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Living On Bitter Root Street

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 (NKJV)

My wife Carol and I had our friend Teresa come by our house a few years back after she finished a road trip to Twin Falls Idaho. She was sharing with us about her travels and she told us how she had gone down this one section of town and noticed the name of a street titled, “Bitter Root Street.”  She proposed a question to me with a grin saying, “Don’t you just wonder who lives there?” She was speaking metaphorically, while referring to the people living there who might actually have a bitter root within their heart. 

It got me thinking— every one of us could probably have lived on this street at one point in our lives.  Truth be told, if there were such a place set up for people with bitter roots within their hearts, there would be a great assortment of people living there.   Some would move there for a short time, and decide to move on.  Some would choose to live there for years, while still others would live there for their entire lives.

When I think about a bitter root, I immediately think of someone who has been hurt in a relationship in some way or another, because this is usually where the root starts.  They have chosen to continue to hold another person accountable for something they experienced, and they are unwilling to let it go and forgive.  And much like a case of cancer, it eats away at their life until certain death occurs. 

We see the writer of Hebrews speaking of this, as we are told to pursue peace with ALL people…looking carefully, or “diligently” as some translations state it, lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled (See Heb. 12:14-15).  

This is a sharp warning for every Christian believer.  Each of us would be wise to be attentive to the temptation of bitterness—making sure we don’t become bitter when others hurt or offend us.  We need to identify any bitterness within us immediately, lest it cause us to stray in our faith and fall away from the Lord.

When this happens, we can sometimes continue to go through the motions in our Christian walk, even attending studies and church, but our heart is far from wanting to worship and praise.  Instead, we can become cynical, bitter, and pessimistic, causing our fellow brothers and sisters to stumble and to lose hope in the process.

The ultimate result of a bitter root is that it will defile the body of believers, as it continues to pollute one person at a time—ruining their testimony and the ministry God has allowed them to be a part of.   Some will choose to leave the church as a result of having a bitter root, while others will burrow in much like a tick, not content to simply leave, they choose to infect the whole body.

One more thing we need to know about bitter roots is they don’t always come about over one offense.  They will usually culminate over a series of events where a person feels wronged, and will eventually surface.  This is important for us to identify because we tend to bury the past hurts, or those bitter roots and simply tear the head off of what surfaces rather than deal with them properly. 

Now hear me in this, I am not speaking of going down and letting a psychotherapist peel back your mind like the layers of an onion—to expose hurtful times or actions you feel have affected you or your life—I am talking about choosing to forgive those who have hurt you immediately and then letting the offense go.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 (NKJV)

I want to encourage you today to think for just a few minutes about any bitterness you may be holding onto.  Let’s ask God to reveal any bitterness we’re harboring against an old friend, or coworker—against any employer or supervisor, or potentially even a family member or spouse.  If we are holding on to this bitterness, we are taking away the blessings God has in store for us in this life—we are hindering our prayer life, and we are limiting our effective witness as a Christian. 

STUDY QUESTION: According to the Scriptures contained within this devotional, what could we learn about bitterness, and our responsibility to deal with it?

PERSONAL INVENTORY: Are you harboring any bitterness towards someone, even God, because of a past hurt?

APPLICATION: Let’s decide to let the bitterness go.  Let’s repent of hanging on to it and choose to forgive anyone who may have offended us.  God will give you a great blessing of peace.

Father, thank You for Your forgiveness of our offenses.  Thank You for showing us how to forgive.  Thank You for Your amazing mercy and grace upon our lives.  Help us to see any area where we have developed a bitter root.  Help us to tear these roots out of our hearts.  In Jesus’ precious name, amen…

Be Blessed, Pastor Scott



Copyright ©2017 by Pastor Scott Wright.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Bible text from the New King James Version is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000