Bitterness: The Root that Strangles

There’s a reason why the Book of Hebrews calls it the “root of bitterness”. It lies hidden beneath the surface as it matures, growing deep and strong. It wraps itself around other roots, choking the life out of them. It is relentless, defiling, deathly.


I’m sharing my battle against bitterness with you today because I see it’s subtle tentacles surfacing in conversations, comments, and expressions everywhere. img_1281Ever since my “bitterness revelation” I have observed it’s acidic fruit in many hearts and minds (including my own), and I’m convinced that we all struggle with bitterness – if not now, then we have, or we will, at some point in our lives. It is a relentless enemy. One that easily remains hidden…until we start to dig.

That’s what this post is about – my journey to unearthing bitterness and cutting out it’s stronghold in my life with the Power and Grace that God has given. It’s raw…I’m sharing a lot of junk that I normally wouldn’t, stuff I’d much rather leave buried for no one to find, but I think many of you can relate to what I went through, and I pray it will help you in your battle against bitterness.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12


I was depressed. Nothing seemed right in my life and I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was wrong. I cried out to God, but He seemed distant, and honestly, I really wasn’t sure if He cared.  My faith was on shaky ground. Oh, it wasn’t that I was doubting the existence of God, I knew He was real. But I couldn’t see Him working. Where were the answered prayers, the miracles, the transformed lives? Where was the powerful God of the Bible?

Most of my relationships were rocky. In fact, I didn’t even want them. It was too much work for not enough in return, and I was sick and tired of the strain. I didn’t feel like a good friend either – who wants a miserable friend?

I struggled a lot with who I was, if my life fit in anywhere, and how I could possibly witness for Christ while being such a mess. I was stressed, and my lack of faith in God developed fear in what the future would hold.

In desperation, I asked a dear friend to counsel me and she graciously said yes. We met in a park and I cried out my frustrations, doubts and concerns. What was wrong with me??? She asked some heart-searching questions and gave me some wise advice on how to take my thoughts captive in obedience to Christ.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

It was time to leave, but I still felt like we hadn’t tapped into the root of the problem. I got in the car, dried my eyes, and prepared to head home. I don’t remember the context it came in, but that’s when the word “bitter” popped into my head. I knew I had to do a study on it.

Armed with the Joyful notebook my friend gave me, a couple pens, and a slight understanding of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Metacognitive-Mapping Method, I started digging into this plot of soil, the label of which I had not seen – or cared to notice – before.


The basic principle of this method is to replace the toxic thoughts and lies in your head with truth from the Word of GOD. I wrote down every area in my life where I felt bitter (in red) and then dove into Scripture to address that particular issue. The circles are the main areas of bitterness that I struggled with and the rectangles are off-shoots from it. Then, the scripture surrounds it all with TRUTH. Truth is POWERFUL. I have no doubt that God was orchestrating all of this as verse after verse blanketed the toxic beliefs I had like snow over parched brown fields of stubble.

I know it’s personal, but go ahead -read it. I can share this with you because God delivered me from this. And in sharing this, I pray He will do the same for you if you struggle in the same or in similar areas.


This all ties into the third page. For each circled issue I asked these questions:

  • What is the Truth in this situation?
  • What would God say to me about this?

Many times a specific verse would pop into my head, but I also had to search the Scriptures for answers to some of these thoughts. Toxic thoughts grow deep. Most of the things I felt bitter about seemed silly when I wrote them down. But they had been growing for years – layer upon layer. One word, one action, one thought would cause the whole thing to fester and grow until it suddenly could not be contained anymore and sprouted fruit for the world to see. It wasn’t God, my relations, etc. who were at fault here. The problem was me and what I had allowed my perception to be toward them.

img_1283After all that, I had to ask myself the question, What caused this? How did this happen in the first place? As you can see on the 4th page, pride, hurt, selfishness, disappointment and anger were a few causes that I had personally experienced.

Disappointment was a big one, which resulted in my bitterness toward God. I felt like He had let me down and wasn’t giving me what I “deserved” out of life.

I really had to work to renew my mind (Ephesians 4:22-24) with the love of God and grasp His perspective on how He viewed me as His child. If we really believe in God and His Word, then we can’t possibly  believe that He doesn’t care about us or have a plan for us! Those two views are polar opposites!

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Romans 5:5

That led to a study into the Results of Bitterness, which was SO eye-opening to me. Every single symptom I had been suffering from was the result of bitterness taking root in my life! Bitterness causes stress, depression, and fear, robs peace and joy, affects relationships, takes hold of your mind causing negativity and critical thoughts, breaks fellowship with God, and robs us of our testimony and service for God. I had NO idea!


I guess I never realized that bitterness is a sin – it seemed justifiable to me because it was caused by circumstances I couldn’t avoid. It wasn’t my fault that life wasn’t going the way I thought it should, or that people say hurtful things, or that I just couldn’t deal with it all!

No, that isn’t our fault at all. It is completely out of our control. But it IS our fault when we let these things and people and situations eat away at us – when we don’t take it to God, forgive, and allow God’s Spirit to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21

God is POWERFUL and He has given us power to OVERCOME!

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19

“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Please, don’t skim past these scriptures! Let them soak in and BELIEVE them!

Pages Seven and Eight started with a fear that I wouldn’t be able to get all this bitterness out. (Again in red, encircled with jagged lines.) Maybe some of the roots would break off and grow into something else – something worse! What began in fear ended as a celebration of what God has done in freeing me from the bondage of bitterness. God is PERFECT LOVE and perfect love casts out all fear! 1 John 4:18


I want you to look the right side of the page, if you will. Roots aren’t a bad thing. In fact, we all have roots and the Bible tells us right where to put them!

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

So, with our roots deeply grounded in Christ and our branches abiding and remaining in The Vine, we will yield the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. We are renewed! A new self, who’s likeness is of GOD! We are FREE, because Christ came to SET us free!


“In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

If you’ve read this far, I have a feeling you can relate to some or all of what I have shared. If bitterness is still a burden for you, I encourage you to “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12), grab paper and a pen, and dig in to the truth of who you are and Who God is. Don’t “fail to obtain the grace of God” in this! (Hebrews 12:15) I pray that, by His Grace, you will root out the bitterness and “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:15

I’ve found this isn’t a one time battle. “Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We have to “be sober-minded and watchful.” (1 Peter 5:8) “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

Remember, we have been given everything we need to fight bitterness! (2 Peter 1:3) “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

To this end [I] pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power! (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

Feel free to contact me with any questions or prayer requests – sarahrn(at)mailfence(dot)com.

In Christ alone,


10 thoughts on “Bitterness: The Root that Strangles

  1. Sarah,

    I read your post about Bitterness. For some reason I could not find page to comment. I just want to tell you how God used this tonight in my life. I have been stressed and a bit on the depression side of life for a couple of days. It is just little things to some folk, but things that seem big to me! Your article really helped me put things into Biblical perspective. I am going to take the Holy Scriptures you listed and delve into God’s Word, and do what you did in a notebook. Just reading your article and bits and pieces of your journal has already opened my eyes and heart to hear, bringing a healing tonight. Thank you for not being selfish, but caring enough about others who are wounded, and obeying God in sharing this power of HIS to heal and to destroy the enemy.

    And thank you for all the years of praying for our family. I am praying daily for all of you too. May Yahweh bless you again and again. Your love, and your family’s love towards me is more precious to me than any earthly treasure. Thank you. My heart so blessed. Just knowing you are all there and that you care is so comforting and strengthening. My sisters in Christ are my real “family” :)

    Love in Christ Jesus, Debbie Bonnell

    On Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 2:45 PM, Deeper Still… wrote:

    > Sarah posted: “There’s a reason why the Book of Hebrews calls it the “root > of bitterness”. It lies hidden beneath the surface as it matures, growing > deep and strong. It wraps itself around other roots, choking the life out > of them. It is relentless, deathly, defiling. ” >

    • Hi Debbie! Thanks so much for the comment and your encouraging words. I am humbled that Yahweh can use us even in our struggles! I didn’t mean to publish it yesterday – I was trying to send it to Mom to edit, so that’s probably why you had problems on your end. It it now public with a few edits. :) Thanks for reading and have a beautifully blessed day!

  2. Sarah, I’m so glad you are sharing here what you went through, and a way to be delivered from this root of bitterness. When you first shared this with me months ago, it penetrated deeply and helped me see areas in my life that I have been bitter and resentful. Sometimes we just don’t know what is bothering us, but realizing what it is, and confessing it to one another really breaks Satan’s hold on those areas in our lives. It is definitely freeing to see… I love what you did here with your notebook. I hope others will use this same way to receive healing and deliverance.

  3. Hi Sarah,
    First I apologize for taking so long to write this thank you. I just ‘happened’ to check your blog on resurrection Sunday last year. Actually I know that God sent me there. (You Naylors had decreased blogging so I wasn’t looking)
    When I saw the title, I was amazed in that thank you Jesus kind of way. I had been struggling with growing bitterness with family issues. And several family members were in deeper than I. Being from East Tennessee, our people know how to hold grudges. Over silly things where both parties were at fault.
    Anyway I did my own bitterness study using your writings and journal as a guide. It all was so timely as I had realized my own issues and wanted to nip them before they became stronger creating more problems.
    Thank you so much for being honest. I can’t express how much you helped me. My visit to TN that year was peaceful (not perfect). I took my journaling notes and reviewed a part daily. (My writings aren’t as artistic as yours but I have adapted that style in some of my note taking and Bible study answers)
    Hope that you and your family are doing well!

    Much appreciation,
    Sharon a previous band groupie from Colorado 😍

    Sent from my iPad

    • Sharon! Hello!
      It’s so good to hear from you! I just got your message tonight. As you know, I’ve been VERY absent in the blogging world, and haven’t even thought to check in for some time. :/ I am so humbled and grateful that my post was able to help you in some way. Wow, it’s amazing how God works! He has continued to help me through some of the tougher bitterness issues and I KNOW will keep perfecting me until the end. :) Thank you SO much for sharing how He’s working in you! “For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6
      We are doing well! A lot of changes since we last saw you. :) All the boys are married now and there are 2 nieces and two nephews added to the bunch. We’re in a rather tough season as far as grandparents go – Dad’s dad passed away last year at 94 years old. Sage has been caretaker for Mom’s mom, who is 99, for the last 7 plus years. It’s all very challenging, but God is good. He reminds us of that -and we try to remind ourselves of that – often. :D
      Thanks again for reaching out. If you ever find yourself in Oklahoma, we have a new guest room! :) All the best to you! Love and blessings,

  4. Sarah-

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve discovered Im truly bitter the last few days. I don’t know if Ive been for a long time and hadn’t realized it. But its as though now I’ve allowed myslef to plunge into the depths of bitterness over my life. I was led to your blog. Thank you for the outline on this coursework.

    • Hi Becca, I’m sorry that you have to deal with this bitter root, but so thankful that our Gracious God is faithful to help us dig it out! It’s not easy, but don’t give up the fight! I’m praying for you!

  5. I just have to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I have a very similar testimony from very recent events. I had always (apparently, pridefully) said that bitterness was one sin I didn’t struggle with…until…the Lord revealed to me several areas in which I hid my roots of bitterness. Once my eyes and heart were opened and I realized how deceived I had been for so many years, I repented with hot tears on my face and asked God to forgive me and give me a clean heart. It was hard having to face some truths that I just needed to accept and trust with with my Savior; knowing that these things that have happened to me and these family relationships that have been dysfunctional all of my life, we’re and are for my good. Within days I felt those roots being plucked from my heart, giving root to new growth in my spirit. I still struggle at times with taking control over my thoughts, but when I go down that road of vain imaginations, the Lord gently reminds me to stop and to fill my mind with whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest… Philippians 4:8

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s