Reading through the book The Excellent Wife Martha Peace gives examples of what bitterness sounds like. Some of the bitter thoughts are so bitter "Oh, I am so thankful I haven't said that," I said to myself in pride as I read. However I was humbled when I read the contrasting "forgiveness" thoughts because they are hard to say! Have I gone so far as to say the forgiving things? Am I willing?
Here is a short list of what she calls bitter thoughts and the contrasting tenderhearted, forgiving thoughts. I appreciated looking through the list to recognize where I have allowed bitterness to take hold.
He doesn't love me, he only loves himself
He does not show love as he should
but his capacity to love can grow
I do so much for him and
look what I get in return!
I wonder if I can do something
differently to make it easier for him.
I can't believe what he
decided. How ridiculous!
Maybe he has information I don't have.
I can't believe what
he has done to me!
What he has done is difficult but
God will give me the grace to get through it.
He'll never change.
By God's grace, he can change.
He should have known better.
How can he possibly know?
I've never told him. He can't
read my mind
(from The Excellent Wife, p. 94-95)
I wrote much of this post in the 24 hours before church today. And I was doing a little bit of editing in the hour before we needed to head out the door. I had the opportunity right then to actually practice replacing my bitter thought: "I can't believe he pulled tools out to get mmore of that project done. Why isn't he helping me get the kids ready and in the car! Can't he see how much I am struggling to manage all four of them? (Plus I am blogging about something that he should appreciate!) Can't he see we are going to be late again?!" with a tenderhearted thought: "I know that he only has a few hours today to get this project done and when Sunday is over, he has 12 hour days ahead of him all week long. He is feeling the pressure to finish up today so he can focus on work - and Little League- the rest of the week. When I stepped outside myself and thought of him rather than myself, I found that I was really grateful for how hard he was working to complete that project. Had I focused on my needs instead, I would have caused unnecessary conflict that morning (not to mention made it diffcult for the both of us to enjoy church because of the fight we would have most certainly had).
By replacing my bitter thoughts with tenderhearted, forgiving thoughts I blessed THE BOTH OF US. As cheesy as it may sound, by thinking not of myself, I suddenly found myself so grateful for Ryan, so blessed by him. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can do such a thing. If you struggle with bitter thoughts I encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you. Martha Peace suggests making a list of those bitter thoughts word-for-word and then writing next to each a new tenderhearted, forgiving thought that you can rehearse instead (she also suggests literally burning the bitter thoughts list so no other eyes fall upon it). When you make it a habit to replace the selfish, sinful thoughts with God-glorifying thoughts it will become increasingly easy to do.
Challenged? I am!!
Book Giveaway coming...!