Examples in Bitterness


We all know at times it can be very difficult to serve the Lord.There are times when we feel we are being stretched beyond our capabilities.Times when we feel like we just might not make it.At times like these, we can become very angry and bitter against God.I want to talk about some examples I have found in the bible that describe such bitterness so that together, we can have clarity about how God Himself would view this bitterness.


In the Book of Ruth there is a woman named Naomi.Naomi had a husband and two sons.Now she and her family left the land of Israel to sojourn in the land of Moab because there was a famine in Israel.While they were living In Moab, her two sons married Orpah and Ruth.It came to pass over time that Naomiís husband and her two sons died.This left only Naomi and her two daughtersí in law.After a time, Naomi heard that the Lord has visited his people in the Land of Israel by giving them bread.Naomi decided to go back to Israel and pleaded with her two daughters in law to leave her and go back to their original families.Orpah went back to her family but Ruth clave unto Naomi and would not go back.So it came to pass that Ruth and Naomi arrived back in Israel together.Once they arrived back in the Land of Israel some people recognized Naomi but she had changed.


Ruth 1:19-21


So they two went until they came to Bethlehem.And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about they, and they said, is this Naomi?And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty:why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?


The word Mara means bitter.Itís obvious Naomi was very bitter and she wasnít shy about it either.What is interesting to note is that even though Naomi was very bitter and frustrated that the Lord had a plan working behind the scenes.You see Ruth had already made up her mind to stay with Naomi.She had abandoned her family and country just to be with Naomi.Godís plan was to use Ruth to greatly bless Naomi.This is how he was going to do it.


There was a man named Boaz.He was rich and served God.He was also a near kinsman to Naomi and subsequently to Ruth.This meant, under the Levitical Law, that Boaz was partially obligated to marry Ruth and to raise up seed for the husband she lost while she was living in the land of Moab (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).Itís almost like having a brother and then he dies and now you are obligated to marry his wife and raise up seed in his stead.This was the situation Ruth and Naomi were in.It is interesting to note that if Ruth had not come back to the Land of Israel with Naomi then Boaz would not have to marry anyone.The fact that Ruth stayed with Naomi opened the doors for Naomi to eventually become blessed.


Ruth 3:9-13


And he said, Who are thou?And she answered, I am Ruth thine handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.And he said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my daughter: for thou hast shewed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, insmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor of rich.And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I.Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman part: but if he will not do the part of the kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the Lord liveth: lie down until the morning.


The verse above shows the basic proposal of Ruth to Boaz and then Boaz accepting the proposal under the condition that the other kinsman would not do his part.It turns out that the other kinsman declined.As soon as this happened Boaz decided to follow the Levitical law and marry Ruth in order to raise up seed to her dead husband.This gave both Ruth and Naomi a family and the promise of a fruitful life.††


Ruth 4: 13-17


So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bare a son.And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel.And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age:for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him.And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became a nurse unto it.And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.


So Naomi made out all right.A bitter woman who was upset at God was not only provided for, but eventually God would raise up from the seed of Obed, David the King of Israel; then from King Davidís bloodline the Messiah Jesus Christ.This is a beautiful story of redemption in the sight of near failure.The way that God provided for Naomi was a miracle and it is interesting to note that God never called Naomiís bitterness into question.God simply worked in the background to bring His purposes into action.I will now give another example of bitterness.


The next example is Hannah from the book of Samuel.


There was a woman named Hannah who had a husband named Elkanah.Elkanah had two wives.Hannah and Peninnah.Peninnah had children but Hannah had no children.


1 Samuel 1: 3-8


And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.And the two sons of Eli, Hoph-ni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord were there.And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had shut her womb.And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut her womb.And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou not? And why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?


Hannah had a problem.She had a loving husband, she was provided for, she was healthy, but she had no children and it drove her crazy.Because of this intense pain, she went before the Lord with her complaint.


1 Samuel 1:9-11


So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk.Now Eli the priest sat upon the seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.And she vowed a vow, and said.O Lord of Hosts, if thou wilt indeed took upon the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.††††


Here Hannah prays to God but notice that she prayed in the bitterness of her soul.This was a bitter prayer.She was devastated in her heart.She was frustrated and full of questionable emotion.The Lord had closed Hannahís womb and by doing this had brought her to the place where she was now.This prayer did not grieve God; in fact he honored the prayer.This same bitter prayer yielded Samuel the prophet.God heard this womanís prayer even though it was bitter.Why?Why would God hear an angry prayer?Why would God honor Hannah?Why would God honor Naomi if Naomi was also upset with God?Why would God provide Ruth for Naomi if she openly confessed her bitterness and frustration at God?


Psalm 103:11-14


For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.


If you get cut, you are going to bleed.If God pushes you to a place were He is testing your faith and bring turmoil into your life, it is only natural that you are going to become bitter or upset.The moral of the story is that God works within these emotions and because He is merciful, He works in spite of our emotions.God loves us and does not expect us to be anything but human.The value of this interpretation is that it is OK to be human.It is OK to feel anger or self-pity or devastation in our soul.The only thing we must always remember is that in these places God loves us and there is a lot that we cannot see.So if you find yourself in one of these places know that God understands and that He cares for you deeply.He wants you to know that these emotions are human and that it is natural for you to feel this way.He also wants you to grow past it, and to come to a full knowledge of who He is.The reason God puts us into these places is so we can learn to overcome in these places.God wants us to overcome anger, overcome bitterness and overcome self-pity; all by His grace of course. But the only way to overcome these emotions is to experience them and then live past them.This is the reason for Godís provision of tests and trials in our lives.Not to hide us or shelter us from these emotions, but to teach us to face them with knowledge and then to strive past them.††††