Sunday, September 11, 2011

Watch Out For Bitterness, It Can Mess You Right Up!

Lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by by this many become defiled;
Hebrews 12:15b NKJV

(Jon Sullivan American flag public domain photo)

Everybody is talking about 9/11, and reminiscing about what they were doing when they learned what happened and whatnot. Because I went over that last year on another blog, I am going to talk about a conversation I had the day after.

A lot of us were glued to our television each night to get more information. Sometimes we were looking for information about loved ones, other times it was just because we were flabbergasted by what had happened. Thousands had died. Died!

Imagine my surprise when my phone rang. Once I saw who it was, I answered. A friend of mine was calling. This was the friend who called after she learned Tupac had died. I was ready to have a discussion about what went on. I wanted to tell her about all the miraculous things I had heard in spite of the devastation. We did not talk about the tragic events of 9/11/01. At least not until the end.

I sat there and I listened to the sob story. I was shocked. Because to me, if there was going to be anything that would get a person to stop thinking about themselves, it is the death of thousands, less than 11 hours away. You could say I was self-righteous but come on. And then on top of the sob story, my dear, dear friend was wrong. And since I wasn't on her side, but quite possibly could be convinced, she kept pushing her point.

I was not the one to "speak the truth in love" (a personal struggle from years of checking (slang for telling a person off, eh, more slang for bringing the person's faults to their attention). So, despite her not wanting to know what I knew, I began to tell her. Be happy to be alive. Be happy your children are safe and accounted for. Be happy your immediate family is still walking on this earth. A lot of people lost loved ones. It could have been more, but God and His angels were mightily busy that day. Co-workers told me of friends they knew who had done something uncharacteristic the night before, and blew off going to work that day. Yep, they worked at the Towers. Lots of people missed their train, or bus, or the car acted up. God was busy. Even in the midst of tragedy, God was still busy. Lots of people on that day stopped thinking me, me, me, and helped the person next to them. And sometimes it was a "human" that helped. He was busy.

After the call was over. I thought about her mother. The woman was fed up. She was tired, and tired of being sick and tired. She made a decision. And it frightened me.

While being a member of this singles group, I met a woman who was always negative. She wouldn't laugh at jokes. And if she did, it was a rueful laugh. Don't ask me how I know it was rueful. I just knew. And when she told a joke, it was cruel and cynical. I would pray, "please don't let me be like that."

I was attending bible study, and this teenage girl was walking in the pew behind me, and instead of saying "watch out, I'm behind you," or "Excuse me," she told me to move. You are probably thinking it's the home training, um, slang for manners or courtesy, no it's her environment and her attitude, with bitterness already forming in her. I knew her mother, and if she had heard her, she would have checked* her (see above for definition).

Bitterness eats away at you. It's insidious. Once bitterness takes root, it takes a lot to get it out. Even though you know better, you let things fester or you say hurtful things because you think it will make you feel better. You make decisions based off of your bitterness. You cannot truly forgive. Your anger easily erupts and slowly abates. It's all about you and your past hurts. You live in the past. And trust in God?  What is that? Trust no one, let alone God.

But bitterness can be overcome. On 9/11, the subway conductor at the station closest to the twin towers saw the dust come down from up above, and instead of shutting and locking the doors after 30 seconds like always, kept them open until he felt it was time to move. And when they left and passed below the twin towers, a few seconds later, the towers began collapsing. He had saved a lot of people. God used him to do his part on that day. Sadly, he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and probably survivor's guilt. But many people, more than what was on his train, are very grateful to him. As I watched his interview, it just struck me how God moved that day.

I think bitterness keeps you from seeing the move of God. It keeps you from seeing the good in people. And we need to find bitterness and try to keep it out of our hearts. I would not be surprised if the percentage of people who had bitterness in them was in the low to mid-seventies. It might not be full-blown. It could just be a seed that keeps you from being polite. Or full-blown that makes you withdraw your love from your flesh and blood, and only see the negative in people. I struggle with it and quiet as it's kept, a good portion of family, friends, and acquaintances suffer from it, too.

Sometimes we simply need to trust God more. And other times, we need to watch what we say and think. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7 It needs to be rooted out. If God forgives us for our sins, so we need to be to others. It keeps you pure, and it is a mandate. You need to pray and even fast about it. Study God's word for strength. And to trust God. Everything will always come back to trusting God. Have faith that God will protect you from people behaving badly. Trust God with your heart. And keep the bitterness out!

Here is scripture that will help you in this fight. Yes, it's a fight.

"Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:14,15).

"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31,32).

"Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23).

"Then Jesus said, ’Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’" (Luke 23:34).

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14,15).

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ’Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:14-21).

Be Blessed and Stay Encouraged!

(Image found at: FCI Crossnet)

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