For anyone who farms, gardens, or does general yard work, weeds can be a destructive force. Weeds can grow in any circumstances and in any location. Weeds choke the life out of crops, plants, and grass, thereby making hard work unfruitful. If we do not kill or pull up the weed at its roots, the weed will grow back. In my personal experience, I have had to take a shovel and dig up a weed at its roots. The Book of Hebrews compares bitterness to a root:
“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.” (Hebrews 12:15, KJV, emphasis mine).
When we allow the roots of bitterness to grow, they will wrap themselves around our hearts and spirits, choking they very life out of us. Our walk with God and our testimony will be affected if we allow bitterness to get a hold of us. We will become like Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law.
“’Don’t call me Naomi,’ she told them. ‘Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.’” (Ruth 1:20-21, NIV).
Over the course of ten years, Naomi’s husband and two sons died, leaving Naomi bitter. Of course, bitterness can be a natural part of the grieving process and we must be honest with ourselves and with God, but we cannot allow it to define who we are. Naomi allowed the grief to define her and she was going around telling people, “Just call me bitter, that is who and what I am.”
Our enemy, Satan, wants nothing more than to destroy God’s people. If you have made Christ your Lord and Savior, Satan cannot have your spirit, but he will try to make your life hell on earth.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10, NKJV).
One of Satan’s best strategies is to make us discouraged and bitter over unanswered prayers or overwhelming circumstances. In fact, we see the phrase, “The bitterness of my soul” in the Old Testament.
Hannah eventually become the mother of the prophet Samuel, but struggled with not being able to have children. Hannah’s husband had two wives and the other wife, Peninnah, had multiple children while Hannah had none. For anyone who cannot have children or has struggled with infertility, it is a painful and heartbreaking situation. You can grow bitter and mournful over not having your own children while the world celebrates and sometimes complains about their own children. Hannah’s case was made worse by the taunts of Peninnah.
“And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.” (1 Samuel 1:6, KJV, emphasis mine).
How many times has your adversary, the devil, made you feel bitter about a situation? To the devil, our situation is not enough to deal with, he has to rub it in as Peninnah did with Hannah. How did Hannah deal with the situation.
“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.” (1 Samuel 1:10, KJV, emphasis mine).
Scripture goes on to say that Hannah prayed for a son and that if God would give her a son, she would give him to the Lord’s service. God granted Hannah’s request and her son, Samuel, became a prophet and the last judge of Israel.
King Hezekiah was one of the eight righteous kings of Judah in the Old Testament. Hezekiah became gravely ill and he received a visit from the prophet Isaiah.
“In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” (Isaiah 38:1, NKJV).
King Hezekiah responded to the news by praying and the Lord gave Hezekiah another fifteen years to live. Hezekiah praised God for answering his prayer and contrasted praise with bitterness that he had in his heart.
“What shall I say? He has both spoken to me, And He Himself has done it. I shall walk carefully all my years in the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, by these things men live; And in all these things is the life of my spirit; So You will restore me and make me live. Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” (Isaiah 38”15-17, NKJV, emphasis mine).
Job, of course is known for the many trials he endured. All ten of Job’s children died, he lost his financial livelihood, he became sick, his wife told him to “curse God and die,” and his friends claimed that his trials were brought on by Job having sin in his life. Naturally, who could blame Job for being upset? Job on multiple occasions makes his feelings known not only to his friends, but to God as well.
“Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11, KJV, emphasis mine).
“My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1, KJV, emphasis mine).
Of course at the end of Job’s story, he had an encounter with God and God blessed Job. Though God never gave Job a reason for his severe trials, God did restore to Job everything that was taken from him.
When life’s circumstances knock us to our knees and we receive devastating news, let us not neglect prayer. We must express our bitterness to God because He already knows about our bitterness. I wish that there was a quick fix out of bitterness, but there is not. Removing bitterness from our lives is a process and it will take time. If you have a tree whose roots are causing damage to your home, it is a process to remove that tree. The tree has to be cut down and the stump has to be removed, which involves pulling up the roots. If the tree has been there for decades, that tree’s roots are firmly in the ground. It is the same with bitterness. How long have you allowed “the root of bitterness” to grow in your life? A year? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years or more? We must expose our roots of bitterness to God and allow Him to deal with us. Your bitterness not only affects your life, but it can and will affect the lives of those around you. Go to the Lord in prayer. Seek out wise counsel. Be strengthened for the journey. God bless you all.