Bitterness is one of those things that doesn’t happen overnight. It kind of sneaks up on you before you realize what’s even happening. And unless you’re on guard and really looking for it, it’s easy to miss until it’s almost too late…almost…
Hebrews 12:14-15 (Message Version)
WORK at getting along with each other AND with God. Otherwise, you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of Bitter Discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.
A few months back, something really insignificant happened that really bothered me. Like, REALLY bothered me. I didn’t know why, couldn’t really put my finger on it, all I knew was that it bothered me. I tried to keep it to myself, and all it did was grow.
The mind is a tricky thing. We can let things grow so quickly out of control in there, that pretty soon its hard to separate the real from the imagined, and everything that happens, we can mold it and twist it in our minds to make it fit the thing we are just SURE of.
I tried to talk it out with Marcos and really figure out where it was coming from, how it got started…you know…the who’s and that what’s and the when’s all along with the why’s. A few times, I thought I had done it and finally cracked the code.
And then, before I knew it, there it was again, seemingly out of nowhere, thoughts that were literally eating me alive from the inside out. And my rational brain and my gut were telling me I was being a crazy person, but my emotions were refusing to listen.
It was becoming exhausting.
And here I was, thinking I had done everything I could and it was just turning hopeless, when I stumbled across this verse in a pretty desperate moment. I wasn’t actually searching for answers to this particular problem. Honestly, I was doing my devotional at work and just doing it to check it off my “To-Do” list. (Ya, I do that sometimes…not proud, but it is a fact) And that is the moment it hit me hard in the heart: I hadn’t actually tried everything, I hadn’t even done the most basic and very first thing I should’ve done…take it to Jesus.
I know, I’m a dummy sometimes. An entire life of serving the Lord and that was literally the last thing that came to mind.
I don’t think anything is in the Bible by accident. And I know that God knows us and our hearts and our emotions and how we work.
The part I couldn’t stop reading was this: “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a garden in no time.”
How true that is!
Allowing my mind to be held hostage by negative and irrational thoughts was killing me. I had allowed one small thought that floated through my brain to be grabbed onto and held onto for far longer than I should have…and that thought turned into another and another, and soon, the root of that bitter thought was coloring all of my other thoughts. I was becoming consumed, unable to think about much else that was going on in my life. It was changing how I was acting and interacting with others, my sleep pattern, what I was doing with my time, it was shifting my focus from myself to others and not in a positive way. It was shifting my relationships with key people from mutually encouraging and loving to selfish and unhealthy.
It was ugly
It was not OK
I was not OK
And I KNEW I was not OK, and it was hard to admit because I didn’t know where it was coming from and how it started and how to kill it.
Killing weeds is a long term job sometimes, and it’s not always over when you think it’s over and they aren’t always gone the way you think they are at first.
I had a few times when I thought I was doing so well and then something would happen and get said and it would start all over again and come RAGING back even worse than before.
But that was before I took it to Jesus with this verse in mind and began praying this very specifically over my mind. It was hard to admit-even to Jesus-at first that I was feeling bitter and angry. Where was this coming from?
I began to really look at that verse and try to understand what it meant. I looked up the words Bitter and Discontent.
Bitter: (of people or their feelings or behavior) angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment
Discontent: Lack of contentment.
Content: In a state of peaceful happiness.
So there it was.
I was allowing myself to be angry and resentful based on an experience and I was allowing that bitterness to steal my peace. Actually, it was worse. I was wallowing in my own thoughts and just giving away my peace. Handing it over without a fight.
Why was I doing this to myself?
The definition of bitter really stood out to me, that part about bad experiences. Could it be possible that somewhere in my heart I hadn’t let go of something in the past that was contributing to me NOW feeling and thinking this way about something that was completely unrelated?
It takes a lot to begin to search your heart and begin to admit that there’s unfinished business in there, or a door that hasn’t been completely closed when you think it’s been a done deal for a long time, maybe even decades. It doesn’t feel good and it isn’t even a little bit fun.
But it’s so necessary.
And it’s so worth it.
As I began to go to Jesus and admit my failures and faults and weaknesses, he slowly started to show me what was really going on and how I could deal with the actual problem. A problem/issue I have thought dealt with for a very long time, and looking back over even the last 10 years through new eyes, I see that it has affected some things without me realizing it. I have found so often that we think we’re dealing with the problem, and we truly are only dealing with a result or consequence of a problem. The weed and not the root. Does that make sense? I’m finally ready to see the root and deal with it.
Is he through with me yet?
Am I doing better?
I am feeling better than I have in a very long time, because I’m not hiding from anyone, including myself and Jesus. That issue that was torturing me…ya, I wake up without it being the first thing on my mind. I go most of the day without it even becoming a thought…and every now and then I feel it lingering somewhere in my mind and I squash it right away, because I know where it’s coming from and that it is irrelevant now.
What are the thoughts that are holding you hostage? Where are they REALLY coming from? What have you allowed to take root in your mind that is hurting you?
Yank it out from the very root…and if you don’t know the root, ask Jesus. He will show you and lead you back to the place it started and help you start tearing out the ugly and replacing it with beauty.
He has such good things lined up for us, and the world has such sadness lined up for us…the only way to fight it is to keep our eyes on him and an open heart to the ways he wants to help us through with love and joy and peace…bitter and discontent free.