Two shopkeepers owned stores directly across the street from each other. Each spent his days tracking the other’s business, and gloating triumphantly each time a customer chose his store, instead of that of his competitor. Over time, they became bitter rivals. It no longer was a life of enjoying their business, but a life wishing to see their competitor destroyed.
One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers and said, “I’ll give you anything you request, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive double. Would you be rich? You can be very rich indeed, but he’ll be twice as wealthy. Do you desire a long and healthy life? Request it, but his life will be longer and healthier. What’s your desire?
The man thought for a moment, and with a sly grin, stated, “Strike me blind in one eye!”
I can think of very little that damages a life and soul like a root of bitterness. Every one of us has been hurt by other people or by life circumstances. All too often we have wounds that fester inside of us. Do we sometimes have a right to be wounded and bitter? I say yes. Do we want to exercise that right? A thousand times NO! Bitterness is relentless and dangerous when allowed to take root in our hearts. It destroys one’s ability to make good decisions, and it compromises productive lives. Bitterness can destroy healthy relationships with people, and even with God.
Some might think that a preacher/teacher/speaker/writer, who is married to a wonderful husband, knows little about the hurts of life. “Barbara, how could you be tempted to live a life of bitterness?” Oh, I think all of us are tempted to become a convict in the prison of bitterness.
I’ve known the heartache of church wounds, cruel childhood abuse, miscarriage, and the death of a son. I could spend a lot of time enlarging my list for you to read, but that is not my purpose. My purpose is say that all of us are tempted to drink from the river of bitterness.
God offers the only alternative to bitterness, and that is forgiveness and trusting Him to handle those who have wronged us. Joseph said it well in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” God can take that which was intended for evil, and slap the devil in the face with it! How could forgiving that awful person bring us any kind of peace? It is a supernatural thing. Once you’ve experienced the healing power of forgiveness, you will understand.
We have a hard time with forgiveness because we are unclear about it. Think about this:
- Forgiveness does not mean we justify what the other person did.
- Forgiveness does not always mean the relationship will be the same as before.
- Forgiveness is not the same as trust.
- Is forgiveness difficult? It can be.
- Do we still need to forgive because God instructs us to do so? Yes.
- Are we set free as a result of forgiving? Yes, yes, yes!
I read an interesting story about a man who was describing his mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. One paragraph in particular jumped out at me:
“My mother used to be a bitter woman,” Tim explained. “But then she got Alzheimer’s disease and forgot what she was so bitter about. She actually became a very pleasant person to be around.” Oh that we would forget while we are still well enough to enjoy the freedom!
Ponder that thought: Oh, that we would forget while we are still well enough to enjoy the freedom! Take off those convict clothes, and put on a garment of praise. Whom the Son has set free, is free indeed! It’s time to change clothes.
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” – Hebrews 12:15