Bitterness is a feeling that involves a mixture of anger and resentment generated by the experience of unjust suffering. Bitterness is frequently associated with sin and slavery to sin in the Bible. Bitterness is not simply something you do—it is something you experience.

Consider the bitter herbs in Israel’s history. In preparation for the final plague—the death of the firstborn—God instituted the initial Passover. In His great mercy, the Lord provided a way for His people to be saved from wrath. Every Israelite family was to take a spotless male lamb, slaughter it at twilight, and then smear some of its blood around and above the doorframes of their houses. “That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast” (Exodus 12:8).

Rather than a savory seasoning for the meat, God called for bitter herbs, meant to symbolize Israel’s bitter existence under Pharoah’s oppressive rule. As the Hebrews ate, the bitter herbs would remind them how their cruel Egyptian enslavers “made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:14).

Every detail of the inaugural Passover pointed to Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). The sacrifice of His blood on the cross set us free from bondage to sin and death. Like the Israelites, we were afflicted due to our slavery to sin.

We face bitter experiences, such as jealous attacks from others, harsh treatment at the hands of others, being mocked, or simply as a natural part of living in a broken world.

These bitter circumstances often cause us to respond either with complaining about our circumstances or suffering in silence. However, following the example of eating the bitter herbs at the Passover meal, we can let these bitter circumstances become sweet in our lives. They can:

  1. Lead us to know Christ more
  2. Have deeper self reflection
  3. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty
  4. Grow deeper in our love of God’s Word
  5. Increase our longing for heaven.

Bitterness is a circumstance before it’s a response, but by faith, we can learn to respond in a godly way