With winter in many climates, many plants go dormant. Depending on where you live, plants approach winter by preparing themselves for freezing temperatures, drier weather, or shortage of nutrients, water, or both. Visually, plants exhibit dormancy by simply not growing. They conserve energy instead of spending energy on growth.
Although few flowers and crops can thrive in truly frigid temperatures, our hearts cannot flower from a root of bitterness in especially cold conditions. In Matthew 24:12, God makes it clear that as wickedness and sin abound, hearts grow cold and don’t exhibit love to others, but that is not what God wants.
Faith-based apparel offers you the opportunity to show your connection to Christ and share God’s love with others, but if your heart is cold, the Bible tells us that the warmth of God’s love will not show nor grow. This post explores how to deal with bitterness at its root so that you can use your favorite modern Christian apparel to reflect the power of God’s love and draw others to Him.
Getting to the Root of Bitterness
Like any noxious weed, bitterness doesn’t just appear overnight. Just as you don’t look out of your window and see a field of dandelions where green grass existed a day before, a heart open to God’s wisdom doesn’t just flower with bitterness in a short time. Like any sin, bitterness takes root and gradually exhibits itself in different ways.
God’s word tells us that the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, looking around for people to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan wants to devour us with sin and temptation, and he is sly and constantly on the prowl. So developing bitterness in your heart often happens after small injustices that injure you and then grow into the bristly blossom of bitterness.
The Bible offers many examples of individuals who were betrayed:
- Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery.
- Hannah was devalued by her family when she couldn’t bear children.
- Daniel was betrayed by the king who authorized a law that caused his faithful friend to be thrown into a den of lions for praying to God.
- Christ was betrayed by Judas with a kiss when he signaled to the guards to capture him.
The Bible includes many examples of people who suffered injustices but chose to forgive and love. However, we may find it difficult to ignore the hurt of a friend who assumes we said something about them and begins to ignore us or, worse yet, someone does something against our children or family members. It takes but a small hurt for us to begin to hold bitterness in our hearts and allow it to take root.
Hebrews 12:14–15 explains that bitterness gets in the way of God’s working and will and causes trouble, which is exactly what Satan wants: to cause trouble. Satan knows when to strike, too. Often you may be tired and unfocused, and you react negatively as the Devil delights in catching you unawares.
Cultivating a Heart That Uproots Bitterness
Hurt that motivates your actions to hurt others or be angry with others helps the root of bitterness to strengthen and spread. Bitterness can’t grow in the warmth of Christ’s love, but it thrives in a cold heart. So to uproot bitterness, you have several options to protect yourself and your heart so that you can consistently reflect the love of Jesus Christ to others.
First, consider stopping bitterness before it even takes root. You have several ways to guard your heart against bitterness, which include:
- Remember Jesus Christ. Of all the examples of betrayal, the fact that Jesus was betrayed should be a stark reminder that no one can hurt you the way sin hurt Jesus. Jesus willingly took on the sins of the world even though he knew he would be betrayed by his friends as he hung on the cross. Regardless of who betrayed Jesus, Jesus forgave them all, just as God forgives us of our sins. When we face betrayal, we need to remind ourselves of the example of Jesus, the example of forgiveness and love. If Jesus can forgive when the stakes are so high, we shouldn’t be faced with a situation in which we cannot forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 encourages us to be kind to others and forgiving just as God for Christ’s sake forgave us.
- Love and pray for your enemies. Going a step beyond forgiveness, we can reflect Christ by loving our enemies. It may be easy to forgive someone who is a friend who made a careless remark or to forgive a family member who said something that we took out of context. However, forgiving your enemies is a tall order. However, Christ forgave his enemies, and just as the Bible tells us in Luke 6:27, we are to love and pray for our enemies as well. Active love, the kind that is praying and loving our enemies in the present not after they hurt us is the kind of love that guards against a root of bitterness.
But what happens when you recognize that you already have established a root of bitterness in your heart? The first step is recognizing it, asking God’s forgiveness, and then uprooting it by:
- Relying on God: Praying and studying God’s word brings us closer to God and understanding His will. James 4:8 tells us to draw near to God, and it promises that God will draw near to us. Recognizing our reliance on God helps us see our hopeless state and can motivate us to dig into the Bible to gain the understanding and wisdom necessary to react to hurts in the right way.
- Do good to everyone. Not only does the Bible tell us to forgive our enemies, but Luke 6:27 even goes a step beyond that and encourages us to do good to those who hate us. It’s easy to be nice to nice people, but it’s much more difficult to do good things to those who we feel don’t deserve it. Remembering that we deserve death as the penalty for our sin can serve as a stark reminder that, as we are told in Luke 6:37, to not judge others lest we also be judged.
Showing love and forgiveness to those who have wronged is the Bible-centered way to rid yourself of bitterness, but consistency is key. Cultivating a relationship with God on a daily basis through prayer and study of His word allows you to reap the wisdom and strength necessary to respond righteously when wronged.