From Bitterness to Bliss
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God
and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrews 12:14-15, NIV
Absalom was a bitter man. In 2 Samuel 13 the sordid story is told about the rape of Absalom’s sister, Tamar, by Absalom’s half-brother, Amnon. All three were David’s children. Nevertheless, when David heard of the offense, although he was angry, he did nothing. Infuriated, Absalom nursed his rage and bitterness against both his brother and his father, plotting revenge and exacting judgement. Absalom eventually killed Amnon and, many years later, this same hostility birthed a coup against King David. Their family was broken; Absalom was hard-hearted and, in the end, was found dangling from a tree by his hair, caught in a trap of his own making.
Bitterness gives birth to death and, like Absalom, I was a bitter woman. I grew up in an unstable home with an alcoholic father and a mother whose spirit was crushed by childhood trauma. I hated my father for abandoning me, was deeply hurt by my mother’s inability to love, and harbored resentment toward my sister for rejecting me. Consequently, I became an insecure, self-protecting, self-righteous, young woman. Still, as a new bride I was hopeful. In my mind I had “married up” and my Prince Charming would fill every crack in my broken heart, meet every physical need I might have and rescue me from my insecurity with his lavish, unconditional love. However, we went from matrimony to acrimony within a few short years. For reasons I could not understand, my husband was unable to rise to the occasion of being my savior. His armor was tarnished, no longer glimmering with confident desire. In fact, he was hardly ever home. I was lonely, frustrated (angry), and overwhelmed with mommy-ness. My two little boys were so sweet, but I found myself treating them harshly, unintentionally hurting their little hearts.
Unfortunately, when my husband was home he usually found himself watching a performance of Ten Reasons Why You are not a Good Husband. The drama included dialogue, yes, but mostly the story was told through an attitude of indifference, physical and emotional withdrawal and just general busyness and exhaustion (because of the kids, of course.) Yes, I know what bitterness is like and I also know the cancer-like effect it has on relationships. Within five years we were headed for divorce – the actual death and tearing apart of, “What God had joined together.” In my own way I tried to be like Absalom. I plotted and planned ways to exact judgement, punishing those in my life who hurt me, all the while projecting the cause of the pain onto my husband who seemingly did not care and, like David, did nothing at all to comfort me.
Fortunately, God captured my heart, and, unlike Absalom, I did not find myself dangling form a tree by my hair. Miraculously, God not only saved me for eternity through this trial but also began restoring our marriage. It took a lot of time because the damage was severe. But, now that I was a new creation, God revealed the mold of bitterness in the walls of my heart that caused me to sin against my husband. I knew I was forgiven but I also knew restoration could not happen without confession. My heart needed to be softened. Fortunately, I was grieved and humbled to the point of repentance. I confessed my bitterness, hard heart, and neglect and asked my husband to forgive me. At the time he was not a believer. However, even though he had already condemned the “building” and moved out, God brought us back together and began restoring our home.
Moreover, God stripped our marriage down to the studs, revealing the idol my husband had become in one closet and the unmet needs of my heart that only Jesus could fulfill in another. It took several years and a monumental move to get me to trust God. Through trials, stripping, tearing down and building up God taught me to lean into Him. He brought people into my life that walked shoulder to shoulder with me through some difficult times of healing, forgiving and releasing to God the right to exact payment. His gentle, faithful love guided me as I pressed into His Word, prayed the prayers of David and asked Him to Search my heart.
Now, freed from the acrid dungeon of bitterness, I can truly say I am thankful for this dark chapter of my life. The contrast, so stark, from darkness to light, reminds me of God’s faithfulness. Fourteen years later my husband was also ushered into the Kingdom of God. We are not the same people we were twenty years ago. Our hearts are for each other now. God is the center of our lives now. My needs are met through Christ now. The One who sustained me through years of being unequally yoked sustains me still. These are things He will do for you as well if you surrender your life to Christ. He takes up the mantel of your cause, fights your battles and restores your soul, enabling you to love the seemingly unlovable, even if it happens to be your husband, because you can be used as a conduit for God’s love when your heart is free of acrimony.
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.’
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4:6-10, NIV
Written by Marlene McKenna of havhope.