Root Of Bitterness vs. the Grace Of God

The Bible talks about a “root of bitterness defiling many” – Heb 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

“defiled” is a Greek word (miainō) meaning to ‘sully, pollute, contaminate.’ Heb 12:16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, ‘Profane’ in the Greek (bebēlos) means, heathenish, wicked, or ungodly.

‘fail of the grace of God,’ in the Greek (hustereō) means,
Thayer Definition:
1) behind
1a) to come late or too tardily
1a1) to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end
1a2) metaphorically fail to become a partaker, fall back from
1b) to be inferior in power, influence and rank
1b1) of the person: to be inferior to
1c) to fail, be wanting
1d) to be in want of, lack
2) to suffer want, to be devoid of, to lack (be inferior) in excellence, worth

The word “profane” here refers to one who by word or conduct treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for what is sacred. This may be shown by words; by the manner; by a sneer; by neglect of religion; – Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

While this verse is primarily referring to persons within the Body of Christ who become bitter at God when disciplined by Him (Heb 12:5-13), which could cause them to “fall away” from faith if not checked, it can also apply to any ungodly or profane individual. Bitterness is of such a nature that it spreads like a virus from one person to another, polluting and contaminating others. Having had some personal experience with this, I can say that what the Bible says about it is absolutely true. Bitterness not only defiles the person who has it, but others who come in contact with it.

Recently I met a man and wanted to know what his thoughts were of God and Faith. One day while we sat near a water fountain in the city square, I asked him if he had faith and if so, what relevance it had in his daily life. Talk about a loaded question! He began by saying that he was too busy every day, and didn’t have time for that. Then he added that he didn’t believe anything was ‘there’ and that he had learned to rely upon himself because of how his father had treated him. He was terribly abused as a child by his alcoholic father. He told me his father had ruined his life and he hated him so much he wanted to kill him, and would, if he could find a way! With empathy and compassion I said that thousands of others have had it just as bad, and that I too knew how being abused feels. I told him that God could help him forgive his father and mother, as He had done for me and many others. He retorted, “What good is God? “Where was he when I needed him?” Obviously, the man was very ‘bitter’ at God, blaming him for what happened.

When a person is in the clutches of bitterness towards God, he or she can’t receive His grace. The choice is either, hold onto bitterness and forsake God’s grace, or forsake bitterness and partake of His grace. We need God’s grace in order to forgive some men their offenses against us. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that we have to forget what they’ve done, or that we have to allow them access to our lives! In many cases, doing so would be foolish and harmful to our wellbeing. Forgiving someone simply means that we leave their judgment and punishment up to God, and that we let go of ‘demanding payment’ from him or her –

Mat 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Mat 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Mat 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
Mat 18:24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
Mat 18:25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Mat 18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
Mat 18:28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
Mat 18:29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Mat 18:31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Mat 18:32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Mat 18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?
Mat 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Mat 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

We often forget how many sins we’ve committed against our fellows, but God has his way of helping us to remember when we’re having difficulty forgiving someone. Remembering how sinful we are helps us to have mercy on others, or it should.

There was no judgement or criticism in my heart or words for this man, who was obviously in great emotional pain and turmoil. I understood where he was coming from since I had hated my own father for many years before I was able to take hold of the “grace of God” which enabled me to completely forgive him, which set my soul free from the heavy weight of hatred and bitterness. I told the man that he could pray to God and find answers for his problems, that God helped me get through many tough times, and that I had to depend upon Him because there was often no one else around. I told him God helped me to forgive my father for committing acts which no child should have to see.

“Well, he’s never done anything for me,” he smirked. “That’s not true” I said, “Jesus paid for all your sins and the sins of the whole world when He died on the Cross.” “What sins?” the man indignantly asked me, “I didn’t sin, what my father did wasn’t my fault!” I said, “I know it wasn’t, all I’m saying is that we have all sinned at one time or another and were born with a nature proned to sin.” I asked him, “Have you ever told a lie?” As if he didn’t hear me he retorted, “God didn’t suffer as much as I did!” “All He did was hide in a cave…” [Not sure what the man was referring to.] I told him that forgiveness for his sins was available and that all he had to do was accept and receive it. I said, “All God wants is a relationship with everyone and we were designed to have that with Him.” He said that he didn’t believe it, and that the Bible was just a bunch of stories, “Who knows whether they’re true or not?” I told him that I knew. He asked me how I knew and I said, “Because I have tried it and found it to be true” – Tit 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, “faithful” means “true, trustworthy, sure.”

The man went on to say that he believed his father would go to hell when he dies (he said at the outset he didn’t believe in God or the Bible)! “That’s a possibility” I told him, “but you’re making your own hell here now.” Looking surprised, he asked, “How so?” “By holding onto hate and revenge which is eating you up inside and holding you back from going forward in life,” “You can’t go forward with baggage hanging onto you like that,” I answered. He objected saying, “But he hasn’t changed over the years, he’s still the same so how can I forgive him?” My answer was simply, “You forgive him in your heart in order to set yourself free.” Sadly, the man refused to listen, preferring to wallow in self-pity over the terrible things his father had done to him. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel empathy for this man, but I knew that holding onto past wrongs and nursing your wounds, keeps you in bondage. Freedom comes when we forgive those who have wronged us, regardless of the nature and depth of the offense. I knew that for anyone, healing of inner wounds is just about impossible while holding onto offenses. We also keep others in bondage by our unforgiveness, not just ourselves. That’s why Jesus made forgiving others their offenses a requirement for our receiving His forgiveness, Mar 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mar 11:26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Luk 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: (See also Mt 18:21-35.)

Though full of anger, hatred, revenge and self-pity, I give the man credit for being honest. Most people try to cover up how they truly feel about God and life.

After leaving him at the fountain, I walked home feeling a bit defeated that I wasn’t able to help him. While it may have seemed that my efforts to steer him in the right direction, failed, I believe he’ll think on my words later, and maybe the Lord will use them to soften his heart. No judgment, ‘But for the grace of God go I.’ I hope he gets the help he needs, from someone, somewhere. Carrying around so much hate and bitterness is a heavy burden on anyone’s soul.

While it’s easy to accept in theory that God allows terrible things to happen because of man’s free will, it’s not easy to accept when it ‘hits home.’ Sometimes people are innocent victims of someone else’s sinful act and end up paying for it, suffering various consequences which can last a lifetime. When we’ve been victimized, we tend to blame not only the culprit, but God too, because we feel He shouldn’t have allowed it and can’t understand why He did. Why?” is a natural and good question, because there IS a reason for everything, and we often need to know ‘why’ something is happening to us, so that we can change our course if we’re going the wrong way. However, it’s a question that we might not get an answer to and one that God isn’t obligated to answer, nor can we make him answer. Another question we could ask is “What?” What is God (or life) trying to tell me? What is the lesson in this trial? What can I learn from it? There’s ALWAYS a lesson or a nugget of truth hidden in every trial awaiting our discovery! – Isa 45:3  and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places…. 

While this may not satisfy everyone, God allows bad things to happen to good people because He can’t interfere with the exercise of man’s free will. If God were to remove or override man’s free will, man would loose the ability to make choices, reducing him to an animal which can’t reason but merely follows its instinct. Man would loose part of the “image of God,” if his free will was removed or interferred with, and that would be tragic. The reason God gave man free will was so he could choose between right and wrong, and whether or not to love, worship, and serve Him. One of the most difficult obstacles in life to overcome, is the temptation and tendency to become bitter. Life affords some, many more opportunities than others on that score, but the Bible tells us that rewards for over comers will be far greater than anything they can imagine – Rev 2:7, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Rev 2:11, He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Rev 2:17, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. Rev 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: Rev 2:27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; Rev 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.

“Therefore, let us not fail to become a partaker of the grace of God whereby we are saved.” (Ephs 2:5; Rms 3:24)