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 – sarreb82(at)gmail(dot)com.

In Christ alone,


A Place of Training

It’s been a rough week.

After two years of orthodontic torture and enduring near constant discomfort in order to get my adult tooth pulled down where it should be, I was told that the tooth had died in the process.

This journey has been a roller coaster of eager hope crashing down around me, only to be carefully pieced together and revived again. After all, what is life without something to hope for?

The latest news sent me spiraling, numb, into gloomy disappointment and disillusionment.

Why hope? hope-2

I thumbed the pages of my Bible indifferently. Did it even matter? My brain felt calloused. I didn’t want to feel this way…but I couldn’t help it. In the past, I’ve wrestled through times like this by being thankful, grudgingly at first, but gradually moving out of the bog into grateful living.

I tried to thank God for my dead tooth, for the rest of my strong, healthy teeth, but it was forced, fake.

The pages fell open to Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”

“Truth”, I thought. But it wasn’t comforting in the slightest. If anything it made me sink lower into my despondency. My hope had definitely been deferred, leaving my heart ill with worry and confusion. So how on earth do you stay strong in the faith – believe with all your heart that everything is for the best and trust, trust, trust – when your heart is impaired because of hope that never happens?

I hit a new low the next evening and felt like I would burst from the burden of, what I later realized was, unsurrendered pain. My dear parents prayed for me and we talked it out until late.

The next morning I turned to my daily devotional titled, What Do You Expect?

“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you will find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” C.S. Lewis, God in the Docks

Ah, that’s my problem. I think I’m entitled to certain things in this life – marriage, health, good food, good friends, a decent amount of money, a job I like, fun things to do, and the opportunity to travel – among others, I’m sure. While it’s not something I’ll readily admit, that’s just what it is – expectations I have of life. When one of these gifts fail to meet my expectations I feel cheated. I doubt God’s goodness. I get heart sick because my hope is deferred.

“Sometimes we expect that life should be happy and pain-free. But that is not what the Bible teaches. For the believer, this world is a place of spiritual development through both good and bad times. Jesus was realistic when He explained what to expect out of life. He told His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation…” Dennis Fisher Our Daily Bread October 9, 2014

Why do we think we deserve more and better from life? It truly isn’t the Word of God that gives us this impression! The Bible is filled with warning us about a life of trials and encouragement to get through them.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

“Imagine a set of people all living in the same building.”, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable.”

This keen illustration left me thinking about how I perceive life and what I am expecting from it. Quite a lot to be honest. I want a grand hotel where I’m pampered and waited on. But God has different plans.

Christ continues His dialog with His disciples, “But be of good cheer, I have over come the world”. (John 16:33) The devotional ends with these words…

In facing life’s blessings and bruises, we can have the inner peace that God is orchestrating events according to His sovereign plan.

This life is a place of training. It’s not a 5 star resort where we can kick up our feet and vacation on the beach. Truly, trials make us stronger. Pain surrendered molds us to be the people God meant for us to be.

There really is no reason to hope… in things of this world. But hope in God is not futile.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.