by Guest Author, Hayley Gaston
I remember the day I hit rock bottom.
I sat in my living room with my parents and declared,“I hate my life”.
Not the kind of “I hate my life” that you state as a teenager when you don’t agree with the punishment your parents just gave you... but the “I hate my life” of… “I really hate my life”.
This day didn’t just stumble upon me… this day came after five years of making myself a victim to my circumstances. Was I a victim in some instances, sure, but I began to wear the name of “victim” as my identity. I fixated on the hard stuff and let my circumstances define my life.
I lovingly referred to those five years as
the “five years from hell”.
There was major betrayal.
There was failure.
There was emotional and spiritual abuse.
There was a terrible car wreck.
There were surgeries.
There were worries my female organs would have to be taken.
There was death in the family.
There were aggravations with my job.
There was hopelessness.
Though there were great moments in between the hard, I let the “bad” BLIND me to the ways God was showing His kindness and love towards me.
I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. You can probably identify with this.
It seemed like it was thing after thing. I lived waiting on the next ball to drop. Literally. I became cynical and critical and my joyous view on life faded.
When my friends would tell me, “Gosh Hayley, I don’t feel like you can catch a break”... or “If anything crazy happens to anyone, it’s gonna be Hayley”... I began to own it and claim it as my death sentence.
I began to believe that God was out to get me.
In my mind, I claimed that “God did not love me”.
No one knew this was going on in my head. I wouldn’t let many people into my pain. And though I knew what was going on around me was bad, I didn’t know how bad off my heart and spirit were.
When I hit rock bottom and admitted my brokenness and pain- that is when God allowed me to see what was truly going on in my heart.
I was full of hate.
You know what all these things make you… BITTER.
Bitter? That’s not me.
I had never struggled with bitterness to this depth. My joy was gone, I was not happy, my trust was non-existent, my fear was through the roof, my hate was bubbling out and I was depressed.
The Bible warns us about bitterness…
over and over again…
but until now… I hadn’t noticed it.
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “ROOT OF BITTERNESS” springs up and causes TROUBLE, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:15
Let all BITTERNESS and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be PUT AWAY from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31
The book of Job talks about bitterness and though my circumstances were not to the extreme like Job’s, I identified with him. Job even said..
“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 10:1
I determined I was in good company with Job… but like Job, I knew I didn’t need to stay there.
Bitterness doesn’t feel good…
I was already in enough pain…
Why would I want to stay there?
I knew staying in bitterness was not helpful and I knew it did not glorify God.
I knew by CHOOSING bitterness, I wasn’t living in abundant life but was partnering with the enemy to kill, steal and destroy my life.
When I realized I was partnering with the enemy…
I got stubborn.
I determined to sink into the Holy Spirit and fight. I begged God to change me and rescue me. I did not want to give the enemy one second of pleasure from my life.
I wanted victory and I knew I could have it because of Jesus. But I knew it would take some time, work, and repentance.
After reading my story and seeing my heart and thoughts… let me ask you a question.
Are you bitter?
Don’t be ashamed if you are.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
But let’s learn to fight together.
Here are some ways I began to fight against bitterness that I hope will help you.
1. Practice being grateful.
Make an intentional effort every day to be grateful. It does not matter the method- just actively chase gratefulness to fight the bitterness. For me… my prayer life had to change. Instead of the prominent part of my prayers being asking God for different things (though we can ask God for anything), I began to make “thank you for ________” be the sentence I declared most often.
2. Take every thought captive.
You may not realize it, but most of your thoughts are probably negative. Think about your thought life right now… what thoughts are repetitive in your head…
“I can’t believe my husband didn’t help with ________.”
“I am so aggravated about ________.”
“Gah, they are so annoying.”
“I hate this.”
“I wouldn’t do that this way.”
“If only I had a better job.”
Do you see the pessimistic, ungrateful, bitter attitude in all of these statements? And yet, Jesus calls us to have the mind of Christ. Most of the time, I do not believe my thought life represents the mind of Christ. And the good news is that our thought lives can change. Scripture tells us what to do.
We take captive every thought to make it OBEDIENT to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
And the way we do this is:
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—THINK on these things. Philippians 4:8
So… THINK on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. That is how you take your thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. When you THINK on these things it changes your perspective.
It can make someone who is bitter move from a heart of stone to a soft heart full of love, joy and peace.
3. Get help.
I had been taught over and over again to “take my thoughts captive”. But I needed help to learn how to practically do it when my mind was struggling to think rationally.
I put myself in biblical counseling. There is not a bigger fan of biblical counseling than me. Each day as I left counseling I left with more scripture in my arsenal than someone’s opinions. I needed TRUTH. My counselor helped me learn how to second-by-second take my thoughts captive.
Taking thoughts captive goes against our fleshly nature and I am still a work in progress. We need help from the Spirit and often the Spirit uses humans who love Him to help us find our way back to Him.
4. Remember that God loves you.
He does. No matter what you feel or think… His word says He does. We can know He loves us because His word never changes and neither does His character. Rest in His word. Surround yourself with people who show His love and remind you of His love.
5. Don’t give up.
Can I be really transparent… I wanted to give up. I felt broken past the point of healing.
I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t believe I could be delivered from such a rocky place.
But as someone who has been delivered and rescued from the pit of destruction. I can promise you, Jesus can and will. He already has victory, and sometimes he calls us to take action steps and fight our way to victory all while resting and waiting on Him. He will come through… I can confidently make that claim because He has for me and scripture provides us with examples of how He has done this time and time again. Deliverance may not come in the way we want it or in the timing we want it, but it will come. Don’t give up on Jesus. He hasn’t given up on you.
Because He has rescued me from bitterness, I can now proclaim:
Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in LOVE you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. Isaiah 38:17
Hayley serves as the Community Minister at First West in West Monroe, LA. Hayley previously served as the Girls Minister on the First West Student Ministry Staff from December 2013 to July 2019 ministering to girls and their families. She has a passion for the local church and gained her Masters of Arts in Ministry Leadership from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her heart is for women to experience the love of Christ and His forgiveness, to live in freedom, and to move in action for the sake of the Gospel wherever God calls them. Instagram: @hayleygaston