Just after my divorce began, a long lost friend turned up on my doorstep to give me some words of encouragement. He had been divorced a decade earlier; he offered what he felt was the most important advice he had to share. He encouraged me not to become bitter. His divorce had been particularly nasty; there had been vindictiveness and greed involved that had taken him to the proverbial cleaners…..at least, that’s how it appeared to me. The lesson he had learned, and struggled to conquer himself, was to not be bitter. Hebrews speaks of bitterness as a root that can grow, spring up, and defile many people beside the one who is bitter. It is a temptation we all face when we have been hurt or experience hard times.
Unforgiveness becomes the mortar by which the bricks of bitterness are held together. Bitterness is the root that defiles the pure work of God. Defilement leads to decay and destruction. My friend simply instructed me to not become bitter. It is a choice. His experience was that it had lousy consequences; the path of bitterness takes a long time to retrace once you have gone down it. Bitterness is a rottenness in your soul that gnaws and nags, it slowly festers in your heart. Bitterness is a rotten root, and when it springs up, it shows itself in short temper, sour disposition, judgmentalism and depression. Bitter people are lonely people because nobody wants to be around them, except others also nurturing bitterness. They drag one another down and feed the bitterness by grumbling and complaining…just like the grumbling Israelites in the wilderness. And the isolation from more positive people just creates more bitterness. The spiral is not a good one.
We planted a garden this year. As we cleared the garden and strove to keep it clear, it became obvious that it is much easier to pull the weeds before the roots spread themselves and grow deep. Once they have dug in, you can no longer just pull them, but have to get the shovel to make sure you get all the roots out. The same is true with bitterness. The longer you let it grow, the tougher the root will become, and the harder to get it out of your soul. Look out for those weeds of bitterness. Clean out their vile influence by offering them up to God.