I was raised on a mixed farm where my father taught us how to slaughter animals. I don’t remember all I was taught, but I do remember his instructions regarding removing the liver. He said to be careful to cut out and away from the gall bladder, because if this were nipped with the knife its bitter contents would spill out and spoil the liver or anything it came into contact with. I’m reminded of these instructions when I encounter bitter people.
Decades ago now, I met a man who’d once trained for ministry. In Bible college, he fell in love with a classmate; they were engaged and set a wedding date.
During the school year, she met her fiancé’s best friend. A friendship was established and blossomed. She broke her engagement, married the best friend and they entered ministry a few years later. A root of bitterness was planted in the heart of the devastated fiancé…and it grew.
Some years later the man began attending church where his former friend and fiancé were now pastor and wife. He wooed her and they began an illicit relationship that ended both a marriage and a ministry. The man believed his dream had come true and a short while later he married his now divorced college sweetheart.
A year later his old girlfriend, now his new wife, was diagnosed with malignant cancer and less than a year later she died. His bitterness took fresh root and grew into something dark and dreadful. The man I met said that he hated God and most people, but he continued to invite me back.
He had a Christian library and he gave me a few books each time I came, admitting that he derived pleasure from bitterly dispensing books which he’d once cherished.
Hebrews 12:15 states, “…watch out that no bitterness takes root in you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.”
The verse highlights several things relative to bitterness. It takes root, it grows or springs up and as it grows it causes deep trouble and hurts, impeding any spiritual progress. Bitterness doesn’t effect just the one who is embittered, but hurts “many” who are associated with them. Like the gall bladder that is nipped by the knife contaminating anything nearby, bitterness has a negative impact upon those associated with the embittered one.
Bitterness is a serious, harmful business. Remember, no matter how long you nurse a grudge, it never gets better!
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church