Bitterness: a festering to well being

In a small devotional that is called “Experiencing God: day-by-day”, written by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, there are spiritual thoughts for each day of the year.  The scripture-based thought of the day for July 10 was addressing the concept of bitterness.  I will quote the entire thought and then comment afterwards:

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble.  Hebrews 12:18

“Bitterness has a tenacious way of taking root deep within the soul and resisting all efforts to weed it out.  Bitterness occurs for many reasons.  It might come from deep hurts you received as a child, hurts you cannot forget.  Time, rather than diminishing the hurt, only seems to sharpen the pain.  Bitterness can result from the hurtful words of a friend or coworker.  Often the person who hurt you is unaware of the extent of your bitterness.  You find yourself rehearsing the offense over and over again, each time driving the root of bitterness deeper within your soul.  Bitterness can derive from a sense of being unjustly treated.

Bitterness is easy to justify.  You can get so used to a bitter heart that you are even comfortable with it, but it will destroy you.  Only God is fully aware of its destructive potential.  There is nothing so deeply imbedded in your heart that God’s grace cannot reach down and remove it.  No area in your life is so painful that God’s grace cannot bring total healing.  No offense committed against you is so heinous that God’s love cannot enable you to forgive.

When you allow bitterness to grow in your life, you reject the grace of God that can free you.  If you are honest before God, you will admit the bitterness and allow God to forgive you.  Bitterness enslaves you, but God is prepared to remove your bitterness and replace it with His peace and joy.”

Upon reading these words I was struck by the analogy of having a small seed or piece of food that gets trapped in a small crevice of the mouth and if not addressed in a timely manner can burrow deep into the tooth and into the gums of the mouth.  When such a thing happens it can be painful, it can turn into a diseased condition and it can in turn become a poison in the body.  All this from a small little thing that gets trapped in our system.  This is how bitterness works.  We make the decision to be offended by someone else’s action or words.  They may not have a clue what their words or behaviors did to us, but we take those actions, those words and begin to own it in our minds.  We are hurt, we are offended.  We cannot believe this person could say or do something so insensitive to us.  When we choose to “embrace our offense” we have taken on the beginning of bitterness.  The more we hold onto the thought of the offense and how it hurt us the bigger this becomes, and the more angry we become. 

Anger and bitterness fester in our hearts and in our souls if we allow them to.  The sad reality is by choosing to live with our bitterness the more the poison filtrates our heart and our body.  The medical community is finding that there is a connection between anger and bitterness to the diseases we are being diagnosed with.  Cancer and heart disease is being linked to the long term effect of anger and bitterness.  Ulcerative stomach issues are connected to the stress in our lives.  There is a connection to what we allow to enter our hearts and minds and how it manifests into external health issues.

As the devotional passage states, bitterness can be defused by praying to God for help in allowing the anger to subside.  By forgiving the offense and letting go of the anger we can begin to change our level of well being and our relationships with others.  After all, wouldn’t you rather enjoy a good laugh with someone then trying to avoid seeing them because you are angry at them?

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