4 Steps to Banish Bitterness
By: Alisha Headley
“Watch out so that no poisonous root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble to you and by it, defiling many...” - Hebrews 12:15
Poison. The Bible refers to bitterness as poison. In the Old Testament, the sin of an individual or family in Israel affected the entire nation as a whole. Israel was a covenant community. As such, it would experience national blessing or cursing. The individual who sinned could not expect to remain anonymous and the individual sin would have massive effects on the entire nation. Just like back then, the metaphor of the root bearing bitterness refers to the entire tree as a whole that is no longer bearing good fruit because of one single branch that bears that poisonous fruit.
Where in your life are you carrying that one branch of poisonous, bitter fruit? It can seem so small in your eyes but could be affecting your entire life. Perhaps you are angry at your husband for an offense against you many years ago. You may think you have ‘let it go’ and moved past the incident, and yet, you are harboring a single branch of bitterness that could be challenging your relationship, and you’re wondering why things in your marriage are not getting better.
We all get hurt. I’ve been hurt by some of the closest people to me. The way you respond to suffering determines whether that hurt makes you BETTER or BITTER.
Thankfully, we have a God who shows us grace. Who promises to forgive our sins and wrongdoing, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). And he “remembers our sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). It’s that simple. He erases all our hurt we cause Him and all our daily sins. When we refuse that grace from God and refuse to lend that same grace to others, it creates an inner environment where bitterness can grow. We have all been wronged. It’s up to choose either to forgive or to dwell on the wrongdoing to the point where we let bitterness take root.
To be bitter is a choice.
When a root of bitterness springs up, it not only destroys your inner peace but can wound all those around you just like it mentions in the Scripture: “causing trouble to you and by it, defiling many.” Bitterness defiles all those it touches, starting with the one who is bitter, but then extending to other relationships just as the Scripture mentions. Therefore, bitterness can have far-reaching, long-lasting, and self-destructive effects.
How do we get rid of that branch of bitterness we have toward someone?
1. Turn to Christ and receive His forgiveness. Once we realize we are given unmerited forgiveness, it helps us turn to others and forgive more easily.
2. Ask the Lord to soften your heart, having compassion toward the one who harmed you. This may take time, but over time, your heart will soften.
3. Pray for your enemies. Yes, the person who hurts you. Scripture encourages us to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:24)
4. Forgive. You must receive God’s forgiveness, ask the Lord to soften your heart, pray for those that hurt you, but then ultimately, you must forgive that person. One very practical way to do this is to replace bitterness with love. It’s especially hard to show love to the person who has wronged you. But just as God loved us, we are commanded to love others.
We have all been hurt, but so much freedom awaits you on the other side by choosing to forgive those who have wronged you rather than choosing bitterness. By cutting off the branch of bitterness, it will improve your entire tree of life no longer affecting you and those around you. I encourage you to cut it off and live with abundant love and forgiveness. Thank you Lord, that you so freely give us this as an example.
Alisha Headley is a writer and speaker who has a desire to meet the everyday woman in her everyday life with biblical truth. Healing from a chapter of life consumed with lies she once believed about herself, she is inspired to point women to Christ to experience the freedom and power to overcome those lies with the truth written in God’s Word. You can follow her blog by visiting her website or connect with her on facebook + instagram.
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