“See to it that…no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
In my series of posts I have described what bitterness is, given examples of how it can rear its head in our lives, how to deal with hurt, and how God desires us to change our perspective. But I would like to try to take that a little further by asking the question: How do we guard against bitterness as Hebrews 12:15 tells us to? By no means is my list exhaustive, but here are some things I believe we should strive to do:
We must carefully guard against bitterness against those closest to us
It’s easiest to become bitter towards those closest to us. That is why it is especially important to deal with our offenses in a biblical manner. That involves admitting to the person who has offended you that you were hurt or offended by something they did/said. This transparency presents an opportunity to clear up offenses and restore relationships.
We must learn to take reproofs biblically
Do you realize that the simple act of someone sharing what they notice as a weakness in your life can result in a response of bitterness if you are not open to hearing what they say? “Teach me how to take reproofs from friends…use them to make me tenderly afraid of sin, more concerned to keep heart and life unblameable.” (Valley of Vision)
We must see that not a root of bitterness springs up
“See to it that…no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15. There isn’t a “level” of bitterness that we must avoid; instead we must be cautious to keep from allowing any bitterness at all in our lives.
We must recognize that bitterness is claiming rights
Everyone has rights that at some point they think they should be able to claim. It may be the right to be loved, the right to be treated fairly, the right to get married, or something else. We must recognize that we have no rights. Everything we have belongs to God; everything we are is His alone. Instead of dwelling on and becoming bitter over those rights we are so confident we deserve, we have to learn how to surrender those rights to the Lord.
“If I want to be free as a woman of God, I must refuse to give in to bitterness and anger which ultimately is the result of claiming rights.” Nancy DeMoss
We must put off bitterness
Ephesians 4:31 says to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you”.
We must put on forgiveness
If you continue reading in Ephesians 4, verse 32 says “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This can only be accomplished through the power of Christ within you, as it will not be something you naturally desire. But in order to follow Scripture, we must not only put off our wrong thoughts and actions, but replace them with righteous ones.
We must recognize that bitterness is resistance to God’s ordained plan
By becoming bitter, we are saying that God’s choice is not best, especially when we are bitter towards Him. But even if we are bitter towards people, we are still resisting what God, in His perfect plan, has allowed. How can we expect to have a better plan than God Himself?
We must not be bitter about any circumstance or relationship we are given
God works all things out for our good! Romans 8:28 reminds us that, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
We must pray for God to give us the strength and grace to not become bitter
This is not a one-time thing. If you’re facing a difficult circumstance or strained relationship, it may be a day by day, moment by moment continual prayer.
“God is wanting to conform you to the image of Christ, and He will use that circumstance to do that if you won’t become bitter. As you go through it, call on God…Call on God for grace. ‘Lord, I can’t handle this person. I can’t handle this circumstance. I can’t handle this pain. I need You.’ ”
God is more concerned with your sanctification than your happiness. What does He want to teach you through the circumstances He has allowed in your life right now?