Being happy for a friend who it seems everything is going rightly for when things in our life seem to be going kind of wrongly can be challenging if our heart is plagued with bitterness. Maybe we are in a relationship where we have a need that is just not being met. When we are disconnected from the language of our heart in relationship it can lead to bitterness. Maybe it masks itself as resentment, comparison, self-protectiveness, possibly loneliness.
A Scripture that has been humming through my mind as I’ve been mentally gnawing through the idea of bitterness is John 15:13. Sandwiched between the gift of the promise of the Holy Spirit who will come to advocate in our lives in chapter fourteen, and the world’s hatred for disciples in chapter fifteen is Jesus’ heart for those who follow Him. As Jesus clarifies the need for abiding, pruning, warning of the dead branches being burned up, He reminds His faithful followers to love one another - so well - that we would be willing to lay down our life for each other.
Putting into action the austerity of this selfless love is no small charge. In the passages prior Jesus clarifies that “One who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:23) Jesus is being clear that there is a need to consider what and who we are following. Who we are listening to. Who is influencing our heart.
Thinking about the impact that bitterness, envy, resentment, a spirit of comparison has on our souls - it separates us from the Holy Spirit being able to emulate God’s goodness. Not only do these attributes keep us from loving well, but they impede God’s ability to mirror His wonderful light. A bitter heart keeps us from sharing in the Father’s joy, reflecting His perfect glorious light. We become slaves to the enemy in these relational dark places. We can all fall victim to the enemy’s crafty snare.
Walking away from the condemnation the enemy tries so diligently to trap us in takes intention. Being keenly aware of how our wounded pride is allowed to be used to limit God’s work in our life needs to be surrendered. Stewardship defined is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” God has asked us to steward well those friends he has entrusted to us. God is asking me to lay down my life - for My friends.
Laying Down My Life
Grasping the full notion of laying down one’s life for his friends is multifaceted. First it must begin with a contrite heart. That is a heart that is fully willing to allow the Holy Spirit to show us the how and what needs to be exposed, allowed to air, and then spoken fully, honestly, and openly to our Father first.
A Psalm that we saturated on this week in gathering our grandsons from vacation Bible School was Psalm 139:1. The rendering that we had fun singing throughout the house as they practiced reciting it was, “OH MY LORD (emphasis ours), YOU have searched my heart and YOU know everything about me.” How timely for this topic of envy and bitterness. God indeed knows everything about me, about you. I’ve intentionally been praying,
“Abba, I’m stuck in a place where I know my pride is struggling to identify the why of where this self-protectiveness and is coming from. Why I feel jealous and abandoned in certain attributes in this friendship. I need your help. Can you show me?”
The circumstances I’ve been working through are complex. I’ve been praying over it for some time, and gently He has showed me where He is pruning. Old habits wanting to step in and dismiss, marginalize, and even cut off a relationship that He is using to make His light reflect more sharply in my life -more vibrantly in theirs also. I couldn’t see it. It has meant having some hard conversations and being more open and honest in this relationship than I have been. I am called to be obedient in it. Because He came to give me freedom, freedom indeed, not to be a slave anymore (Galatians 5:1). He said, “No one has greater love than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I choose to express that love - reflect His light.
When we hide behind self-protectiveness or self-inflation, we are claiming to know better than the One who knows best. Our ego is slave to the enemy of our souls yet again. This shows up in envy because someone has something we feel we are owed or that we are simply coveting for ourselves. There is an emptiness or rebellion in us that hasn’t allowed God to show us the unique way that He designed us or see how He has provided for us. We lust after what another has to fill the emptiness our soul is aching from. We attempt to fill this void - vicarious way of elevating ourselves, rooted in the lie that, only if I had…then… This devotion to being primarily concerned with only ourselves and how things impact only us, or our relationships leads to us-mindedness. Being us-minded is the opposite of what Jesus is talking about in John 15:13. It is why He says, “There is no greater gift…”. He knows it is a surrender of will. He shows the modeling of this just before His surrender fully to the Father in what He knows He must do in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if YOU are willing remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus intentionally stops only a stone’s throw away, close enough for the disciples to hear, to pray to the Father. He knows giving up our will is not something that will come naturally. It didn’t for Him. It won’t for us.
Deep wounding whether through abuse, abandonment, betrayal, unmet-felt-need in relationship is the place where bitterness shows up and does its most damaging work. When we have an unmet-felt-need; a need that was not met by way of complete disregard by another, lack of awareness on the others part, or because life circumstances just haven’t provided it yet can quickly turn to bitterness or envy. It isn’t so important if the unmet-felt-need is real or valuable to another. What matters is it is impeding the ability for you to be free to live surrendered to God’s timing and delivery of it. You have decided when and how this need is to be met. Sometimes it is legitimate. Often, it isn’t based on reality or God’s desire in our life.
Addressing The Heart
The key to recognizing and addressing this unmet-felt-need is to get to the core of it. Ask:
Do you know what you want that the other person has? What would it represent if you had it?
Is there something that you are hungry to be acknowledged for by this person or in this situation?
Who would need to acknowledge it? What would it represent if they did?
Do you have a sense of how God has uniquely designed you and do you feel used by Him in this area?
Do you feel worthy of all the goodness that God’s Word talks about?
Do you trust and believe that you were created in God’s image for His purpose in your life?
To address an envious heart, we must address the unmet-felt-need. One of the places that Jesus speaks to this heart of envy is in Luke 22:26. The given title of this section is Who Is Greatest. An apt title for sure. Jesus addresses the dispute that has risen between the disciples that the greatness among the disciples and among leaders in God’s kingdom is described in contrast as being nothing like the Gentiles -- but rather— “the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater? The one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Reflecting His Pure Light In Our Lives
Recently I’ve been enamored with prisms. Prisms are a cool transparent solid body of glass that is used for dispersing and reflecting rays of light. My niece, Brianna @Sparkle.sundream, makes these wonderful strings of decorative prism gatherings which when hung in the window reflect beautiful rainbows of light. I have three of her prisms that hang in my kitchen window. We just came through three days and nights of having four of our grandsons over, and our oldest noted the prisms hanging in the window and asked what they were for. I was so glad he asked. I appreciated his curiosity. I moved them enough that he could see the light they were reflecting and dancing across the ceiling and walls of our kitchen. He was as enamored as we watched the reflections. It was a greatly satisfying Grammy moment. Having one of our precious grandsons share in something that brings me such joy. This is God’s heart for us. He desires to give us good gifts that are representation of His purest light. We owe it to one another to allow Him to take away the things that cause us envy, covetousness, self-protectiveness which ultimately can lead to loneliness, to an embittered soul.
None of these traits are character of those who say they know and trust Jesus’s work on the cross. This morning I cleaned the inside and outside of the kitchen window so that I can see the light more vibrantly reflected through these prisms. He wants to clean the residue that is getting in the way of reflecting His light fully in our lives. I’m grateful for the grace that helps me understand that there is no greater gift than those who lay down their life for his friends. Because we know that God only gives good and perfect gifts, I want to be a good and perfect gift giver as much as He encourages me to. With His help I am able.
In His perfect Light and Grace,