Bitterness is described in the bible as a root that brings forth destructive fruit. We don’t always recognize it for what it is, but it’s effects are deadly. Bitterness can start out as something so small that we don’t even notice it. This is one of the reasons that forgiving others is so important. Unresolved unforgiveness can result in bitterness that destroys your life and those around you.
Heb 12:15 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’
I find it interesting that bitterness is described as a root. Roots grow underground for quite some time without becoming visible. They are there, you just can’t see them. The root of bitterness begins to grow very quietly. By the time it sprouts up, a lot has already taken place “underground” to destroy your heart. Let’s face it. It can feel really good to stay mad at someone! It can also feel really good to plot out in your mind what you would do to this person if you had the chance. I know this all too well!
I have recently had to forgive someone who has hurt me. It would be so easy to stay angry and keep plotting in my mind all of the things I would do “if I wasn’t a Christian”. The fact is, though, I AM a Christian! Being a Christian does not make me perfect, but it does show me a better way of living. Following Christ has shown me how to be the better person in a situation when people do their best to hurt me.
How do you know you may have a root of bitterness?
- Are you continually thinking destructive thoughts about someone?
- Are you happy at the misfortune of somebody?
- Do you wish harm upon someone?
- Are you always thinking up scenarios in your head about what you wish you could do to someone to harm them?
- Do you feel sick to your stomach when you see a person you don’t like?
- Do you find yourself trying to turn others against someone you dislike?
If you can relate to any of these examples, I caution you to be careful! All of us have been hurt by people. Sometimes they hurt us on purpose, and this can feel like someone just drove a stake through our hearts. Other times, people can hurt us when it’s not intentional. Either way, forgiveness is not an option. Even if the person who hurts us does not realize what he/she did (or denies it), we are to forgive. We have to be very purposeful in forgiving, before a root of bitterness is planted in us. I’ve learned that holding onto unforgiveness only hurts me, not the one who hurt me!
Joyce Meyer said in her book, “Beauty For Ashes”, this statement regarding unforgiveness:
“First, let me say that it is not possible to have good emotional health while harboring bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die! Unforgiveness poisons anyone who holds it, causing him to become bitter. And it is impossible to be bitter and get better at the same time!”
The bible also tells us that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us!
Mark 11:25-26 says “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your sins.”
This puts it in a new light for me. I cannot imagine how many times God has had to forgive me! (And how many MORE times He will need to forgive me before I die!) I don’t want to put myself in the position of God not forgiving me just because I am too prideful to forgive someone else. That’s a dangerous place to be in, and it’s not worth it!
Is it easy to forgive? No
Does forgiving mean that we are justifying what the other person did? No
Do we still need to forgive because we are commanded to do so? Yes
Are we set free as a result of forgiving? Yes!
When we choose to forgive, we are set free from anger, bitterness and the destruction it places on our hearts. Forgiveness can be a journey, but it’s worth the work it takes to get there! Don’t let your heart be bitter against anyone. Ask God to show you how to forgive anyone you may be holding unforgiveness against. It’s not going to be easy, but the rewards are so worth it! You will allow God to bless you with peace and healing in your heart and life if you choose His way and forgive.
Dear Lord, please show me if there is anyone that I need to forgive. Forgiving them means that I am choosing Your way, instead of my own. Thank you, Jesus, for revealing to me the damage that unforgiveness and bitterness can cause. I want to be free from it all and follow Your way – which always leads to freedom. Thank you, Jesus! In Your name I pray. Amen.