Remember the time you were expecting a piece of candy or a pickle to taste sweet, but it was bitter? It sent a shock to your taste buds. You quickly had to get something to drink in order to get the taste out.

You may feel like you need to wash the bitterness left in your mouth from 2020 out as well. Many people are dealing with anger, bitterness, frustration, resentment, and other negative emotions coming out of 2020. God tells us to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger... be put away from you along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). It is good for us to wash away bitterness.

Fredrik Backman wrote, “Bitterness can be corrosive. It can rewrite your memories as if it were scrubbing a crime scene clean, until in the end you only remember what suits you of its causes.” If we are not careful we will only remember 2020 with bitter taste. As 2021 goes by we can even nurse and feed that bitterness, so that it even grows. So please consider three ways to wash the 2020 bitterness away from your heart.

First, choose to find some blessings and positives that happened in 2020. We are to be thankful in everything (Colossians 3:15, Philippians 4:6). Everything wasn’t bad in 2020. We all received numerous blessings, enjoyed some good times, and learned lessons. Focus on the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives that produce bitterness.

Second, allow yourself some emotions and grief from 2020. Bitterness is like the root of a plant. It lives underground, but feeds the plant that is seen (Hebrews 12:14-15). You may not know that bitterness is fueling your apathy, depression, anger, alcoholism, or relationship struggles. You need greater self-awareness of the emotions that are driving your actions. Recognize that you were hurt, have reason for anger, or suffered losses that were out of your control. There is likely real validity to the hurt or loss you experienced. Grieve and honor the loss and frustration you experienced. Quit denying it as an experience and own the emotions. It is only through owning them that you can let them go (Colossians 3:13).

Third, determine to press on toward the goal in 2021. Paul, who dealt with some rough years, said, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind an straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

We have to move forward in life. Make peace with the past (see the first two points), then move forward with optimism, faith, and hope. There is work to be done for the Lord. We have to strain ahead and focus on the opportunities, blessings, and work this year. Did 2020 leave you with a bitter taste? Give some immediate attention to washing that taste out and moving out in 2021. Remember God knows what is best for you, and He said to let all bitterness be put away (Ephesians 4:31).

Josh Ketchum preaches at Seven Oaks Church of Christ in Mayfield.

Josh Ketchum preaches at Seven Oaks Church of Christ in Mayfield.