Bitter Envying

Envy, a feeling of discontent or dissatisfaction due to another having more or better, is traditionally considered one of the worst sins. (Pr 27:4) It desires others to have less or worse, and is thus purely and uniquely destructive. It’s also grounded in the primal lie that God Himself does not satisfy (Ps 63:5), and that something else will.

Bitterness is resenting God for not treating us as well as we deserve (if we knew we deserved worse we’d be thankful; since God could improve our lot and hasn’t, our resentment must be toward Him). It presumes God’s not good, that He’s not ordering things rightly, that we could do it better. It’s born of pride; thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. (Ro 12:3)

So, bitter envying is quite the combination! a feeling of resentment toward God for others having more or better; it combines the destructiveness of envy with the arrogance and pride of bitterness. As we find this within we should admit the corruption and deceit it reveals, and turn ourselves back toward the truth. (Ja 1:14) The truth is we don’t deserve better, and what we’re after won’t satisfy us.

Bitterness and envy cripple, trapping us in brokenness; they don’t move us to healthy living. Thankfulness and worship are the healthy counterparts, setting us free to become all God has designed us to be, to live in the fullness (Ep 3:19) and adventure to which He’s called us, a life of ultimate pleasure and goodness. (1Pe 3:10-11)

Truth is, we deserve to be burning in Hell forever; no one suffers eternal Hell who doesn’t fully deserve it, and we’re as bad or worse when left to ourselves. (Php 2:3) Anything else is mercy, God restraining us and giving us repentance (2Ti 2:25), for which we should be exceedingly thankful.

Also, we’re designed to enjoy God supremely; pursuing anything apart from God (as opposed to pursuing it in God, for God and with God) is to try to replace Him with part of His creation. (Ro 1:25) This is based on the primal lie and it will always fail; be sure of it.

We may know these things academically, but when we’re bitter and unthankful, envious and wanton, we reveal another belief system in opposition to God operating within our sub-conscious, our core selves. We did not learn this in Christ. (Ep 4:20) Rather than dismissing this as natural, confess it as a work of the devil, reckon ourselves dead to it (Ro 6:11), ask God to destroy it (1Jn 3:8b), and consistently expose the sub-conscious mind to truth with a prayerful intensity that takes no prisoners. (Mt 5:29-30)

Christ in us, living in and through us, always believes unto joyful obedience. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. (Ep 3:20)

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Then I Understood

When people who claim to believe in God consistently disobey Him, hurting us and those we love, this can be extremely frustrating, even debilitating, too painful to bear. (Ps 73:16) As we ourselves try our best to follow God, we naturally expect others in the Faith to do the same. But it isn’t so, at least it doesn’t appear to be.

Perhaps my biggest mistake in life so far, which I think I’ve been making most of my life, is expecting professing Christians to do the right thing as a manner of life, getting frustrated, bewildered and upset when they won’t, and trying to change them. For years, the appearance of habitual, willful sin in others who claimed to be believers has destabilized me, tempting me to bitterness and resentment.

If you find yourself struggling here, let me ask, would your pain diminish greatly if you knew the people hurting you and those you love are either [1] unbelievers, haters of God and His elect, living lives of willful sin, or [2] trying their best to obey God in their circumstances, such that if you could see what they do you’d be content that they’re doing pretty well, all things considered?

Regardless of appearances, this is, in fact reality: every child of God consistently tries their best to follow YHWH as a manner of life — and no one else does. (1Jn 3:10) Understanding this changes everything, at least for me. (Ps 73:17)

Yet even knowing this, it seems to take repeated experience over time to work it down into fabric of my soul as experiential reality (Ro 5:3): YHWH’s restraint is the only reason anyone’s remotely good (2Th 2:7), and He has a reason, a perfectly coordinated plan, in absolutely everything He allows. (Ep 1:11)

Yes, God is good and His plan is amazing; we saints are going to rejoice in it one Day, but as He’s working it out we’re often in pain (1Pe 1:6), and it can be overwhelming.  (Ro 8:23) He routinely allows very difficult situations in our lives, and exhorts us to count it all joy. (Ja 1:2)

I think the reason we should rejoice in trouble like this is because a primary objective of God’s plan is to glorify Himself by transforming His elect into His likeness (Ja 1:3), such that we rejoice in Him, living lives of purity and joy in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Php 2:15)esteeming others better than ourselves. God wants us to struggle through these difficulties with Him, with this singular objective in mind, as He works out his will in and through us. His plan works to achieve His end, conforming us more and more into His image, and it’s evidently the best way to do so.

Unbelievers are just unwitting pawns in this design (Ep 2:2); the enemy positions them in our lives as apparent Christians (2Co 11:14) such that we can’t generally tell one from another. (Mt 13:28-29) The lost often don’t have any clue why they appear to be outwardly good, or why life seems to work for them without obeying God, but they’re content that it does, and this destroys them. (Pr 1:32)

The more fully I accept and internalize this perspective, accepting the reality of sin, even in those who claim faith in Christ, without becoming frustrated and alarmed, the less painful life will be. What remains is to cleave to JEHOVAH, walk worthy of Him, grow in love, sorrowing for the lost as they miss out on YHWH and His transforming work, acknowledging that I’d very likely be doing worse were I in their shoes, and praying for YHWH to be merciful to them.

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Root of Bitterness

When things aren’t going our way, and we’re praying for God to come through for us … and He doesn’t, it’s tempting to doubt His goodness, to question His justice, to become resentful and angry. It’s called a root of bitterness. (He 12:15)

Robert Charity: Smoky Mountains
Robert Charity: Smoky Mountains

Giving in to bitterness is accusing God of being unfaithful, unjust, missing a precious opportunity to glorify Him in faith when all seems lost. It’s presuming that we’re being treated unfairly, but how do we know what’s fair? Isn’t this raw presumption and pride? Why is this so tempting for us? What good ever comes of it?

No suffering is easy, but sinning in our pain always makes it worse. Bitterness steals our joy and hope; it can spread quickly into others suffering with us.

We’re saved by hope, so when we’re seeing rock bottom let’s do as David did: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” (1Sa 30:6) Let’s humble ourselves, remember what we deserve, and be thankful in everything.

Nothing’s too hard for Jehovah; every promise He’s ever made He’ll keep. He is perfectly just; He only allows evil in order to glorify Himself, and He will right all wrongs. (Is 4:4-5) Let’s count on His faithfulness and rejoice in Him, especially when it looks hopeless … that’s His specialty.

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