The Root Of Bitterness

The Root of Bitterness


Hebrews 12:15 “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;”

I am writing this booklet because it is my conviction that bitterness is one of the most damaging cancers to both saints and sinners in the world today.  I have seen bitterness destroy saints’ joy and doom sinners’ souls. I have watched bitterness destroy preachers and leave prisoners in despair.  One of the hardest things for a pastor to keep from doing is getting bitter at his people when he knows some have talked about him or some do not want to support him and some have hindered things that he wanted to see the church do, while others have lied about his ministry and the message and some have even said things about his family.

On the other hand, I have watched prisoners battle bitterness because they have been lied to by family and friends who have made false promises that have never come through.  I have watched prisoners battle bitterness over the rejection of parole and over problems with administration and the security staff. At times, in all of our lives, it is hard to stay sweet!

Hebrews 12:15 states. It springs up! It just keeps on popping up.  Like a volcano, it’s boiling deep down on the inside, until one day it explodes!

The Greek word for bitterness means:

1) To pack or press down— this is true; bitterness does get you down.

2) To show a sharp disagreeableness or hate

You can’t hide bitterness. It will always show up.  People who claim that they are not bitter had better remember that God knows the heart, and He will reveal it!  Dear reader, I am getting ready to start dealing with your bitterness.  I am praying that you will deal with your problem!

“The heart knoweth his own bitterness;” Proverbs 14:10.

Bro. Mike McDaniel

I. The Cause of Bitterness

Notice again in verse 15 the words any man. Bitterness can happen to anyone. Keep the word any in mind, because anything can cause bitterness.  Such as:

1) Positional failures — not making it in the ministry makes some preachers bitter at the whole world.  Not making it at a certain job or career makes many people bitter.

2) Parental failures — many times when kids go wrong or even die, some parents get bitter at the church, the preacher and even bitter at God! A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him. Proverbs 17:25.

3) Rejection — people get bitter when they’ve been rejected by friends, family, and the world.  This is especially hard for an inmate who feels that he has been rejected by his family, his wife, his children, and society.

One of the most bitter rejections is for men who go home to an unaffectionate, unloving wife who is bitter because of experiences as a girl. She may have been used, abused, or raped; she then takes her bitterness out on her husband. “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Colossians 3:19.

4) Sickness and tragedies — many people get bitter at God when sickness or tragedy hits their family.  They accuse God of being unjust and unfair.

5) Incarceration — in my years of prison ministry, I have noticed that prison does one of two things to inmates. It either makes them bitter or better.  It is sad to say that many men come out of prison in worse shape than what they entered. They are bitter at the system, administration, security, government and nearly the whole world.

6) Bad dealings — someone cheating you out of money can make you bitter.

7) Criticism — if you know someone has criticized you, your ministry, your church, your family, it can make you bitter.  There is usually something wrong when a certain person’s name is mentioned to you and you always have something bad to say about them.  There is probably a root of bitterness growing in you!

II. The Course of Bitterness

Again we refer to verse 15 and the word root. A root comes from a seed. That is how it gets started. A seed is planted, watered and starts growing in you.

Notice some bitterness seeds:

1) A seed of Divorce

2) A seed of Death

3) A seed of Denial — parole, loans, job, promotions, etc.

4) A seed of Betrayal — a friend testified against you in court.

5) A seed of Belittlement — something said unnecessarily.

6) A seed of Bad Experiences — many things happen to people that they never get over.

Like kudzu vines, bitterness just takes you over. How does a root grow? Roots grow down and then out in every direction.  Then it grows a sprout that comes up and out. Once the root of bitterness gets down in you, it will sprout up and out of you!  People notice bitterness!  It shows in most every area of your life.

III. The Cost of Bitterness

Bitterness will never leave you where it found you!

What will bitterness cost you?

1) Failure of the Grace of God — Hebrews 12:15

You get in such a shape that you won’t even let God help you!  I have personally talked to inmates who refused to get saved because of bitterness and vengeance in their heart toward someone in the free world.  I once had an inmate tell me, “Preacher, I can’t get saved because I’m going to kill someone when I get out of prison.”

2) Cost you the fruit of the Spirit — Galatians 5:22–23

You will no longer have love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance.  If David had gotten bitter at Saul, he would have killed him.

3) Cost you trouble — notice in verse 15 of our text, trouble you.  Bitterness is not easy to shake! It will give you trouble everywhere you go!

4) Thereby many be defiled, again in verse 15—bitterness not only affects you, it affects others.  An inmate told me that the reason he lost his wife was when he came to prison, he got so bitter and took it out on his wife and as a result lost his marriage.

My friend, you can spread your bitterness to other people and wind up destroying and defiling a lot of people!

IV. The Cure for Bitterness

With the root of bitterness, you’ve got to get to the root of the problem.  You’ve got to get the root out! Don’t cover it up with a bandage; cut it out. You can’t cure a wound by covering it up with a bandage, it will get sore and infected. It could even kill you if you don’t use some medicine.  This applies spiritually to bitterness! It can kill you! Like kudzu vines, if you just cut it and you don’t get the roots, it spreads.

Ephesians 4:3132, Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

1) Do you really want to cut the root out? Be honest with God; God really wants to help you. Many people don’t want help.  A doctor can’t cut a tumor out unless you yield yourself and let Him perform the operation. My friend, you need to get on God’s operating table and let Him cut that bitterness out of your heart. Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

2)     If you want help, you can get it. Hebrews 4:15-16, For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need.

Jesus knows what you’re going through. Isaiah 53:3 says, He is despised and rejected of men; He did not get bitter and he can help you overcome your bitterness.

3) Pray and praise — Hebrews 12:12 says, lift up the hands. Pray and praise Him instead of letting things get you bitter.

4) Follow peace — Hebrews 12:14 says, Follow peace with all men,

Philippians 4:7, And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

My friend, let the peace of God keep your heart, instead of bitterness.

5) The Grace of God –– notice our text – don’t miss it, lest any man fail of the grace of God; That’s it! The greatest healing element for bitterness is the grace of God. Romans 5:20, But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; Romans 5:8, But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

With this verse of Scripture in mind, let me illustrate my point. You could illustrate this many different ways to make it personally fit you, but for example: If a man broke into my house and murdered my children and raped my wife; 1) For me to catch him and kill him, would be revenge or the execution of my bitterness; 2) For me to catch him and have opportunity to kill him, but instead let him go … is mercy; 3) For me to catch him and have opportunity to kill him, but instead not only have mercy on him but also take him into my house, forgive him and take care of him for life … is the grace of God!

Now, that is exactly what Jesus did for us! He could have killed us and should have sent us to Hell. But instead, He died for us, took us in, provided for us for life and set us free. PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GRACE!!!

6) Calvary –– Exodus 15:23–25, And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet:

This tree in verse 25 is an Old Testament type of the cross of Calvary. It was the tree that made the bitter waters sweet. My friend, always look to Calvary, for it is there that your bitter waters of life can be made sweet! I Peter 2:24, Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I conclude this booklet by saying it is my prayer that something you have read has helped, and will continue to help you in the days to come, to overcome one of the most damaging cancers to a human soul, ‘The Root of Bitterness’.

Let me conclude with an anecdote that drives home our point so very well.

How To Kill A Grudge

(Before it kills you)

One day Mr. Forgive-and-Forget-It (Fafi for short) went by the home of Mr. Hold-a-Grudge.  (We’ll call him Hag.)

“Thought I’d come by and see how you’re doing,” said Fafi.  “We haven’t seen you at church in a long time.  Have you been really busy lately?”

“You’d better believe I’ve been busy,” panted Hag. “I’ve Fafi. “We haven’t seen you at church in a long time. Have you been real busy or something lately?”

“You’d better believe I’ve been busy,” panted Hag.

“Why is that?  What are you doing?”  asked Fafi.

“I’m nursing a grudge,” replied Hag.  “Come, let me show it to you.”

Hag beckoned Fafi over to a little cot in the corner of the room. There, warmly bundled and half-buried beneath several layers of fluffy quilts lay a big, robust-looking grudge.  It was a perfect specimen of a grudge: brow deeply furrowed from chronic frowning, lips pooched out in a pious pout, pug-nosed with bloodshot eyes flashing fire in “righteous indignation,” flush-faced swollen from an acute attack of hyperpride, and growing, as grudges do, about two inches a minute.

The ugly grudge opened its big mouth, and Hag quickly stuffed a lump of something clammy down its throat; after it, he poured in some green, vile-smelling liquid.

“What’s that stuff?”  Fafi asked, holding his nose.

“Oh, it’s a little morsel of Did-You-See-What-They-Did-To-Me, washed down with some Self-Pity-Punch,” answered Hag.  “Grudges just love it; they could eat it all day.  But it is too expensive.  Really, this old grudge is eating me out of house and home.  But if I don’t feed it, it will die.”

“Well, why don’t you just let it die,” suggested Fafi.

“I’m just not one to let a grudge die. Man, it would mortally hurt my pride and reputation for everyone to know that I was heartless enough to let a poor little grudge die.” Fafi shrugged his shoulders as Hag turned his attention back to the grudge.

The cries from the grumbling grudge grew louder and louder.  It would not be appeased.  Hag poured some more Self-Pity-Punch down its throat, but the grudge just sort of gargled with it, then spit it back into Hag’s face.  He winced in frustration.

“Help me carry this thing into the bedroom,” Hag begged.  “I won’t be able to help,” Fafi said.  “I can’t be holding and wrestling with grudges, because I’ve got a bad back.  Besides, it’s your grudge, not mine.”

“Ow-w-w-w!  What shall I do; what shall I do?” Hag hollered, turning with pleading eyes to Fafi.  Fafi quickly ran to the front door.  Opening it, he grabbed a large, cross-shaped club.  “If you know what’s good for you,” he yelled, “set that grudge down, take this cross and beat that rascal to death!  You’d better do it in before it does you in.”

Hag first looked puzzled at Fafi, then fearfully at his grudge which was screaming at the top of its voice. Suddenly the grudge seemed to him to be the ugliest creature in the world.  Because of its insatiable thirst and hunger, Hag knew in his heart that he would never be able to satisfy its demands.  He finally came to the moment of truth!  He knew this grudge would tie him down with impossible responsibilities and could be unimaginable, impossible responsibilities and could be an unimaginable liability to him as long as he nursed it.  It would prevent him from helping anyone else, and indeed, it could even prevent him from asking the Lord to intervene on his own or other’s behalf.

In a moment Hag had made up his mind.  He threw the grudge down on the ground and started beating it viciously with the cross-shaped club.  Hag, with a wild blow caught the grudge directly on its head.  With a shudder, it sank to the ground and lay still, stone dead. Wiping the perspiration from his brow, Hag sighed with relief.  He walked over to where Fafi had been watching it all and crumpled into a chair.

“Oh, my!  What a relief to see that thing dead!” Hag sighed.

“Yes, we’ll bury it, then you forgive and forget it,” said Fafi.  “And you learn to keep that cross handy.”

Hag tenderly caressed one of the knots on his head. “Yes, sir,” he said, “nursing a grudge can be a pretty dangerous endeavor.”  He smiled at his friend sheepishly and added, “I’ll be back at church Sunday, now that I’ve got free time again.”

Fafi handed Hag a glass of cold water.  He took two sips and was soon asleep in the peaceful rest known only to those who have been victorious in hand-to-hand combat with a grudge.