My friend Briana can also relate to this struggle. Her bitterness has been towards God, and after losing her father to cancer, she admits:

"Any time I would face something difficult in life or see God take something I treasured away from me, I would go back to my Dad’s death and build a case against God from that point on, sowing many seeds of anger and bitterness in my heart over the course of many years. Through this, though, I have seen God’s relentless pursuit of my heart. No human would ever have patiently and faithfully stuck with me or continued to love me if I had wrongfully accused and so pridefully mistrusted them as I have God during various seasons of my life."

Whether towards God or man, it’s no easy task to defeat bitterness, I know. But I’ve learned that if I let bitterness grow in my heart, I’ll only make those around me and myself miserable. It is a battle worth waging.

Finding Family

God doesn’t intend that we go through our losses and spiritual battles alone. He wants to use the Church to show His faithfulness and extend His arms of comfort. I’ve realized I need to see my family as being bigger than just the physical one I was born into. I want to invest myself into the lives of my spiritual family members so that we can "carry each other’s burdens" (Galatians 6:2). However, to allow people to carry my burdens, I’ve discovered I have to be humble enough be real about what’s going on in my life. When I’ve done this, I’ve experienced the blessing of having people encourage me by praying for my family and me on many occasions.

Briana had a similar experience when her father died. She remembers "depend[ing] greatly upon the outstretched arms of the body of Christ at that time to just be there through a very disorienting time of my life. The body of Christ became a tangible picture to me of God’s abiding love and faithfulness." The wonderful thing is that after experiencing such comfort from our spiritual family members, we’ll be eager return the favor. When circumstances threaten to overwhelm our friends, we’ll have an opportunity to encourage and offer practical help.

Faithful Father

No matter what happens to our physical families, or what pain they may inflict on us, if we are God’s children, He will always be a faithful Father to us. He is a Father who extends grace and mercy into our lives, not just for salvation, but also for each day as long as we live. He uses the events in our lives to shape us into people that resemble Him more and more—if we are willing to let Him mold us.

The fact that we are under going this spiritual metamorphosis should humble us. This humility should make us careful to not judge those who’ve wronged us. While we can realize their actions were sinful, we must remind ourselves we also are capable of the same actions if we don’t stay close to Christ.

I have a friend, Lydia, whose mother abandoned her family. One day she was there, the next day she wasn’t. Lydia shares that the memory of her mom’s leaving sobers her everyday as she thinks about her own capacity to make a similar sinful choice. She says, "I see that if I don’t stay connected to the vine of Christ, I too, could walk away....I want to view [my mom's] life from an outsider’s point of view, and see any weaknesses in her that may be in me, asking God to help me overcome them His way." Part of God’s faithfulness to us is that He keeps us from making the same sinful choices that have been committed against us.

Some of us have lost a parent to death. Some of us had a parent abandon us. Some of us have experienced the split of our families by separation or divorce. No matter what the story, we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. We can heal and be changed more into the image of Christ. Like Job, we can praise God during devastating circumstances because our eyes are opened to seeing God’s faithful hand. No matter what family we may lose along life’s journey, we can always find our Father. He is always near and will never forsake.

Article originally appeared on Used with permission.

Danielle Ayers Jones is wife to an amazing husband and mother to three. She's a writer and photographer, combining both loves on her blog, A space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, rest in the struggle, and encouragement in unexpected places. She's also written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., and Relevant Magazine.You can follow her on Twitter @daniajones.

Publication date: June 14, 2013