Bitter Roots

I yanked and pulled until the weed snapped, its root still intact like a vein under the skin of the earth. I’m not a great gardener. I might even be a lousy gardener. Roots like those, with their centipede hairy tributaries put me out. It is their fault. They are my bitter roots. 

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully 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 NKJV

At my husband’s ordination, my father-in-law read this verse. It comes on the heels of the previous chapter’s list of people who ran a faithful race despite all the rottenness the world had to hurl at them. They persevered through injustices, hardship, cruelty and disdain. 

And their feet didn’t get tangled up in roots of bitterness. 

I didn’t understand at the time how much that verse would be needed in ministry. For others naturally. For us surprisingly. 

My father-in-law, also a minister of the gospel, cautioned us about the roots of bitterness prone to spread and strengthen with time. He talked about the harvest of defilement it produced. He warned us of its contagion to others. I remember it so well because it felt so far from reality. We were after all stepping into God’s work. 

But as for you,” Joseph told his brothers after they sold him into slavery, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Gen. 50:20 NKJV

How might the story of Joseph been different if he’d blamed his brothers for his life of slavery? Or if an immoral woman’s false accusations had fermented in his heart two long years in prison? 

And what of Daniel in the lion’s den, or his friends in the fiery furnace? Where is the justice in all that? What did they do to deserve it? 

The Bible is full of stories of people whose lives were dealt rotten blows. Moses, David, Paul and John the Baptist. Yet they believed God. They believed His Sovereignty reigned over everything, even wrongs dealt them. They chose against bitterness. It is never an easy choice to make.

Photo by Çağatay Demir on Unsplash

Which brings me back to where I stood in the middle of my yard with a ripped off piece of stubborn plant that shouldn’t have been growing there in the first place. Do I let the root stay knowing the weed will pop up again? Or do I go to the trouble of getting rid of that bitter root?

At some time each of us is affected by unfairness and hurt. Each of our stories would be, could be, maybe even should be different had people or situations not altered our path. In society, in families, and as my husband’s father knew, even in ministry we might be richer, own more, have risen higher.  

We can choose to replay wrong and rewind hurt. 

But when I read God’s Word, I come back time and time again to this. 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV

Even though. 

Even if.

Even so. 

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better and lasting possession.” Heb. 10:32-34 NASB

There is so much angry bitterness in the world, such blame and resentment. Life can get ugly in the weeds. Sometimes we feel impotent to change what we see. And in fact at times we feel hopeless to change our own bitter roots. 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…

Photo by crabtree on Unsplash

This is what my father-in-law taught many years ago. This is the choice he wanted us to make when confronted with the injustices life would assuredly bring.

I’m reminded by a broken weed in my hand, and a root still in the soil, bitter roots do not belong in clean hearts. I will choose to believe.  

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” 

*Feature Photo by Johnson Chou on Unsplash

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21 Replies

  1. Lois S. Reply

    What a blessing to hear about the insights of your dear father-in-law, and their impact on your life. The impact of bitterness can be so deep, and it is so important not just to get rid of the outward appearances, but of the root. Another great verse on this topic is Deuteronomy 29:18-19. Also a book that has impacted me on a similar topic is Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Lois. Just read those verses in Deut. Wow. Great verses. Thank you. I haven’t heard of Brant Hansen’s book but the title is intriguing.

  2. J.D. Wininger Reply

    So much to appreciate about this post ma’am. Sounds like your father-in-love offered some sage wisdom there. And yes, sometimes digging up those roots can be time-consuming, but when it’s done, it’s so worth the effort. God’s blessings ma’am.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks J.D. You are so right, it is always worth the effort despite the uncomfortable digging.

    • Karen Ray Reply

      Thank you. Your bittersweet post was a Godsend for me. Now in my 10th year of major depression, I’m at the point of “digging up” the major bittersweet roots of my past traumas in hopes of reaching the “I Survived Major Depression” finish line. The Lord’s message in your post is the “how to” I need and gives me reason and strength in my faith to reach the finish line. I thank you for your insight and thank my Sister in Jesus for sending it to me.
      God Bless you.

      • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

        Dear Karen, your response is precious. Thank you. May Jesus exchange every root of bitterness with His sweet love.

  3. Kathy Reply

    Thank you for this post about the bitter roots we may all have deep down and the need to root them out. Your father-in-law taught with great wisdom.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Kathy. Yes he did. I’m grateful for such a heritage. Thanks so much for reading and I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  4. Jeri Reply

    Such a timely message for me. Thanks for giving words of wisdom.

  5. Katherine Pasour Reply

    Sometimes the frustration, pain, and bitterness come from places we least expect. I am sure that occurred in your ministry. Most of us have experienced those unexpected attacks. Your post reminds us that harboring bitterness is likely to only hurt the one that allows it to grow. Thank you for sharing.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Katherine, I appreciate your insight. You are so right, places we least expect often hurt the most. Allowing Jesus to garden our souls is not an easy fix, but certainly one that brings long lasting healing. Thank you for your wise words.

  6. Linda Lou Brucato Reply

    Great and timely word! Thanks!

  7. Leigh DeLozier Reply

    Thank you, Sylvia, for this reminder. It’s easy to think we’re immune to bitterness or anger, but it’s just as easy for us Christ followers to fall victim as anyone else. Starting my week on guard against the weeds and their roots.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Leigh. I am writing to myself! It is as you say easy for us to fall victim to bitterness and anger. Appreciate your words!

  8. Barbara Latta Reply

    Great scriptures to guard against those mind weeds. Your father-in-law’s words were ammunition for future attacks. Thanks for sharing because we all need this.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Barbara. My father-in-law did know what he was talking about, and I am grateful he pointed us to God’s Word for the answers!!

  9. Ron Gallagher Reply

    Having held more than a few slippery weeds in my hands, and had to deal with a bunch of them rooted in my heart, I am grateful for the rich truth you emphasized, Sylvia. The strong Scriptural support makes the encouragement it even more powerful.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thank you so much Ron. It came from a place of personal conviction. It is so easy to hold on to those roots. Appreciate your comment!