I listened carefully and with sympathy to the woman who shared her story of pain. There was room for legitimate grief in what she had experienced. But the thing I began to hear the most was the thread of bitterness woven through her narrative. Years earlier she had been neglected, abused, misused, and unfairly treated. She had suffered at the hand of someone she had trusted. And she blamed God.
As I sat there, a phrase jumped into my mind that my dear Mom used to use with us girls: Mental Attitude Sin. I remember if one of us shared a woeful tale of some hurtful situation, she would listen and let us unburden ourselves; but it stopped there. “That was a painful thing you endured. But now you need to let it go and not let it develop into a sinful mental attitude on your part, honey.” Boy those were painful lessons.
There were times I felt like she didn’t understand. Couldn’t I soak just a little in the luxury of harboring anger toward the one who had wronged me? Nope – not with our Mom. She would remind us that self-pity parties were dangerous events to host, because they appeal to our fleshly desire to wallow instead of heal, to let it fester instead of forgive, and can build a thick wall that hardens us to the truth of how to become truly FREE.
All these years later, I am very thankful for her Godly wisdom. So many people are trapped by the stranglehold of bitterness. Yes, there are hard and painful circumstances that are wrong, cruel and sinful; but life isn’t always easy, and God expects us to come running to Him with our burdens and hurts, not to nurse them into reasons to become angry.
When we allow the pain to fester, we are hurting ourselves most. The definition of the word fester is: to rot, mold, decay, putrefy, rankle, smolder, gnaw away, spoil, deteriorate. Is that really something we want taking root in our hearts and minds??
Hebrews 12:15 tells us, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Roots are underground, out of sight, but left undisturbed, they grow and the “fruit” becomes evident. The fruit of the root of bitterness is resentment, heartache and left unchecked, hardness of heart.
So what is the solution? What should our response be to difficulty in life?
Hebrews 12:7-11, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Oh my dear sister, isn’t that wonderful news to hear?! I rejoice in the truth that God has designed even the hard things of life to become tools for good in His masterful hand!
If we willingly submit, even to painful circumstances, asking God to help us, and keep us soft and pliant for His glory, He will help us to endure – and bring us to the place where the “fruit” of righteousness and peace are produced in our lives. That gives me such hope.
This life is short – for the follower of Jesus, we have the hope of better things to come! Are we using the time we have here on Earth to forgive and release people from their sins against us, and to build a healthy and reverent submission to God? Or, are we working on making our root of bitterness stronger by staying out of God’s word and resisting His gentle prompting to come to Him to experience His healing comfort?
It’s a choice each person must decide for themselves.
What is your choice? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.