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DEVOTIONAL GUIDE: Guard against bitterness

The story of Jonah shows how one man's bitterness almost doomed himself and a whole city.

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Rev. Justin Fenger

Leon Brown once said, “Bitterness is the result of clinging to negative experiences. It serves you no good and closes the door to your future.”

While I don’t disagree with Leon Brown’s statement, I do have to say I have been bitter about a lot of things over the last year. Things that I have tried to let go, things I have refused to let go, things I won’t move past, things that keep coming up.

Every time I turn on the news, social media, or even a conversation at church. I get bitter. They shouldn’t have said that, they shouldn’t have done that, why is that working for them, I can’t believe they get away with that … the bitterness continues to grow.

I am reminded of the Sunday School story of Jonah and the Whale. Did we ever take time to consider how he came to rest inside that whale? Bitterness!

Jonah’s bitterness toward the Ninevites (those people) made him refuse to participate in what God was calling him to do. Why?

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Because Nineveh was a city rampant with injustice, oppression, and wickedness, it deserved destruction. But God had other plans for Nineveh, an opportunity to make right, to correct course.

Jonah only wanted to see Nineveh burn, so he refused to participate. Jonah refused God’s call to bring an opportunity for the future of Nineveh because Jonah was bitter.

His bitterness led him to the belly of a whale, awaiting his death and possibly the whole destruction of a city.

Yes, bitterness is that dangerous. It can end our lives, destroy any possibility of a future, and deny what God is trying to do through us for the world.

What do I do? What should we do to combat bitterness in our lives? How do we begin to listen and engage where God may be calling us?

First, acknowledge who God is. Quoting Jonah, God is ”slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

Second, acknowledge God's love is for you.

Third, acknowledge that God’s love is for your neighbor, basically anybody else who is not you.

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Fourth, acknowledge 1-3 with gratitude.

This allows me to let go of my bitterness and to participate in where God’s is calling me to go.

While your bitterness may be justified, “it serves you no good and closes the door to your future.”

Rev. Justin Fenger serves as the associate pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church in Park Rapids.

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