I have felt them. I have wrestled with them since I was a child. They are heavy weights to bear. We were not meant to carry them. We were meant to live free in Christ. We were meant to yoke ourselves to Jesus for His burden is light.
For many years now, however, my burden has been heavy with bitterness and anger. Why I was so angry and bitter does not matter. This isn’t about comparing one person’s “life difficulties” with another’s. You see, I made a choice to let unforgiveness into my life. I felt justified in my judgment of those who did me wrong. Without a doubt this world would back me up! It would tell me I have every right to feel as I do. In fact, it would probably encourage me in that direction. This world might even call on me to be a voice for others like me. To be angry and fight for them as well.
The problem is that seeds of anger and bitterness take root deep, deep down and they are hard to dig up. The taproot can descend to the very bottom of your soul. Little finger roots spring from it and spread wider than you can imagine. They begin to appear in all areas of your life. You become cynical. Nothing is good enough. Your words begin to cut sharp and fast. What started as a “right” to hold on to unforgiveness just takes over. It seeps out to anyone who is near you. Like a virus it contaminates anything within reach. Eventually no one around you is untouched by your “right,” and everyone has experience the reality of being collateral damage when you are around.
This … this is where I was.
It is a lonely place.
I wanted to get out of it, but at 43 years old and what felt like a lifetime of choosing Anger and Bitterness, it was all I knew.
I struggled against it, fighting back hard. I sought counsel from professionals. I went on retreats meant to help deal with these struggles. I buried myself in scripture and volunteered at my church. I focused on helping others with their problems, all the while carrying around my own. I kept wanting to figure out how to get rid of the burden. In fierceness I tried over and over to climb the dirt covered walls of the pit I was in, only to have the dirt crumble in my hands. I thrashed about digging and desperately grasping to pull myself up until there was no energy left in me. Eventually, exhausted, I just sat down.
It was in that moment that the Lord began to show me I could not do this in my power. I needed Him to help me get rid of the deep root, but it would take some rough, hard digging. I might have to see things about myself that I didn’t want to see. Face things about myself that were not pretty. Recognize my sins in a life time of struggle. The question arose, did I trust Him? I would love to say I answered yes without hesitation, but that would be a lie. I paused and pondered what saying yes might mean. It was going to hurt and I was tired of being hurt, but I was more weary of being angry and bitter. This was God I was dealing with, not a man. Did I trust Him?
I didn’t want to be the judge anymore. I didn’t want to be angry anymore. I didn’t want to be a victim anymore.
“Yes, Lord, do what you need to do.”
Is it painful? Yes! Oh, but God’s Word is a healing balm! As He digs, gently tugging and pulling on those roots, there are moment where it rips and tears, but He faithfully presses on the wound with His Word and the pain is eased. Every day He digs a little more, and every day I learn to depend on Him and let Him be my strength. He is working this out for my good and His Glory. And when the roots are all gone, it will not be for anything I did. It will be God and God alone who brought the healing balm to my battered heart. He will receive all praise and glory for the work He has done.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 4:31-5:2