"Insects of Bitterness"

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By: Elizabeth Marie Rollins

Hebrew 12:15, "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." (NASB)

There is a tree in my backyard, which for some time has had a gaping wound (from an unknown injury). The wound attracted many ants, and other curious insects, that couldn't resist the opportunity to bore deep within the tree's tender insides. Eventually, the insects consumed all life from the tree, rotting it so greatly that when a thunderstorm poured over it for a few hours, the majority of the tree collapsed into the muddy ground. The inside was a hollow circle of blackened wood, no rings of life left to count for its many years on this earth.

How often-- too often-- a heart can become as hollowed and blackened as this tree. Someone may offend us with an unguarded comment, or may inflict harm on us physically and emotionally. All too easily, a wound begins to form. Over time, the wound festers and grows into a gaping hole, if unattended. The insects of bitterness and unforgiveness creep in to suck away all of the living tissue in our heart.

The Word is so clear to warn us against such dangers in Hebrews 12:15: "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" (NASB). Unattended bitterness and resentment will eat away the most loving of hearts, bankrupting the glorious tasks God has planned for that individual. A pure, tender heart is the greatest tool for the Lord, so it is urgent that we guard our hearts, just as the Word says, "Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23, Amplified).

My mother frequently reminds me of this verse, and for good reason. A young girl, who I'll call Markie, had two alcoholic grandfathers, paternal and maternal. Both her mother and father had difficult childhoods, to say the very least. When her parents married, her father still harbored resentment toward the hurtful events of his youth, and instead of dealing directly with the source of the pain, he allowed acidic bitterness to corrode his heart. As a result, he abandoned his calling as an evangelist and left his wife and children. My mother faithfully reminds me how vital it is to guard my own heart, and she implanted this principle from Ephesians as one of the basic rules in our household: "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26). Deal with the issue promptly, if not immediately; do not give the wound time to fester. Go to the person who has offended you and tell him/her in a loving manner how you feel. His/her actions and attitudes are his/her choice, but you must do everything according to the Word so that you may protect your own heart, and always remember to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).

One of my favorite movies is the 1951 version of "The Robe," based on Lloyd C. Douglass's novel by the same title. In the movie, the character of Peter answers a question of forgiveness by saying, "[Jesus] forgave you at the cross. Can I do less?" What a powerful reminder of the love of Christ, the love which we are called to express to everyone.


Oh Lord, let us always be cautious and discerning so that we may protect our hearts for Your service. Enable us to forgive others as readily as You have forgiven us from the Cross. Thank You for the grace You freely give to all. Keep us pure and tender before You, and use us mightily for Your glory and Your Kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Think About It:

Are you harboring unforgiveness toward someone?
Have you prayed about it?

Have you spoken the truth in love to him/her?

Live It:

Ask the Lord to reveal the hidden things of your heart, and then speak the truth in love to the person who has offended you. (Remember: His/her response is up to him/her. All you are responsible for are your own actions and your own heart!)

Power Verses:

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

1 Peter 3:8-9, "To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." (NASB)

© 2010 by Elizabeth Marie Rollins. All rights reserved.


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Anonymous Catrine said...

How do you stop the hole in your heart from growing with out hurting the "inflictor of pain"'s feelings too? I just don't know what to do, because The Bible says "be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger"....So what do you do with said anger that is widening the chasm in your heart?

Blogger Elizabeth R said...

Dear Catrine,

Thank you for responding. First, I would say pray. Never underestimate the power of prayer! Secondly, we, as Christians, are called to speak the Truth to one another in love. If someone has offended us or hurt us, even if the hurt is continual, we are supposed to approach them in love and share honestly how we feel. Remember, we are responsible for our own hearts before God, so we must do what we can to cleanse ourselves. After we share the Truth in love (and I do stress "in love"), no matter what the response of the other person may be, we know that we did what the Lord wanted us to do. I have recently been reading a book called Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I think reading this book might help you understand, as it has greatly helped me, that loving someone doesn't mean you have to be his/her garbage disposal. Love comes in the YESes and the NOs of life.

I'm praying for you! I know how difficult these situations can be (I've dealt with them in my own family). Seek the Lord. Pray specifically for His wisdom and discernment, and ask Him to give you the words as you speak the Truth in love. The Truth will set us free. It's amazing how much freer you feel once you are honest. Remember: the person's reaction (positive or negative) is not your responsibility. You, and I, must come to a place where we can show the Lord a clean, free heart that He can use.

Peace and Blessings to you!
Elizabeth Marie

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