“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV
I was eavesdropping on a conversation recently (couldn’t help it – I was at the hair salon!) Anyway, one lady was complaining about her husband and another woman. The stylist listened attentively and threw in an occassional “Ohhh!” or “No!!” The complaining lady was really angry (and I could see why!)
I couldn’t stop thinking about what I overheard because it related to the subject of today’s post. When we’ve been deeply hurt and can’t forgive, it will lead to bitterness of heart.
The problem with bitterness is that, even though your anger and resentment may be justified, it will destroy you. Stephen Diamond, Ph.D., describes bitterness as “a chronic and pervasive state of smoldering resentment,” and deservedly regards it as “one of the most destructive and toxic of human emotions.”
He says, ” if we repeatedly ruminate over how we’ve been victimized, our “nursing” our wrongs may eventually come to define some essential part of who we are. Take hold of our very personality. And so we’ll end up becoming victims not so much of anyone else but, principally, of ourselves.”
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Since a root is the hidden part of a plant or tree, we can think of a bitter root as being the hidden source of bitterness. What is the seed from which that bitter root sprouts in our heart? It’s that tiny speck of unforgiveness, that tiny speck of indignation that we allow to remain in our hearts. It’s that tiny speck of resentment that we justify in our mind.
Let’s call this tree Bitterness. The function of it’s roots are the same as other roots. Roots can keep a tree in place for hundreds of years and nothing can move it . Winds and storms won’t dislodge it!
Secondly, the roots nourish the tree to make sure it keeps growing stronger and stronger.
And lastly, roots can cause trouble when they grow where they aren’t wanted – like when they invade water pipes or sewer systems.
Is it any wonder that God used the analogy of roots when warning us about bitterness? But where He gives a warning, he provides an answer.
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1 NIV
As we humbly come to Him, seeking His way and His will, God will provide the grace to forgive and let go. Many times, the injustice we must forgive cannot be forgiven in our own strength, but God’s grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9) And what is the opposite of bitterness? Contentment, Happiness, Sweetness! That is God’s plan for you.
“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:15-16NLT
“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:1-4 NLT
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4: 5-6
“For it is by grace you have been saved … It is the gift of God … For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV
According to Psychology Today, the way to deal with a difficult, aka “toxic” person, is to “limit your time with this person or end the relationship—and don’t look back.”
Is there someone in your life that you would like to be done with, and then never look back? You can find justification for this attitude in pop psychology, but not in the Bible.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 NIV
I have a student like that right now. You might say he really knows how to push my buttons! It’s like he wants me to dislike him. After repeated insults, disrespect, and defiance, I said to him, “I’m done with you!”
The Lord has not let me forget it! He says, “That’s not an option.” He reminds me that it’s a good thing He didn’t feel that way about me when I was (let’s just say) sowing my oats. No, God never left me when I left Him. He still loved me when I was rebellious and sinful. And He was faithful to bring me back to Him, even though I did nothing to deserve His great love, mercy, and forgiveness.
This is why I love Jesus. He loves me unconditionally! Isn’t that what we all need? – what the whole world needs – TO BE LOVED?
I believe God puts certain people in our path for a reason. There may be someone in our life that is difficult to love. It might not be forever, but while they’re around, we must show them God’s love.
Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them ….. Love your enemies ….. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36
If God puts an “unlovable” person in our path, we’ll know it. He’ll make sure of that. We may think we aren’t strong enough to love that person, but we can count on the Lord to give us the grace we need. He said,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV