The Bitter Root
"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:15 (NIV 1984)
Anger welled within me. How dare she ask this of me ... of us? I reread her email, which only fueled my fury. Rather than reply immediately, I decided to forward it to my husband for his advice. Any words I would have written to her directly would have been unkind.
I poured out my "how dare she" thoughts. Bitterness took root as I typed and typed, spewing all my pent up frustration. When I finished, I reviewed my message with great satisfaction. I'd expressed myself well in a safe place to a safe person. Then I pressed send.
In that moment, I glanced at the "to" box. I could not believe my eyes! Instead of hitting "forward," I'd hit "reply." My heart sank. All my hurtful words, all my vented anger, were in route to her, not my husband.
I felt sick. Never had I experienced the myriad of emotions that filled my heart.
What should I do? I called my husband and asked for his wisdom. We both agreed that I needed to email her, explain what happened, and ask forgiveness. It was the hardest email I've ever written.
Her gracious response astounded me. She thanked me for my apology and ended with these words, "I forgive you, so let's just put this behind us."
Tears streamed down my cheeks as her words of forgiveness melted the bitterness that had consumed my heart just an hour before.
I'm sure she was hurt. My words were harsh. Yet she chose to overlook and pardon my offense.
It's easy to forget that when we've been offended, we have two choices. We can go to God and surrender our hurt, or we can resist God and hold on to the hurt. We can extend grace or harbor bitterness.
Bitterness is like poison that infects every area of our lives. The author of Hebrews compares bitterness to a root that overtakes our hearts and causes trouble not only in the infected area but also in many other areas of our lives. (Hebrews 12:15 NIV 1984)
And although our feelings of bitterness, anger and unforgiveness may seem justified, they are not. Instead, they're often hurtful and destructive, to us and the person who hurt our feelings.
God's Word teaches us to choose forgiveness and instructs us not to let the sun go down while we are angry. When we do, we give the devil a place to work in our hearts and in our relationships.
Instead of allowing the enemy any room to grow between us, my friend chose forgiveness, extended grace and prevented a bitter root from taking hold.
She became a living example of the grace expressed in Ephesians 4:32 which says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (NIV 1984) Her wise example helped me move beyond my initial reaction of anger to her email.
My friend's gracious decision to forgive prevented Satan from dividing our friendship. It also modeled humility. Her choice to forgive has changed how my heart will react toward others who offend me. From that day forward, I have prayed for God's grace, not bitterness, to flow through me.
Dear Lord, search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any bitterness in me. Lead me to forgiveness, enable me through the power of Your Holy Spirit to let go of all bitterness and extend Your amazing grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Is there someone in your life against whom you harbor unforgiveness? Take a step toward extending forgiveness. Maybe your first step is to pray; maybe it's a letter, or maybe it's a phone call.
Prayerfully ask God what your next step is. Ask Him to equip you with everything you need to forgive. He will be faithful!
Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (NIV 1984)
Ephesians 4:26-27, "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (NIV)