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?

 

The Season for Seed Catalogs

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 NKJV

The holidays are past, and the long cold nights of winter are upon us. Do you know what that means? It’s seed catalog season—that time of year when we race to the mailbox everyday hoping this will be the day the offering of botanical bliss will be waiting for us. (Actually, I don’t even know if that’s still a thing.)

It’s certainly not for me. The universe seems to have caught wind of my horticultural history and deemed me unfit. In fact, my husband has forbidden me from buying plants, claiming it is cruel and unusual punishment for the plant.

But I remember my grandmother and my mother receiving these catalogs, pouring over them for the newest variety of sweet corn or most intriguing color of Iris for the coming Spring. Once the selections were made and the order placed, the work began. Every effort was made to make sure the best possible conditions were available for the seeds or plants once they arrived. Ground cover was removed, debris cleared, rocks dug up and relocated, and the soil was tilled. Sometimes borders were built, or material such as compost or sand would be added to the existing soil to help create the right growing environment.  As the ground began to thaw in the Spring, they tilled it until it was a soft and suitable place for something good to grow.

God is a gardener and the place He seeks to sow His seeds is in our hearts. But just like soil of the earth must be prepared, so too our hearts must be made ready to receive His seeds and provide a nurturing place for what He plants.

Sometimes our hearts are overgrown with weeds that need to be removed. What we listen to and watch, the things we fill our time thinking about: all these can cause things to take root that are destructive to the good things God would like to plant there.

It is easy to let parts of our hearts become like fallow ground. Fallow ground is land that has never been tilled or has been tilled but is now left to idle. Whether our hearts have never been tilled, or they once flourished with growth but have since been ignored, both conditions will make it difficult for seeds to penetrate and take root. We must plow the unbroken ground of our hearts until it is a soft, fertile place for good things to grow.

The work isn’t easy. Pulling weeds, breaking up the dense soil, digging up rocks, carting in good soil if needed—these things are not necessarily fun, either physically or spiritually. We may have to distance ourselves from certain situations or old friends. We may have to give up unimportant things we enjoy but rob us of the time we need for what is important. We may have to dig deep in our past and take a painful look at the things we have wanted to keep hidden. But it is the only way we can turn our hearts—our whole hearts—into the fertile ground needed for the seeds of God’s love.

We should be prepared for sore backs and blistered palms. We can’t be afraid to get a little dirt under our finger nails. But if we are willing to work, we can anticipate the harvest of righteousness that will come.

Lord, I want a soft heart toward you. Please give me discernment to spot the things currently in my life that need weeding and the strength to deal with them as I should. I want to make You my highest priority in 2019. Amen.

TWEETABLE
The Season for Seed Catalogs – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: What have you found to be helpful in keeping your heart soft toward the Lord?