Anger, Emotions, Family, Fear, Grief and Sadness, Relationships

Sandy’s Story: Battling Bitterness While Missing Family

The 2020 holiday season is here and I’m wondering, “Should we get together with family? What about friends? Will I get to be with my grandchildren?” We had plans for out-of-town guests to come for Thanksgiving, but that changed at the last minute because of a family member being exposed to COVID-19. Even though I know it was the right thing to do, feelings of bitterness, sadness and frustration welled up. 

Other plans for family gatherings are rapidly dropping one by one. I feel angry and frustrated with family members who, in my opinion, are abundantly cautious, and I feel bitter toward the restrictions. Having elderly parents in nursing homes and being unable to visit or bring them to our homes breaks my heart. Grief from not being able to be with family members replaces the joy and anticipation of the holidays. I’m weary of this virus and all the changes it has brought to life. Thanksgiving was a disappointment, but not being with family on Christmas would be crushing.

God says, “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). Not only does that sin of bitterness affect me, it defiles those around me! Rather than encouraging and blessing my elderly parents and in-laws on the phone, I spend the time railing on how unfair it is that we can’t come and visit or bring them to our home for a family party. These feelings I harbor in my heart ultimately come out as complaining and eat away at the relationships I hold most dear.  

Even though my family might not be with me over the holidays, God is. He’s with me in the hard times and is my strength (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 43:2). Also, He hears and knows when I cry out to him in prayer (Psalm 34:15). I am learning to trust that God is guiding my family members as well as me. I can’t disdain what they decide. If they’re praying to God for wisdom too, and come to a different conclusion, then I can trust that God is sovereign over them as well as me and the entire situation.

Christ suffered and died for my sins of bitterness and complaining. If I confess my sins to God, His Word promises me that He is faithful and just to forgive my sins (1 John 1:9) and not only that, He will cleanse me from all unrighteousness! How amazing that when God looks at me, rather than seeing my sin and imperfections, He’s seeing Christ’s perfection and righteousness covering me! And because Christ suffered, He understands and sympathizes with my suffering. He hears my prayers and offers hope, healing and peace. Christ can bring healing to my family relationships by giving me grace to see things from others’ perspectives. 

God knows and cares about my disappointment. In Psalm 34 I’m told, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” He heals my broken heart and binds up my wounds. I can cling to His promises and know that the purposes of the Lord will stand. This Christmas may not look like others, but God is still with us. 

I know that when I trust in God with all my heart, lean not on my own understanding, and in all my ways acknowledge Him, He will direct my paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). I can confess my sins of bitterness and complaining to God and entrust the situation to Him. I can also show grace to my family members, thank God for the protection and care that my elderly parents are receiving from the nursing home, and even embrace the different look and feel of the holiday by being creative and finding other ways to celebrate, focusing on what is truly important. Even though things will look different, I can have faith that Christ is still on His throne and I can still celebrate the day Christ came into the world. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Sandy and her husband, Russ, met at Taylor University and have attended The Orchard since they were married in 1982. They have been worshipping at the Barrington campus since it opened in 2010. They have two adult daughters who are married and two precious granddaughters. She has served on staff at The Orchard as Pastor Colin’s assistant since 2006.

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