bitterness, slander, and malice and to forgive as Christ forgave us. Matt 18:21-22 is emphasizing that there's no limit to our desire and ability to forgive. It's not excusing anything or saying to ignore boundaries and wise counsel. It's saying that we forgive like we have been forgiven. Be a person of reconciliation.

Matthew 1:5 tells of how Ruth made it into not only the genealogy of David but of Christ. Naomi, who has renamed herself bitter, stuck it out. She helped Ruth, she nurtured her. She eventually got to hold a grand-baby in her lap and rejoice in all the Lord had restored to her. She let go of her bitterness and did not miss out on the plan God had for her.


"Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

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Scripture References

  • Ruth 1:19-21
  • Luke 15
  • Matthew 1:1-16
Brad Jones Passion City Church Atlanta is pastored by Brad Jones. Together, he and his wife Brittany have been a part of the Passion Movement for over a decade helping carry the heartbeat of Passion Conference and Passion City Church. They live in Atlanta with their two children, Caleb and Addy.