Bitterness: The Heart’s Poison

by Jennifer Lane

 “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground.”  Hosea 10:12 NIV

A trip to the jungles of Peru a few years ago broadened my perspective of God’s creation in unexpected ways. Leaving civilization behind, I entered into the majestic unknown of the jungle and all its beauty and power. The beauty all around me was not just something for the eye to behold, it was an experience that engaged all five of my senses simultaneously. Gazing upon the exotic birds, animals, and vegetation, I was struck anew as I thought about God as the Creator: how He took delight and care in designing every detail of the flora and fauna. How much more must He have delighted in creating me and you!

I also gained new awareness of God’s power as Creator. The towering trees, vast foliage, and cacophony of creature sounds quickly engulfed me, making it very clear who was in charge here (and it wasn’t me). I was completely reliant on my guide to discern for me where it was safe to step, which deadly creatures to avoid, and which plants were poisonous.

I learned quickly that I could not spot potential dangers just based on appearance. Many of the “dangerous” species were beautiful to behold. One such creature is the poison dart frog. Though only 2 inches in size, this brightly adorned frog is an eye-catching beauty, yet some of these frogs carry enough deadly poison to kill ten men.

It struck me that this was also true for mankind. External beauty is no reflection of what lies within. I’m sure we can all think of someone in our lives whose beauty may be striking but their words are like poisonous venom. This is a reflection of our inner selves. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45 NIV).

Allowing bitterness to grow in our hearts will transform us from the inside out.

How do we prevent bitterness from growing?

Take an inventory. “Get rid of all bitterness…be kind and compassionate…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV). Ask God to reveal any bitterness that may exist in your heart. Ask for His forgiveness and help to root out what is eating away at your soul.

Take preventative measures. “See to it … that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV). Once bitterness has been removed, see to it that it does not take root again. That may involve putting safeguards in place. Just like we put a fence around our garden to keep unwanted predators out, what things can you put in place to guard your heart from the enemy?

Sow new seeds.  Our lives must be “rooted and built up in Him” (Colossians 2:6-7). Once sinful roots have been removed and a sturdy fence is in place, it’s time to sow seeds of righteousness. Ask God to help you replace that bitterness with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. These new seeds help ensure that our root structure is firmly established and built up in the things of God, not the things of this world.

Then when the heat of the next trial comes, your leaves will always be green (Jeremiah 17:8 NIV), because your roots run deep into the streams of life.

TWEETABLE
Bitterness: The Heart’s Poison – insight from Jennifer Smith Lane on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

jennifer smith laneAbout the author: Jennifer Smith Lane is the president and co-founder of the Michigan Eating Disorders Alliance, whose mission is to provide education programs to prevent eating disorders. In addition to her non-profit work, she leads an eating and body image ministry walking alongside women on their recovery journey and empowering them to find freedom in Christ. Jennifer, her husband, and three children live in Michigan.

Jennifer’s new book, Transformed: Eating and Body Image Renewal God’s Way, helps women identify the underlying spiritual issues that keep them stuck in eating and body image issues. It is an inductive Bible study that teaches tools to turn to God for rescue through the spiritual disciplines.

Join the conversation: How has bitterness affected you in the past?

 

Preventing Resentment

by Julie Zine Coleman

When we were dating, my husband had the habit including four or five pink demerit slips he had earned at Bible college in each of his letters to me. At one point I asked him just how many he possessed, since he appeared to be drawing from a never-ending supply. He showed me the stack in the top drawer of his desk. It was impressive.

Now don’t get the wrong idea—they were all for relatively small misdemeanors, like leaving the lights on or the bed unmade. Over time, however, they accumulated into enough of a statement that he was called into the dean’s office to give an account for his actions. Apparently small infractions, over a long period of time, can add up.

This principle is true in relationships as well. It is why Paul, in describing a godly kind of love, reminded the Corinthians: “[Love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV) In this simple description, Paul gives powerful preventive medicine for all of our relationships: choosing forgiveness over bitterness.

The Old Man of the Mountain, a massive granite formation which once overlooked Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, stood for thousands of years. It was the state symbol, and beloved enough to earn a place on the New Hampshire state quarter. Thousands of tourists stopped each year on their way up I-93 to take photographs of this famous landmark. But one night in May 2003, during a heavy rain storm, the Old Man formation collapsed into the valley below. What felled such a huge granite structure, after it had stood for thousands of years? Tiny individual molecules of water.

The collapse of the Old Man was a result of small amounts of water seeping into cracks year after year, freezing and expanding, making the fissures just a bit wider each time. Finally, the cracks became wide enough to weaken the entire structure, and the monument crumbled.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote of this principle within the context of marriage: “Marriages break up when ‘small’ things accumulate and resentments build. Love is the intention of unity. Resentment is the destroyer of unity.” Making frequent decisions to forgive is crucial to the health of any relationship.

Easier said than done, you are probably thinking. You are not alone—Peter struggled with this idea as well. “How many times must I forgive?” he asked the Lord. He then offered, “Up to seven times?” Rabbinic standards required forgiving up to three offenses. Peter had more than doubled the standard. Surely seven times, the number denoting completeness, was generous enough.

Jesus surprised Peter with His answer. “Seventy times seven,” he replied. (Matthew 18:21-22)

How can anyone do that? By remembering what God has done for us. An ability to forgive reflects an understanding of how much we have been forgiven ourselves. We choose to love because we know we are loved. We give grace because He has given it to us. And in the process of imitating our Savior, we understand a bit more of what it took for him to bear our sin. Choosing to put ourselves aside in the interest of restoring others is a perfect way to identify with Jesus Christ.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: How do you avoid resentment?