The weed was small, and I let it grow.
I thought the tiny flowers and delicate leaves were pretty, so I ignored it when it first appeared in my garden. I even weeded around it.
After a few days though, I saw my mistake. The vine of that tiny, delicate weed had started to wrap itself around the stalks of my vegetable plants, and I entered into a battle of life and death.
The weed, unknown to me, had deep roots that were not evidenced in its miniscule leaves. When I attempted to pull it up, it disturbed the roots of the plants I was trying to save, while its vine continued to engulf my vegetables.
I fought with that weed all summer as I persistently struggled to keep it from completely devouring my vegetables. I should have uprooted it when it first appeared.
Bitterness is like that.
It begins as a hurt that causes anger, and I let that anger fester. I even revisit and cherish the anger, feeling justified because of my wound. All the while, the roots of bitterness begin to penetrate my soul like a cancer, sapping energy and destroying joy.
Bitterness warps the heart.
Soon, blessings appear mundane and trivial misdeeds consume my focus and overshadow my life. Grace struggles where bitterness grows.
Paul warned about allowing bitterness to take root in my heart (Hebrews 12:15). He lumped it together with wrath, anger, malice, and evil speaking, which he instructed the Ephesians to put away from them (Ephesians 4:32). Bitterness is at home with all of those destructive emotions.
Bitterness grows from my unresolved anger. Whether justified or not, when anger sits without resolution, it sours into bitterness like milk left on a countertop. There is great wisdom in the instruction in Ephesians 4:26, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath”.
Unresolved anger – bitterness – lies at the heart of depression and hatred. Modern treatments for these maladies resemble the antidote given by Paul: acknowledge the anger, confront its source when possible, and most importantly forgive.
Knowing the remedy and acting upon it are two entirely different states, though. Uprooting bitterness can be painful, in part because it requires me to acknowledge my own responsibility in letting it grow. I also have to release my assumed right for revenge or payment. Hmmm.
This then puts in my hand the spade of forgiveness, which alone can uproot the tentacles of bitterness.
I don’t know about you, but I have to keep watching for these weeds in my life. They spring up and take root quickly.
This gardening business requires constant diligence!
Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Ephesians 4: 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.