Bitterness on Fire

Smoky Sunset posted on Facebook Aug 27, 2018

He’s at it again. There she goes again. They’ve added more infractions to their already tall stacks. On, and on, and on they go, hurting me repeatedly. And while their lists of wrongdoings grow longer, my root goes deeper–my root of bitterness.

Every time pain is inflicted, I add another layer to my root. It is somewhat like the rings inside a tree trunk, growing more with an abundance of water. In this case, it is my root of bitterness, growing more with each drop of someone else’s behavior that I let seep into my heart. While their stacks of offenses mount, my root digs deeper. I am building something, just as they are, but instead of stacking things upward as they do, I am spiraling down, digging a deep, dark hole in the soil of my heart. And as I do this, I am going against God’s building plan. We are to be rooted and built up in Him, not torn down by our death grip on sin. We are to grow up into Him in all things, not let ourselves or others send us into a downward spin.*

God designed the soil of our hearts to be seeded with good things. It is to be plowed up and ready to hold things that will nurture us and nourish the lives with which we share the harvest. The rocks and the old roots, and any other debris, need to be removed for the best and most fertile conditions.

What will be pulled from the soil of our hearts at harvest time? Ugly, twisted roots that we neglected to tend to or beautiful grain and luscious fruit? What will the harvest of our souls provide to the souls of others?

Don’t do unto others the awful things they’ve done unto you; instead, do unto others as Jesus has done. Give lovingly, sacrificially, with a beautiful heart and a grand purpose. Follow His example. If anyone ever had a right to be bitter, it would be Him. But instead of allowing bitterness to consume Him, He served the world around Him, bringing hope, joy, peace, and healing. He replaced ugly debris in the world around Him with the beautiful gift of His love and salvation. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

We are to abide in Him. He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are not to abide in ourselves, trying to be the vine, making bitterness our root and using our branches to hit back at others. Jesus is the Master Gardener, and His forgiveness quenches every sin. He is the source of strength to help us defeat this obstinate and seemingly unconquerable problem of bitterness. He can miraculously uproot things from our hearts that ought not be there, if we will allow Him to tend the soil of our hearts. We can grow upward into beautiful trees of righteousness, plantings of the Lord, that He might be glorified.**

Let the root of bitterness be burned up in the fire of forgiveness.  And when the smoke clears, the beauty of grace will remain.

*See Colossians 2:6-7
**See what God can do for His people John 15:1-17, Isaiah 61:3, 10-11

 

©Text and photos, Francee Strain, October 26, 2019

 

Strong to the Core 2

It is a new year. New resolutions. New realizations: some of the same old same old found its way into my new year last year, and I expect the same will happen again this year—unless I go on the offense.

I find myself with this priority at the top of my resolution list: I am going to work on strengthening my core. Those flabby parts and over-sized sections that ought not to be there—the ones from the distant past that keep showing up, along with the new ones I tacked on in 2018—those are my focus. The weakness that resides within me—I am going to replace it with strength. I have a great personal trainer lined up for the task, and I have a willing spirit. Ready. Set. Go to Jesus.

Yes, I am going to be trained by Jesus. I need to work on the core of my spirit. The neglect of the previous years has caused me to grow flabby. Unwanted things like frustration, disappointment, prayerlessness, despair, and fear have grown in size. As I have neglected to deal with these problems, not removing them and replacing them with better things like love, forgiveness, hope, patience, joy, and boldness, I have grown weak.

I am my own worst enemy. If I do not wake up early enough to go to the gym before heading out the door to work, the slippery slope of neglect begins, because often by the end of the workday and the home tasks, I am too tired. I tell myself I will try and do better tomorrow, but tomorrow usually never finds me doing so. Change takes desire and commitment, time and attention, a want-to and a know-how. I want to. He knows how. So, let’s do this!

I look to my trainer, and I ask Him what I need to do. He tells me to approach Him and watch what He does, and then follow His example. I come to Him, trusting in His perfect knowledge and unfailing skill. He is kind, loving, and patient. He forgives me when I fail. He walks right along beside me, offering encouragement and further instructions. I take a step forward, and then another, and then another. And before I know it, I realize this is what I was made to do, and I am becoming who I was made to be.

My focus changes. My tone changes. My ability changes. I mature as I remain teachable. Soon, I have a passion for rising up to begin my day by being infused with strength. When my day comes to an end, I look forward to more of His presence beside me tomorrow. I close my eyes in sleep, and I know in my core that I am strong because of the strength that has been placed within me by the hand of God.

“[T]hat He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21 (NKJV)

© Francee Strain, January 2, 2019