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Overcoming The Root of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:15

Bitterness is defined as anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly, or resentment.

Many of us have experienced situations in our life where we have been treated badly or had our hearts broken. Still more have suffered abuse and seemingly unfair life circumstances, even as children. As someone who has experienced all of these things, I wanted to share how I overcame bitterness. As an only child, I witnessed my mother struggle with bitterness. Every circumstance was a reminder of something bad or unfair that had happened to her in the past. Every moment was an opportunity for her to take her pain and anger and glorify it above all else. Because of this, she was unforgiving, unsatisfied, frustrated, miserable and abusive. Because of her bitterness, she would take her frustration out on me. By the time I was a pre-teen, my mother verbally abused me every day. I was told I was fat, ugly, stupid, worthless, and would never amount to anything. At any moment something I said or did could set her off, so I was always on edge, afraid to speak or act because I never knew what would anger her.

By the time I was a teenager, the years of my mother’s feedback began to take root. I gave up trying to do good in school, because I was stupid and worthless, according to my mom. I never went out of my way to try to make friends because I was fat and ugly, according to my mom. Soon, I became very much like her. I had given up living my young life, because I let her words define who I was. I started skipping school, running away, and hanging out with bad people, and I always had this tight-clenched feeling in my chest… a buried anger, and I wanted to yell “LIFE IS NOT FAIR!!!” Then something happened when I was 21. I joined group counseling for young adults, and while listening to some of these young people’s lives, I became distressed. I remember thinking “Is this ALL that life has to offer? This pain, this suffering, this depression?” The meetings were held in a church building, and one afternoon I arrived early and sat in the chapel. I sat in one of the wooden pews and I remember praying that day, for the first time. I don’t remember the exact words that I spoke, but I remember that I knew I didn’t want this life. I didn’t want to feel the way that I was feeling anymore, and I asked God to help me.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7–8

Within a few months things had changed for me. I got an entry-level office job and had my own apartment in Seattle. I remember making the decision that whatever it took, I was not going to become like my mom. I remember forcing myself to smile at people on the bus on the way to work. I let people go in front of me, and tried to be kind, polite and friendly to everyone. At first I had to intentionally do these things, because it was a decision I had made to change my actions and it did not come naturally. A change in me slowly took place and I began to feel more optimistic and hopeful. And finally one day it hit me: my mother was wrong about me. I wasn’t ugly. I wasn’t worthless. I wasn’t stupid. I began to see that it was my mother who had the problem, not me. I was just a kid… who had been raised by a very bitter woman. Right before I turned 30 I started going to church and became a Christian. It was then that the truth was spoken over me – that I was made in God’s image and that I had value, worth, and dignity. I learned that when I accepted Jesus, I was adopted into His family, and I was a child of the Most High.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:5

Reading scripture over the past 13 years has molded and shaped me. It has corrected me, watered me, and the root of bitterness that was growing up in me has been cut away! Praise God!

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

If you are someone who is struggling with bitterness, my friend, I implore you to hand all your pain, your struggles, your anger, and your hurt over to Jesus. You will find peace in Him.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28 - 30 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Psalm 23:3