“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV).
Friend To Friend
“She’s just a bitter old woman!” Have you ever heard someone described in that way? I have. And amazingly, when someone uses the word “bitter,” I know exactly what they mean. Webster defines bitter as “galling; exhibiting intense animosity, harshly reproachful, marked by cynicism and rancor.” It stems from deep seated anger and a lack of forgiveness that plants itself into a soul and is watered and fertilized by playing and replaying the video of the offense in the theater of the mind. Paul warns us that having a “root of bitterness” can grow up and “defile many” (Hebrews 12:15). James tell us that bitterness is from the devil (James 3:14-15). And Peter cautions that bitterness can keep us from being effective in ministry (Acts 8:22-24).
Just like Naomi in the story of Ruth, bitterness in our hearts will produce bitterness in our actions. The only way to be free of bitterness is to let go of past offenses and refuse to collect them. Collect antiques, beanie babies, or even shoes. But don’t collect grudges. There’s not enough storage space in your heart to bear the load. Grudges just tumble out every time the door to your mouth is opened.
“My mother used to be a bitter woman,” Tim explained. “But then she got Alzheimer’s disease and forgot what she was so bitter about. She actually became a very pleasant person to be around.” Oh, that we would forget while we are still well enough to enjoy the freedom!
Rather than growing bitter, choose to be better! Think on the words to this poem found in John Cook’s book, The Book of Positive Quotations.
The Hard Way
For every hill I’ve had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat,
My heart sings but a grateful song-
These were the things that made me strong.
Those do not sound like the words of a bitter person but a better person. The fact is that hurt is inevitable in relationships. We are sinful creatures living in a fallen world and it is only by the grace of God that we can be a blessing to anyone. The only way to be better rather than bitter is to extend the same grace to others that God extended to us through Jesus Christ. The key to writing a beautiful life story is to have a pencil with a good eraser.
If ever there was a person who had the “right” to be bitter, it was Joseph. The Bible tells us he was thrown into a pit and left for dead, sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted rape, forgotten by his friends, and unjustly detained in a prison cell for many years. And yet, after his release and subsequent appointment as governor of Egypt, he came face-to-face with the very brothers who caused his demise. Rather than give them the punishment they deserved, he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph chose not to be bitter, but to allow his circumstances to make him better. And with God’s help, we can do the same.
Dear LORD, I choose to let the struggles of life make me better and not bitter. I forgive those who have hurt me and refuse to hold a grudge. I will look for the good in every difficult situation and think the best of others. I know that a bitter heart produces bitter fruit, and I refuse to allow my heart to get caught in that trap. Now, Lord, help me accomplish what I have just confessed.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Go back and read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37, 39-50.
Look for all the things that Joseph could have become bitter about.
What can you learn from Joseph?
Examine your heart and see if there is any bitterness lurking there.
Today’s devotion is taken from Sharon’s book