What encourages me...
I have several reasons to have an ongoing bitter outlook on life. I know that many people have a whole lot more reasons than me, but i think i still have valid ones. I grew up as an Air Force brat and moved around from place to place quite a bit. Sounds cool, and there are lots of great experiences with seeing other states and even countries, but lots of drawbacks, too. Deserting your friends and then trying to fit in somewhere else where you have no friends is not easy. It was kinda tough in these situations because I was the subject of a lot of ridicule. I was a late-bloomer, younger and pretty nerdy, so I was an easy target.
I also had to deal with my parents getting divorced when I was a teenager. I can still remember the final argument they had before my dad left. Speaking of dad, to this day he still doesn't really call. I usually initiate the conversations and that only happens maybe once or twice a year. I don't mean to make him seem like a bad guy - he's not at all, but it sure would be nice to hear from him without having to take the initiative.
Once I graduated high school, I had the opportunity to figure out life the hard way. I decided to get married at 19 years old, have children, work full time, get a degree in college and serve in a local church as a youth leader. Unfortunately, things didn't work out so well as we experienced job loss and bankruptcy. The church leadership began to let me down as their closed minds prevented growth.
Shortly after that, we tried a new church and loved it. But, our relationship started to turn sour as lots of communication issues arose and differences began to become major stumbling blocks. Trust deteriorated and the reality of a mistake was completely obvious. The kids were not a mistake, but everything in the relationship was. Once the divorce was final, lots of emptiness set in and even church leaders in the new church seemed to turn their back on me.
During that period, I began to reflect and saw that a lot of people I looked up to weren't always what they seemed. Alot of them let me down in one way or another. From broken promises to failed examples... Godly people to corporate management to acquaintances that were once friends. Lots of anxiety and at times, depression, have been an ongoing struggle, especially when financial or relationship challenges become somewhat overwhelming.
All these things have a very real tendency to tempt me to be bitter and untrusting of anyone, but you know what encourages me the most?
That's the one constant in this world that comes from a relationship with Jesus. Without it, I would traveling down that road to be a bitter old man that has nothing else to except yell at little kids for walking on his lawn. I don't want to be that guy! Instead, I am extremelly thankful that Jesus sees past all the screw-ups I've done and forgives and loves me anyway.
This allows me to forgive everyone I believe has hurt me and move on to bigger and better things. We're not meant to carry around a bunch of baggage. It keeps us from growing and moving forward.
It's amazing for me to think of the journey I've travelled and where I was about 8 years ago, before I was remarried. Since I have forgiven those people and think that they have done no worse than anything I've done, God has blessed me with an amazing wife, 6 awesome kids, wonderful job and an wonderful church family that believed in us to lead their youth ministry!
I am not saying that you won't struggle with issues like trust, anxiety, etc, but when you apply mercy to others around you, it makes it much easier to tackle on these issues in your life. With Jesus' help, you also don't have to take them on on your own.
Are you struggling with bitterness? Try applying mercy to those who have hurt you.