The Root of Bitterness
In our backyard here, we have a massive pine tree. It's a beautiful tree in a way, yet it emerges from the ground maybe ten feet from our house. The patio has cracked in places from the tree's growth and near the patio door a large bump pushes up on the concrete right at the base of the house. We decided recently to have the tree cut down to prevent any damage to the house's foundation.
As I was examining the damage the tree has done and threatens to do, I realized something. The surface structure of the tree is not the problem. What we see above ground can be treated. If a branch grows starts impinging on our patio, we can hack it off, as people have, in fact done to this tree in the past. The major part of the tree itself is not likely to collapse on the house, either; it's too large and sturdy and we don't get hurricanes here.
No, the problem is the root. We can have the tree cut down and even have the stump ground down below the surface of the earth, but the roots are the hardest part to get rid of. I don't know much about trees, but I believe if we have the main part of the tree removed and the stump ground down, the roots are not likely to grow any more. If it looks like they are, we'll have to dig up the roots, not a pleasant task.
Anyway, while I looked at the damage caused by the roots of this tree, I started thinking about what Scripture calls a 'root'-bitterness. Like with the roots of the tree, the root of bitterness threatens to crack our foundation in Christ that our house may wobble on unsteady legs. Anger can be compared to the outward structure of the tree; in many ways, anger poses little danger in itself. What matters is what's going on underground, so to speak. The outward, volatile emotion can be managed, but it's the stuff that digs deep and burrows underneath the surface that threatens us.
In another place, I compared bitterness to the residue of anger. No emotion, however strong, can sustain itself for long. In time, the energy of the feeling will seep away. It's the residue that remains in us after the great enthusiasm of the anger that digs deep and roots inside us that poses a hazard to our life in Christ.
I have struggled with this very residue of which I speak lately and know full well how difficult it can be to root out bitterness that I might fully forgive a person. Which makes God's love all the more astounding, for He harbors no bitterness toward those whom He has forgiven-those who have been born again in Christ-but instead keeps no record of wrongs. When we are bitter toward a person, we take every opportunity to bash the person or speak badly of him or her. To swallow the words we want to say causes pain, oh so much pain, but yet God has taken the pain upon himself when He sent His one and only Son to die for us on the cross. He swallowed the pain and acted not out of hatred and bitterness but of the opposite spirit, love. We can do no less. We love because God first loved us. Let us love one another and forgive those who trespass against us that the root of bitterness and unforgiveness may not crack the foundation God worked so hard to build in us.
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John -- What an appropiate message for today! We try to push aside our anger and bitterness but it's grip is deep. Just as you have had to call in a professional to extract this tree we need God to extract the roots of anger and bitterness from our hearts. We can't seem to do this ourselves no matter how hard we try! Thanks for sharing this. Praying for you, your new job and your family. In Christ -- Pat