What is the most destructive force known to man? Nuclear weapons? Deadly viruses? Super volcanos or earthquakes? Certainly, these are destructive forces, but I wonder if there are other equally destructive forces that we carry with us each day.
Consider the power of hate, anger, bitterness, cynicism, sarcasm, mocking, and unforgiveness. We’ve all experienced each of these and perhaps have expressed them ourselves at some point. For some, it becomes a habitual way of living to carry these destructive forces each day and use them as if they were tools to make us feel better. Instead they are acids that eat away at our joy. And besides making us miserable, stealing our joy, and ruining our reputation and legacy, they wreak havoc on others’ lives too. Spoken or not, bitterness surely destroys a joyful and thankful heart.
I used to be an angry person. People who’ve known me for thirty plus years are surprised to hear it, because – for the most part – I got rid of it. Actually, it wasn’t my doing. I tried to temper my temper but anger controlled me, not the other way around. And anger led to bitterness, and bitterness to unforgiveness. It’s a relentless and destructive cycle that spins out of control. But one day, I found myself near the end of my rope with nowhere to go, except to look up and ask Jesus to take over. I’d done this before, asking God to take my burden, only to put it back on my shoulders before my prayer was over. Maybe you’ve done that too. But this time was different. This time, I could not take back the self-destructive burden of being bitter and angry. I just gave it up.
For the true follower of Christ, these destructive forces have no place in our behavioral repertoire. We’re not to put them on a diet or try to minimize their impact in our lives. We’re not to put them on a 12 step program. We’re told point blank to get rid of them, along with fighting, slander, and all kinds of malice.
God’s Word says our hearts are deceitful above all things. So it’s possible, even likely, to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness and not acknowledge it. Charles Stanley suggests a simple heart check to see if these destructive forces are lingering unnoticed:
“1. IF YOU HATE SOMEONE, YOU CANNOT SHAKE THE MEMORY. Does the scene play out in your mind over and over?
2. IF YOU HATE SOMEONE, YOU CANNOT WISH HIM OR HER WELL. Do you genuinely wish the best for a person who has hurt you?
3. IF YOU HATE SOMEONE, YOU WANT THAT PERSON TO HURT JUST AS YOU HURT. Do you secretly desire this individual to experience the same pain that was thrust upon you?”
If any of these or similar scenarios ring true, it’s time to ask God to search and purify our heart. Prayer and meditating on His truths are effective forces to counter hatred, anger, and bitterness. It’s not just a matter of study, but of asking the Spirit of God to get rid of the poison in our life; asking him for a heart that pleases him. And if bitterness has led to unforgiveness, there is only one solution: forgiving. After all, forgiving is for giving…to others and to yourself.
As a dedicated follower of Christ you and I are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). To do that we have to get rid of everything that doesn’t reflect His image. Don’t wait for the poison to complete its work. Today is the day to get rid of it…for good!
“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.” Ephesians 4:31-32