Kick Bitterness to the Curb!

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God (Heb. 12:15).

That sentence ought to make us sit up and pay attention.

If God’s grace is available for the taking (and it is!), I don’t want to miss it! I know you don’t either. So with our hearts on high alert, let’s keep reading.

That no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

What works as a barrier between us and grace? Bitterness. It’s a prickly, pervasive, trouble-making pest. Before we take a closer look, I want to be crystal clear: This is not a passage about salvation. The author of Hebrews is writing to believers, whose salvation is secure because of their faith in Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf on the cross. But it’s possible to be saved and still stuck, redeemed and still wrestling.

Strong language is used here and elsewhere in Scripture on the subject of bitterness—because bitterness is a very big deal.

In Wednesday’s post, we looked at four ways to know if a root of bitterness has burrowed its way into our hearts. (If you missed that post, circle back and find it here.) I wrote those words not as an expert who has arrived but as a traveler, still on the journey. The temptation to become embittered is one I face often. Whether it’s toward my husband and children who demand much from me, extended family members who have hurt me, friends who haven’t met my expectations . . . the list goes on and on.

So how can we yank up the root of bitterness once it starts to grow? Here are three ideas.

How to Yank Out That Bitter Root

1. Adopt a zero bitterness policy.

To say it plainly, bitterness is bad for you.

Bitterness robs us of joy.

Bitterness robs us of joy. It makes us critical and irritated. It inevitably drives a wedge between us and the object of our frustration. We water and feed our bitter roots, hoping that somehow we can hurt the person who has hurt us, but inevitably, we end up poisoning ourselves instead.

Several years ago, I studied bitterness with the women of my church. Together, we discovered that avoiding bitterness is both a command and a warning. Everything God asks of us is ultimately for our good, and when He tells us to get rid of all bitterness (Eph. 4:31), He is looking out for our best interests.

The more I study bitterness in the Bible, the less I can tolerate it in my own heart. I want no part of it. In fact, I’ve adopted a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bitterness.

That means . . .

  • When old hurts bubble up to the surface . . . I refuse to nurture them and instead ask Jesus to empower me to forgive again and again.
  • When my friends are thoughtless or disengaged . . . I reach out instead of mentally placing the ball in their court.
  • When I feel “passed over” for an opportunity. . . I choose to cheer for the person who was chosen rather than wishing them harm.
  • When my parents, or siblings, or husband disappoints me. . . I don’t let myself dwell on the disappointment for days or weeks or months.

Refuse to justify any amount of bitterness in your own heart. You will be amazed at what the Holy Spirit exposes and then lovingly helps you rid yourself of.

2. Fast and pray.

Exploring the spiritual discipline of fasting is a different post for a different day. (In fact, here it is!) But for now, just know that true repentance is a good, biblical reason to fast. If the Lord exposes that a root of bitterness has burrowed into your heart, consider fasting and specifically praying for Him to yank it out!

3. Believe the gospel.

If you’re like me, there are pain points in your life where you know you’ve become embittered, you’ve prayed and repented, and then . . . whamo! You find yourself replaying the tapes, speaking bitter words, or physically wilting under the weight of unchecked bitterness.

That’s good! No, really.

Our bitter tendencies are a reminder of how much we need Jesus. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Anything is a blessing which makes us pray.”

Our bitter tendencies are a reminder of how much we need Jesus.

In this way, our bitterness can be a blessing because it turns our hearts toward Jesus and reminds us that only the power of Christ’s blood shed on the cross can liberate us from our besetting sins, including bitterness.

We are bitter people who become better people only when we trust in the Spirit’s power to change us, not our own. With that in mind, consider praying these prayers.

  • Jesus, reveal any bitter roots that have burrowed in my heart.
  • Jesus, give me the power to turn away from bitterness and toward joy-filled forgiveness and service to those who have hurt and disappointed me.
  • Jesus, thank You that You have not become bitter toward me but accept me as Your beloved daughter.
  • Jesus, use Your Word to yank out all roots of bitterness in my heart and home.

Know that I’m praying with you and for you. In fact, I’ll start right now.

Jesus, we are broken women prone to bitterness. And yet Your Word exposes our folly. Help us to heed Your Word and see to it that no bitter root springs up and causes trouble in our lives. Amen.

About Author

Erin Davis

Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

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