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.

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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?

 

Time with the Master Gardener

by Elaine Helms

We had dinner in the new home of my cousin when she moved back to town. It was a lovely evening, during the course of which she showed us around her intriguing courtyard garden. Both of us were drawn to the excellent job she had done with laying stone for sitting areas and paths. My thoughts started whirling as I considered a favorite private spot in our own backyard, where we had a lone cement bench.

It wasn’t long after that visit that we headed to home improvement stores to shop for our own artistic masterpiece.  My recently retired husband happily engaged in our new project, and we spent many weekend hours digging, leveling, dreaming, and laying stone. We planted flowering shrubs along the curvy path, then blooming plants in pots next to and behind the bench. It all created just the right vibe fit for a secret garden.

We were so excited and thought how much it looked like something at many flower shows we had attended. What a delight to sit on the bench and savor the beauty, and to be inspired to worship our Creator who created everything for our enjoyment.

Eventually, a few rainy days kept us inside. When I finally walked back out to look at it, to my horror thousands of little green weeds had sprouted, filling part of the mulched path and in between plants. I marveled at how quickly my spotless, manicured garden had changed into a plot in need of a gardener on her knees.

Three parallels to my walk with our Lord suddenly struck me as I began to pull weeds.

First, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly a voracious weed can appear seemingly out of nowhere and spoil a beautiful scene. Just like when surprising negative thoughts suddenly appear without warning. Like those pesky weeds, when allowed to linger and be nurtured, those thoughts could develop into full-fledged sin. As my garden needs faithful attention, so do my thoughts and walk with my Lord.

A little time with Jesus, the Master Gardener, allows Him to point out those weeds in my heart. Selfish ambition, pride, arrogance, and hurt feelings allowed to fester can be detrimental to my spiritual growth; but I can confess and turn from them, and know I am forgiven. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NASB).

Second, the healthiest, most productive plants are those that have been fertilized and get the appropriate amount of sun. In the same way, yielding to the Spirit and knowing God in ever-deepening ways are fertilizer, water, and sunshine to a healthy and productive heart. As Paul wrote: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB).

Third, the kind of flowers, fruit, or vegetables produced in my garden totally depend on the kind of seeds that were planted. This reminded me to take care in what I plant in my heart—Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34b NASB).

I feel close to God when I visit with Him in the garden; but even closer when I yield my heart to His Master Gardener’s touch.

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Time with the Master Gardener – insight from Eliane Helms on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Elaine HelmAbout the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability, and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention for 10 years, and Prayer Coordinator for My Hope America with Billy Graham 2012-2013, Elaine has over 28 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org

God is at work all around us, doing things that only He can do.  Prayer is His plan for accomplishing His Purposes, and He invites you to join Him.  Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know, is a comprehensive guidebook for discovering how to pray as God intends. You’ll journey through Scripture, find inspiration in the stories of others, and learn simple and effective principles for prayer. An ideal resource for groups, Prayer 101 includes review questions for each chapter and a prayer ministry guide for churches eager to put prayer into action.

Join the conversation: How has the Master Gardener been at work in you lately?

From Bitterness to Beauty

by Ashley Lauren McClain

I recently saw a quote going around social media. “God doesn’t always change our circumstances. He sometimes changes us.”

Have you ever prayed for something with such confidence that you just knew God would do it…that it was just a matter of time before He came through and answered your prayer? I have.

My husband and I had recently walked together through a really hard season at our church. I was ready to go, and he was determined to stay. Month after month I woke with the same prayer first thing on my mind.  “God, change his heart to go, or give me peace to stay.”

Of course, I was fully confident that the Lord was going to change my husband’s heart and waited with full anticipation for Him to do so. But He didn’t. He changed my heart instead. He did that by showing me that I had allowed unresolved conflict to become bitterness.

As the writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to live lives in holiness and peace, he also warned them of things NOT to do. Living with a root of bitterness was on this list. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).

If you have ever lived with a root of bitterness in your life, you know that poisonous is the perfect word to describe what it does to us. My hatefulness had affected every aspect of my life, just as literal poison spreads in the body. There was no peace… in any situation. And worse, I had allowed my anger to spread to others, causing corruption in them as well.

For a long time I felt totally justified, until the Lord began to reveal the extent of my issue. As He did, He proceeded to change me, unexpectedly softening my heart towards the situation. His grace and mercy completely amazed and overwhelmed me. Had I preemptively run away from the situation, I would never have experienced His healing power. I would have missed Him taking me from bitterness to beauty and freedom that ONLY the Lord could have done. Trust me. I was very determined I would not change my mind.

There is no way to even begin to explain the beauty that is on the other side of bitterness if we are just willing to walk through the process with the Lord.

He is so kind to not let us stay there, because He has so much more for us. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that this is not easy, but I will also be the first to raise both of my hands and say “Thank you Jesus for not letting me stay in camp bitterness. Thank you for loving me so much that you didn’t answer my prayer the way that I wanted you to. Thank you for wanting so much more for me than I could ever have imagined for myself. Thank you for being so good.”

I don’t know where you may find yourself today. But I do know if you find yourself in camp bitterness where I was living, the very best thing you can do is to give that burden to the Lord.

I encourage you to let Him change your heart, to willingly walk through that process with Him.

Let Him free your heart and show you what unspeakable beauty, freedom, and joy that is waiting for you. He wants so much more for us. Sometimes we just have to be willing to let Him change us, as hard and as humbling as that may be. It is so very worth it.

 “…giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”  Isaiah 61:3 NASB

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From Bitterness to Beauty – encouragement from Ashley Lauren McClain on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Ashley McClainAbout the author: Ashley McClain is a girl with big dreams and a blog to encourage women in their journey through this life we have been given by the greatest Gift Giver there is! She loves to read, write, drink coffee, and spend time with the hubby & puppies! Connect with Ashley on her website ashleymcclain.org. She would love to hear about your journey too!

Join the conversation: Has God ever healed you from the root of bitterness? Please share!

Why Should I Forgive?

by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson

“Will you help me control my thinking?” The airport shuttle driver’s question surprised me. He’d obviously overheard my conversation with the woman leaving the shuttle. His landlady, who called herself a Christian, had wronged him. Hurt and anger showed in his eyes and words.

How could I help this man see that to be freed from his pain he needed to forgive the woman who’d caused it?

I’m sure people have disappointed and hurt you too. It’s part of life on planet earth. Maybe that’s why Jesus included forgiveness in the prayer He taught his disciples.

Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matt. 6:12 NLT).

Isn’t it ironic that we must forgive the ones we least want to forgive? This isn’t a cruel joke. It’s protection. Granting forgiveness heals our wounds and frees our souls.

I’ve read articles about forgiveness. Some platitudes offered more harm than good. They painted forgiveness as a magic wand that erased all pain. Hurt feelings don’t necessarily indicate unforgiveness. They may reveal deep wounds.

Scratches heal quickly. But deep injuries take time to mend. Forgiveness sets healing in motion.

To avoid the hard work of forgiving, we avoid the issue with, “It’s no big deal.” Or we tell ourselves, “Why must I forgive? This is too big. They don’t deserve to be forgiven.” To overcome this resistance, it helps to remember who benefits when we forgive. We do—as well as those we love.

They may not deserve to be forgiven. But do you deserve to prolong your suffering by holding on to the sharp barbs of bitterness? Or do your loved ones deserve to live with your hostility or be shaped by your destructive example?

Forgiveness benefits the one who gives it. We forgive for our own sake. We also forgive for the sake of those we love, because bitterness is a poison that can’t be contained.

The person who wronged us may not even be aware of our turmoil—or care. They may be dead. But if our resentment lives on, we suffer and model a harmful example to those who watch us.

Resentment drains the joy out of life and erects a wall between us and God. He hasn’t moved, but we feel distant. Tormented souls snap at small irritations, miss the beauty around them, and injure those in their wake. How many spouses, children, and coworkers suffer because of someone’s unwillingness to forgive?

Your freedom is at stake. Forgive to free yourself from turmoil. Forgive for the sake of those you love. Scripture describes how holding on to offenses can affect those around us: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV).

I explained the benefit of forgiveness with my shuttle driver. When we reached the airport, he handed me my luggage. “I’m going to do what you said,” he smiled. “I am going to be free.”

What about you? Are you ready to be free? Forgiveness brings freedom for the one who forgives. Forgive—for your sake and the sake of all you love—including Jesus.

 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40 NIV

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Why Should I Forgive? – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, she speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Debbie’s book, Little Women, Big God will introduce you to the surprising women in Jesus’s family tree. As they journey through impossible circumstances, each discovers that quality of life is not determined by the size of our problems but by the size of our God.

Join the conversation: Have you been able to forgive a wrong done to you or a loved one? Please share how God enabled you to do so.