“Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” Hebrews 12:15
As a Christian, have you realized recently how common bitterness is among our brothers and sisters in Christ?
I bring this up because bitterness can be such a destructive force when it’s ignored.
I know this from personal experience, and I’m pretty sure that you have too.
Has This Ever Happened to You?
After the holiday celebrations that just passed, I realized that it’s easier to point out the bitterness that resides among our relatives and close ones.
That’s because during the holidays, friends and family members come together and spend more time with each other than usual.
It’s during the holidays that you then begin hearing things from your loved ones like, “If x person is going to be at the party, then I don’t want to go.” Sometimes, that bitter person might not even share the reason they don’t want to go.
They’ll just tell you last minute that they got invited somewhere else. Of course, this is just an excuse to avoid the person they are having issues with.
When I come across situations where bitterness is present, I usually just choose to ignore it.
I choose to go on with my life thinking to myself that bitterness is not that bad compared to other sins. I think to myself that the course of time will heal the people who are involved in it.
However, I found out that bitterness doesn’t fade away on its own. Instead, it’s something, that usually starts out being very small, and then grows quickly in a person’s heart.
If this person is a Christian, this sin will ultimately destroy his/her communion with God.
More importantly, bitterness is like a contagious disease. In the body of Christ, it can spread easily among the flock. It usually ends up causing all sorts of problems like division, jealousy, and gossip.
As followers of Christ, if we identify bitterness in someone, we must not sympathize with them, as if the person is a victim.
Instead, we must confront the person in love, and try to bring him or her to the truth found in God’s Word. We should pray for the chains of this sin to be broken in their life.
Understanding The Destructive Reach of Bitterness
Bitterness is like a seed that springs up its roots deeply in the hearts of people.
Usually, that seed springs up after a person has been hurt by someone in a particular situation.
At the beginning, bitterness isn’t easy to find in the person, as it lies masked behind other emotions. But with time, it becomes very noticeable.
I’ve found that the best way to describe bitterness working in someone’s life is through an analogy that is perhaps well-known.
Bitterness is like the venom that’s released by a snake bite.
This venom is a toxin which is deadly to a person’s nervous system.
The venom in the human victim results in severe pain, blurred vision, and eventually paralysis.
There’s an anti-venom that can reverse the effects of this venom. But according to experts, it must be applied immediately after the bite.
If not applied immediately after being bitten, the victim will suffer cardiovascular collapse, followed by a comma, and then the person will die because of respiratory failure.
Likewise, bitterness is like a venom that when is released in a person, results in severe pain. And if bitterness isn’t treated immediately, it will eventually cause spiritual death.
The Harmful Effects of Venom on Your Spiritual Life
Many times the person who’s bitter desires others, especially those who hurt them, to experience pain in their lives.
Additionally, the person ceases to have clarity and vision in their spiritual walk.
It doesn’t matter how much they’re exposed to the Word of God, they’re hardened heart prevents the Word from ever taking root in their lives.
1 John 2:9-11 says:
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
“But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” (NIV)
These verses explain what happens to those who become bitter.
The hatred that develops in their hearts after becoming bitter blinds them. Therefore, they don’t know what’s happening inside of them, or where they’re going.
Also, bitterness as it progresses doing its work inside a person’s heart, causes spiritual paralysis.
At this stage, the Christian isn’t able to move forward anymore in their spiritual walk. They become completely paralyzed.
The hate inside of them prevents them from serving, or doing any type of work in the body of Christ.
Ultimately, comes the spiritual death.
This is when Christians, through the venom of bitterness, stop praying, reading the Word of God, and fellowshipping with believers. Their spiritual walk that was already in a progressive decay completely collapses.
The consequence of this last one is due specifically to the warning that we receive in the scripture that I shared at the beginning of this blog.
The verse reminded us to be careful, “Lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” (Hebrews 12:15 NKJV)
This is the most tragic situation that Christians can experience, when God’s favor is no longer operating in their lives.
In the case of bitterness, the person chooses to replace the presence of God with hate and resentment. Their hardened hearts block the Holy Spirit from convicting their lives with this sin.
This is why it’s so important that brothers and sisters intervene in people’s lives who have allowed bitterness to grow in their hearts.
Since they’re not able to identify their own sin, they need to depend on others to minister to their lives, and so the problem of bitterness can be fixed.
Regarding this responsibility of the believer, the Bible says:
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Romans 15:1-2 NKJV)
The Anti Venom that Prevents Destruction
The anti venom for bitterness is forgiveness.
Just like the anti-venom for a snake bite must be applied immediately after the bite, so must forgiveness be applied right after bitterness enters our hearts.
If we chose to obey God’s commandment of forgiveness in His Word, all the power of hate and resentment instantly will be reversed.
Something that’s important to be aware of, is that obeying the Word of God is not a matter of emotions, but a matter of simply obeying.
We won’t always feel like forgiving, but we have to do it anyways.
There are times when forgiving is extremely difficult. However choosing the path of forgiveness is the only way in which we allow God to do a supernatural work in our hearts so that healing can begin.
That’s why in God’s Word He warns us to be diligent, “Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble us.”
God wants us to prevent a catastrophe in our lives from happening. As soon as we’re exposed to resentment, we need to apply the anti venom of forgiveness.
One of the Best Bible Examples on Overcoming Bitterness
A great example of forgiveness in the most difficult circumstances come to us through the life of Joseph, the one they call, “The Dreamer.” (Genesis 37-50)
Joseph, a great man of God, suffered many great afflictions in his life.
Joseph was hated by His brothers, who sold him as a slave. He was falsely accused of sexual abuse by the wife of his master, and went to jail for it.
He was betrayed and forgotten by the person who promised him to speak on his behalf to pharaoh, so he could be released out jail.
Even though he went through all this, he guarded his heart from becoming bitter.
After many years passed, God raised Joseph to be the second in command of all Egypt. It’s interesting to note that when God reunited him with his brothers, Joseph told them:
“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
“For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
Joseph had the same revelation that God gave to the apostle Paul:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
It’s interesting to note in Joseph’s life that the names of his sons reflected the blessing that resulted in his life of making the decision to forgive.
In verses 51 and 52 of Genesis 41, the Bible says that Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Through this we then conclude that in order to continue to grow in our walk with the Lord, we must always forgive all trespasses against us.
Don’t ever let bitterness take root in your heart, let go and let God. Forgive and forget. Love and be liberated.