Here is one short passage in the Bible on bitterness that speaks volumes:
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:14-15)
The writer connects four crucial elements here:
1) Peace and holiness
2) Be able to see the Lord (in ourselves and in our everyday lives)
3) A root of bitterness
4) Trouble and defilement
Holy Spirit is telling us here that there is a connection between peace (the lack of division between people) and holiness. He is telling us that when there is division holiness is impaired and this causes us to not “see the Lord”.
This is HUGE!
The word translated as “see” means to “gaze upon.” This has to do with dedication and worship. It’s impossible to do that if our field of vision is captivated with whoever it is that we hold in unforgiveness. When we do that…there is no room in our focus for Jesus.
Isn’t that sad?
When we allow ourselves to remain in unforgiveness (and the world encourages us to do just that) a “root of bitterness” can develop.
The word “root” means just that: the part of something that will grow and develop into something full grown…bearing whatever fruit it is designed to bear. In this case it is “bitterness” which literally means “poison.”
The thing about this “poison” is that it doesn’t harm the person we hate; it causes us to poison ourselves. This delights satan, the VERY being that tempted the person to hurt us in the first place.
Like a malicious and poisonous weed, once that root of bitterness is established and watered by our hatred it grows and, through it, many can “be defiled.” The term “be defiled” means “become contaminated.”
This letter is written to Christians, pure and holy in Christ. Willful bitterness contaminates that holiness and purity.
The next stage is that it flows out of our souls where satan has inserted that bitterness (and where we allow it to stay) and into our physical lives.
“lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” (Hebrews 12:16)
Esau’s bitterness resulted in him acting his unforgiveness out physically. It cost him mightily.
In the same way, serial bitterness can often result in all sorts of physical ailments. The pressure has to leave our souls somehow. If we choose to disobey God and refuse to forgive it just might “leak” out of our bodies through illness.
In his book “Handbook To Happiness And You” Dr. Charles Solomon, Ed. D. writes that the following ailments can result from bitterness, forgiveness and other fleshly lifestyle choices: tension headaches, migraines, hives, skin rashes, some allergies, forms of asthma, arthritis, heart palpitations, fatigue, insomnia, hypertension, etc.
I would add that a lot of depression, anxiety, fear and panic attacks can be emotionally initiated physical responses that can be traced back to unforgiveness and bitterness.
So, what can we do about this? Simply put, I would say that we should obey the Lord.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
When we obey God in this manner we not only become free but we advance God’s Kingdom into areas that the devil considers to be his own. Then, in order to really tick off the enemy, go a little further:
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44)
Being angry when someone hurts us is understandable. The more extreme the wound, the easier it is to become embittered. Our hearts become broken.
Praise God that He cares about all this and wishes to do something about it.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
The Greek word that Jesus often used when He mentioned forgiving literally has to do with the “yielding up” and “sending forth” of the offenses placed in our hearts by satan through the hurtful things people do to us. When I minister forgiveness with a person I have in mind the truth that when we were born again Jesus purchased us.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I often think about and quote those two verses because I want to fully grasp more and more of what Jesus accomplished when He bought me. Likewise, I want to cooperate with the truth that I do not belong to myself; rather, I belong to Him.
When we forgive we yield up the offenses inside us and send them forth TO Jesus, for Him to do with them as He sees fit.
It is my prayer that any who read this would be provoked to turn to the Lord and ask Him to reveal is there is any unforgiveness and/or bitterness in their hearts. If so, it is the Lord’s desire that they give those offenses to our Lord Jesus Christ.
May we draw ever more near to His intentions for us through removing any obstacles to that process. May we allow Jesus to bind up our wounds and heal our broken hearts.