Dealing with Bitterness: Moving to Forgiveness | Ashley Varner

Dealing with Bitterness: Moving to Forgiveness

Has anyone ever done something awful to you? How easy was it for you to forgive? Have you even forgiven them?

Today, we’re talking about dealing with bitter thoughts and emotions that have been taking root in our lives. It’s a hard job, but we’re called to it as believers in Christ. Let’s move to forgiveness.

Resources Mentioned:

Free Power of Prayer Workbook:
The Mindset Reset:
The Thrive Bible Study Vault:

Highlights From the Episode:

Has anyone ever done something really awful to you, really horrible to you? I wanna ask you, how easy was it for you to forgive them? Or have you even forgiven them?

I want to share with you in this episode how you can let go of your bitterness and move on to forgiveness. I want to help you to take those thoughts and emotions and really help you stop them from taking root in your life. Because bitterness, once it’s in your heart, it’s gonna show up everywhere. And so today, I know it’s really a hard job but we as believers are called to forgive, and I wanna show you how to do that. Let’s jump in.

Hey there, my friends, and welcome back to The Renewed Mind. I am so glad to have you here. And I am excited to share with you a little bit of what I’ve learned in the last several months of learning and researching all about bitterness and unforgiveness and not just learning about that, but moving on to forgiveness.

So I wanted to start with Proverbs 18:19 and it says, “A person who stays offended or bitter lives within a wall of bitterness.” Now, if you are brand new to the channel, then I want you to know each month, we have a topic that we discuss and this month we are talking all about negative emotions, uncomfortable emotions. Last week, we talked about the pain of rejection. And so today, I wanna talk to you about bitterness.

Bitterness is a Root

And just like we read in Proverbs, bitterness is something that if we stay in that emotional state, if we don’t deal with those thoughts and take those thoughts captive, it is going to build a wall around us. And it ends up showing up in every area of our lives if we don’t take it to Jesus, if we don’t deal with the pain and move on towards forgiveness. I know it’s way easier said than done. So today, I wanna give you some tools on understanding bitterness and then moving on towards forgiveness.

The first is that bitterness is a root. Bitterness is something that goes deep. It’s something that spreads. And so whenever you are dealing with bitterness. it’s really important to get to the root pain and that root cause of your bitterness and let the Lord deal with that.

Because just like weeds, I don’t know if you have ever pulled weeds, but whenever I was younger, I would have to weed my mom’s flower bed and she would always tell me, “Hey, you should go in and get those weeds while they’re small because they’re gonna be way easier to pull out.” And sometimes I would listen, sometimes I wouldn’t. And there would often be a weed that maybe I would just pull off on the surface and it would keep growing up and the roots would keep getting stronger and deeper. And so, every time it would be harder because what was on the surface was small and it was kind of dealt with but the root would get stronger and stronger.

And so bitterness is really the same way. If you can deal with it really at the very, like nipping it in the bud, if you can deal with that the very onset of the situation or the offense, it’s gonna be easy to pull out and give to the Lord. But the longer that you let it fester in your life, the harder it is to deal with. And really for us, we can only do so much without the Lord. And so if you are struggling with bitterness that has been years, and maybe even decades in the making, realize that this is something that you have to give to the Lord. You have to take it to prayer and ask for His help to deal with this bitterness.

Just like weeds, bitterness also can spread. So if it’s not dealt with, it starts to leak out to every other area of our lives. So once you’re bitter against one person, it’s super easy to get bitter against another person or see that same, maybe the offense that was made towards you, you start seeing that everywhere else. It’s not being paranoid, but it’s like whatever you look for, you find, right? And so whenever you don’t deal with bitterness, it can start to spread to more people, more family members, maybe more people at your church, whatever it is.

And so it’s so important that it be dealt with right away. And if it’s not dealt with, the effects will surely show up in your life. So just like that example with the weed that I gave where maybe it’s just a small sprout at first, once that weed is strong, it is so difficult to deal with but it always is gonna keep popping up in your life.

There’s always going to be maybe that bout of anger or that ping of jealousy or that bitterness that rises up whenever you’re talking to somebody. And so realize that bitterness is a root that needs to be taken care of. So to share about this negative emotion, last week, we talked about Jesus.

Choose the Future Over the Past

This week, I wanna talk to you about the story of Joseph. Now, if anybody had a reason to be bitter, it was Joseph. He had so many things happen to him in his life. He was betrayed by his brothers. He was considered like the dad’s favorite and they betrayed him. They literally sold him into slavery. And you would be bitter about that, right?

Like if my siblings ganged up on me and sold me, like that’s just crazy. I mean, I have one brother and he’s amazing. I can’t even imagine having all of these brothers that just hate you. So he had a reason to be bitter against his family for that.

Then he ends up at Potiphar’s house, this pretty high-up person in Egypt, and he’s doing well. He’s working his way up the ladder. And then he is falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife. He is not only falsely accused, but Potiphar, who’s been taking care of his home for all this time and all of his affairs, he doesn’t even give him the benefit of the doubt. He just sends him to jail.

So he’s in prison. He meets some friends. Again, he kind of builds his way up the ladder there. He meets some people and he helps them. He interprets a dream that the cupbearer of their Pharaoh had. And he said, “Hey, if you go back and you’re able to be seated back with Pharaoh, please remember me and tell him that I’m here. I’m here. I was falsely accused. I am here for no reason of my own.” And he’s forgotten by the cupbearer for years.

So as you look at the story of Joseph, there were so many reasons for him to be bitter. And he made some specific decisions. He chose to do some certain things. And we’re gonna talk about those three things in just a moment in this video, but I want you to see that he had every reason to stay bitter.

So you might be looking at your situation right now and you’re thinking, “I have a reason, Ashley. Like, yeah I understand I’m bitter, but I have a legitimate reason to be bitter.” Maybe that is where you’re at right now and you don’t feel like you’re ready to forgive.

Maybe you’re thinking, “You know, I know I’m supposed to forgive. I know that this is what I’m called to do but I have a legitimate reason,” like in your righteous anger, you feel like you have a reason to be bitter, and I get that. I understand that. Joseph definitely understood that. But that’s irrelevant. Because we can choose not to be bitter whether or not we have a good reason to be.

The first choice that Joseph made and that I want you to start making is he chose the future over the past. See, the truth is that what you don’t forgive, you end up passing on. And so if, say, you are bitter against someone and you do not give that up, it is going to be passed on to your children. It’s gonna be passed on to other areas of your life. And so if you don’t forgive, whatever you don’t forgive, you’re going to pass on.

I really thought it was interesting because one of the names of Joseph’s sons, he had two sons in Egypt, and what he named them, back then names meant so much. And one of the names that he gave his sons was Ephraim, and that means God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. So he is seeing God’s hand in his difficult circumstance. So he was in a place in a land of affliction and he saw God’s blessing and what God was able to do in that circumstance.

His other son’s name was Manasseh and it means God has helped me to forget my past. I love this because it’s not just about forgetting what was behind, but it’s moving forward and realizing that you have to let what happened go. You have to let that bitterness go if you wanna move forward into what God has called you to do. Now, I think it’s interesting that in the end, Joseph was able to reconcile with his brothers and have a future with them.

So if he had stayed bitter, if he had stayed unforgiving, that reconciliation never would’ve happened. And now that’s not to say that reconciliation always is gonna be available to you. Sometimes it’s not. But what I do want you to see is that if you want to move forward, look at what kind of future that you have and that you want to have, and then think, “Is my bitterness going to contribute to having the future that I want?” If your bitterness and pain is, like your constantly ruminating on it, and it’s creating maybe characteristics in your life that you don’t like or it’s not helping you get to where you wanna be, then it’s time to deal with that.

So we talk a lot about the future you. I am a Christian life coach and so I do a lot of mindset work with my clients. And there’s actually a video up on the YouTube channel about the future you. You can check that out. But I want to encourage you to consider, is the person that I wanna be, is the person that God wants me to be someone who is still dealing with this bitterness? Because the answer is no.

The person that God wants you to be, the woman God wants you to be is someone who has forgiven. And this is something that’s important to remember, because you can’t move forward if you’re constantly thinking about what people have done to you in the past.

Choose Not to Retaliate

Another thing to learn about Joseph is that he chose not to retaliate. So when we make the decision not to retaliate, it is an act of faith. When you are retaliating, what you’re saying is, “Move over God, because you can’t take care of this situation, or I don’t have enough faith for you to take care of this situation. I have to handle it on my own.” You’re saying, “You’re not creating justice in the timeframe or in the way that I want you to do it. And so now I am responsible to make this justice happen by retaliating.”

That is a hard, I know it’s a hard thing to hear, but ultimately, whenever we retaliate, that’s the kind of thinking that’s going through our minds. It’s a very arrogant and prideful way of thinking to say, “I know what justice is more than God does. And if I don’t wanna forgive, then I’m not gonna forgive.” Now, reconciliation may not be possible.

You know, the Bible doesn’t say whether or not Potiphar and Joseph ever reconciled, but that doesn’t mean that you have to live with unforgiveness. I would also say just because you’ve forgiven doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to seek out reconciliation either.

So be considering of that. And really, if you want more help and work with this, then I would definitely encourage you to join my coaching program. It’s called Renew 180, where you can get one-on-one coaching with me and I can help you through some of these more difficult aspects of forgiveness that can’t really be talked about and discussed in length on a YouTube video. But I want you to see that even though it might not be possible, forgiveness is always available to you.

Choose to Forgive

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other person has to ask for it. You can forgive someone without them ever even knowing and you can forgive someone without them ever having to ask. In fact, I would say that forgiving someone who is not remorseful or forgiving someone who isn’t asking for forgiveness or doesn’t feel like they’ve done anything wrong is the hardest kind, right?

Because if someone comes in and they are remorseful and sorry for something that they’ve done, they’re apologetic, it’s easy to forgive, right? Because you can tell, hey, they’ve seen the error of their ways. But what about the times whenever you’ve been wronged and the other person doesn’t think they’ve wronged you or they don’t care that they’ve wronged you?

That’s whenever it’s hard to forgive. That’s whenever we need to lay down our anger and choose to let go of our bitterness. It is a choice, my friends. So Joseph chose the future over the past. He chose not to retaliate.

And last, he chose to forgive. So we know that the brothers, eventually, there was a famine in the land and the brothers came back. They saw Joseph. They didn’t recognize him, but he recognized them. And he threw a series of steps and kind of tests.

He eventually told them who he was and whenever they came to him, he forgave them. It would’ve been really easy for him to say, “You know what? Send my dad to Egypt, send my younger brother to Egypt, and the rest of you are on your own.” He could’ve done that. He had the power to do that. The Bible says that he was second only to Pharaoh. And he could have done that, but he chose to let go of his bitterness and he chose to forgive instead.

So one thing that I always think about, because several, several years ago, maybe even 10 or more years ago, something was done to me. I was hurt by someone and there was a lot of unforgiveness in my heart. And I had to work through a period of fasting. Actually, I was in deep prayer, asking the Lord to help me to forgive this person. And one thing that kept coming up in my prayer time and as I was studying the Bible, one thing I kept seeing and that really that the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart was if I didn’t forgive, what I was saying is that Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t enough to cover what the other person did. That is a hard statement to listen to and then not forgive.

Because I believe that what Christ did was so huge and so all encompassing, it covered every single sin. But if I don’t forgive what I’m saying is, “That person right there, that thing that they did, what Christ did wasn’t enough. I want something else. I need something else in order to forgive them.”

And whenever we can humble ourselves and forgive, it ends up changing us. Because you’ve probably heard that phrase that not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, right?

So unforgiveness is going to affect you more than it’s gonna affect the other person. So we think that whenever we don’t forgive that we’re punishing someone else, really, we’re just punishing ourselves. And ultimately, the Bible says that if we don’t forgive someone, their sins against us, then He’s not gonna forgive us and I don’t wanna ever be in that place.

So I wanna encourage you, if you’re dealing with bitterness today, to consider these truths. Maybe go back into Genesis and read the story of Joseph and realize and just accept the truth and tell it to the Lord. We can go to the Lord in prayer and we can ask him and say, “God, I feel very wronged here. I feel like I have a reason to be bitter and unforgiving and I don’t wanna forgive, but help me to forgive. Help me to be like You.” Ultimately, it’s working through these hard and negative emotions that bring us more like Christ.

We talked about rejection last week. Next week, we’re gonna talk about anxiety. So make sure that you subscribe and hit that notification bell so that you are notified every time a new video comes out. But ultimately, it’s these hard and uncomfortable emotions that if we give them to God, if we take them to the cross, that’s whenever we become more like Christ. It’s not in the easy stuff, right?

It’s in the hard stuff, whenever it’s not easy to forgive, when it’s not easy to overcome pains that other people have put onto us, but it’s necessary. And my friends, it is so, so worth it. I hope that you enjoyed this episode.

Send me a comment or you can send me an email. Go to to check out everything that’s available there as far as free resources and coaching.

And I will see you next time. Thanks for watching.

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- Ashley Varner

it’s my goal to reach every Christian mom with the truth that God wants to transform their life by renewing their mind.

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