Dealing with Bitter Roots
"See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled" — Hebrews 12:15 (ESV).
The Hebrew writer instructs us that we are to follow peace with all men as well as holiness, “without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Peace is defined as untroubled, undisturbed, well-being in the Greek; but a more accurate translation is to destroy all the authority that binds us to chaos.
Holiness in the original Greek is translated… purity. It speaks of giving the Father full rights to our lives and exhibiting His behavior in our day-to-day lives in such a manner that our behavior is the direct reflection of the purity of His nature and character.
Bitterness begins as a seed, takes root over time, and eventually springs forth into full-blown defilement that affects not only us, but also those around us.
The great tragedy of our day is that many of us have fallen prey to offense, and rather than follow after peace, we have chosen the path of bitterness. Bitterness begins as a seed, takes root over time, and eventually springs forth into full-blown defilement that affects not only us, but also those around us.
Bitter Roots Defined
Bitter roots are defined as sinful reactions to painful events. The events, themselves, do not cause the root. The reaction to the events is at the core of the bitter root.
Bitter roots express themselves as condemning judgments of people or the refusal or inability to forgive those who have hurt us. They manifest as names or careless words that we have either thought about, called others, or said about the ones who have hurt us. They are powerful toxic pollutants that damage and defile our souls and others around us as well. In response to hurts, wounds, or painful events, we express condemning judgments.
We may try to push down the hurts, rationalize them, blow them off, or simply just pass them off as no big deal. But they are big deals! Over time these seeds of bitterness will build a root system and, if left unchecked, become the driving force of our personality, manifesting such things as:
- Negativity and more
Seeds of bitterness can lie unnoticed in the soul for years, and yet they are like a fulminating infection. They slowly grow undetected; but then one day, they come to light through bitter words. When bitterness has become so entrenched in the person’s soul, their entire life has become tainted; and those around them, whom they love the most, become tainted as well!
They end up viewing people, church, and even God through a lens of their soul that has become clouded by this root of bitterness. Their words ignite raging firestorms of destruction as they spew the venom of bitterness from their diseased soul toward others.
The Picture of Bitter Roots
My dad was the product of a fatherless home. His father passed away when he was just a child. He, his mother, and his siblings actually lived with Dad’s older sister and her husband, both wonderful people.
As a child, I remember Dad being bigger than life. He was a “man’s man.” I enjoyed spending time with him, especially hunting and playing baseball. He was an austere man of few words and a minimal display of love or affection. He was quick to correct and pull a belt to enforce his discipline. Apparently, I was in need of both quite often.
While I loved Dad and had a deep respect for him, I feared him greatly, which created deep insecurities and self-image issues throughout a large portion of my life.
The rejection I felt from my dad fueled my lack of identity and purpose in life. I tried desperately to hide my deep fear and anxiety from others. I also exhibited a performance behavior whereby I sought success tirelessly to prove my worth and value as a person. My orphan heart struggled with my identity, my purpose in life, and my self-worth.
Even though I loved Dad, I rejected him in my heart as my father. I failed to realize that in so doing I had passed a condemning judgment against him. This judgment became a seed of bitterness that took root in my soul and lay under the radar for years.
As I grew into manhood, I received Jesus as my Savior, became a faithful church member, married my high school sweetheart, had two great sons, and engaged in a career that afforded a comfortable living for my family. Life was good!
The very things I rejected and despised in my own father were the things I found myself becoming as a father.
Except life wasn’t that good. The fears, insecurities, lack of self-worth and value, and all the other hidden toxins in my soul still remained. The very things I rejected and despised in my own father were the things I found myself becoming as a father.
I was austere, a man of few words, and a strong disciplinarian to fear. In short, I displayed an abusive behavior that, in some ways, was worse than Dad’s! The bitter-root judgments that I made against him had surfaced in full bloom, not only defiling me, but also my precious wife and two sons, whom I loved the most.
Bitter Roots Must Be Removed
I can tell you that the only way to deal with a bitter root is to cut it. You cannot kill a tree by picking its fruit off the limbs; you have to kill the root. Likewise, you cannot remove a bitter root by counseling and medicating it; you must cut it!
I was born again, Spirit filled, a faithful servant in the church, a good provider for my family, and a serving citizen in my community. I was also a toxic human to live with at home. I was full of fear and anger, and I was terrified of failing and being abandoned. Everything in my life had to be perfect, especially my wife and sons!
Thank God for the day that I crashed and burned.
Realizing that I was a miserable failure in life, I asked God to take my life. Rather than do so, He directed me to return to the point in time where I passed the bitter judgments against my dad. He revealed to me that I had to repent of those judgments and ask his forgiveness.
He did not condone my father’s behavior even as He did not condone mine. Yet I was required of the Father to stand over Dad’s grave and repent of my condemning judgments against him as well as ask his forgiveness. As I did, I felt the ax cut the root of the bitterness in my soul. John the Baptist preached the message of bearing fruit worthy of repentance saying, “and even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees” (Luke 3:9). By the power of God, I was liberated from a bitter soul.
The change that came over me was immediate. The chaos within my soul lifted in a moment of time as the peace of God arose in its stead. I was a changed man. I suddenly became considerate and nice. Even my wife was startled by the sudden change. She actually became frightened.
I was not the same man she had married, but soon she realized the peace of God that was in me. The Father had removed all the bitterness of my soul that had kept me bound to chaos. He aligned my soul with His fullness, His holiness and He set me free!
I cannot tell you how important it is that we examine the fruit of our lives and be courageous enough to face our areas of bitterness by repenting and releasing forgiveness. This action makes all the difference between a healthy soul, or a lifetime of bitterness, cynicism, jealousy, hatred, and ultimate destruction. We have the opportunity to change our future by addressing these issues in our own lives today.
Jesus did it for me. He will do it for all of us!