Get rid of all bitterness. Ephesians 4:31
When Rebecca’s brother and sister-in-law started having marriage problems, Rebecca prayed earnestly for their reconciliation. But they divorced. Then her sister-in-law took the children out of state and their dad didn’t protest. Rebecca never again saw the nieces she dearly loved. Years later she said, “Because of trying to handle this sadness on my own, I let a root of bitterness start in my heart, and it began to spread to my family and friends.”
The book of Ruth tells about a woman named Naomi who struggled with a heart of grief that grew into bitterness. Her husband died in a foreign land, and ten years later both her sons died. She was left destitute with her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah (1:3–5). When Naomi and Ruth returned to Naomi’s home country, the whole town was excited to see them. But Naomi told her friends: “The Almighty has made my life very bitter. . . . The Lord has afflicted me” (vv. 20–21). She even asked them to call her “Mara,” meaning bitter.
Who hasn’t faced disappointment and been tempted toward bitterness? Someone says something hurtful, an expectation isn’t met, or demands from others make us resentful. When we acknowledge to ourselves and God what’s happening deep in our hearts, our tender Gardener can help us dig up any roots of bitterness—whether they’re still small or have been growing for years—and can replace them with a sweet, joyful spirit.
What areas of life do you tend to become bitter about? What’s growing inside your heart that needs God’s loving care?
God, help me to see the goodness in life You’re always displaying. And dig up any root of bitterness in my heart that dishonors You.
The book of Ruth isn’t the only time we see the name Mara or Marah (bitter) in the Bible. In Exodus we read how the Israelites had just escaped slavery in Egypt when God miraculously parted the Red Sea. After the Israelites crossed the sea, He released the water so their Egyptian pursuers were swallowed up. The result? “When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” (14:31). Yet, three days later, the Israelites couldn’t find water and began to doubt Moses (and God). They found an oasis, but because its water was undrinkable, they named the place Marah. God instructed Moses to throw a piece of wood in the water and it immediately became sweet (15:22–25; see Numbers 33:8–9).