Bitter Roots

by Jan Silvious

Anger, sometimes defined as "a strong feeling of displeasure," is a powerful emotion, so much so that it has been labeled a universal sin. It happens all the time and to all kinds of people. A perfectly pleasant conversation can be ruined when someone's displeasure surfaces. A perfectly happy relationship can be damaged under the assault of a displeased person. And a perfectly good day can be spoiled because the boss comes in with "a strong feeling of displeasure."

Anger is tricky because, unlike fear, the Scriptures say there is an appropriate time to be angry: "In your anger do not sin" (Eph. 4:26). I can become enraged over the mistreatment of a child or an animal, and if it is within my power, I will move to put a stop to the situation.

The kind of anger that is kindled by the abuse of a helpless living being is not destructive. But anger that is buried or improperly expressed has lethal power. God calls that kind of anger bitterness and warns: "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Heb. 12:15).

You can check yourself for bitterness in two ways:

1. Listen to yourself When you speak, do you make sarcastic, cutting, or heated remarks about the person toward whom you have a "strong feeling of displeasure?" Whenever his or her name is mentioned, do you have something negative to say? As God has been showing me this truth in my own life, I have identified some anger I have to deal with. Speech is the first-line indicator of a bitterness problem.

2. Observe your own actions. You may not overtly attack the person with whom you are angry, but how about the many subtle ways of getting your point across? The silent treatment, for example. Silence speaks volumes and, in case you think other people don't notice the tension your "displeasure" causes, think again. You may be priding yourself on the restraint you have shown in not attacking openly, but no matter how you may try to hide it, unresolved anger shows.

Give yourself the bitterness test today. If you passed, great! If not, you have a choice to make. God says you can pull up those roots. Get rid of them and move on.

From The 5-Minute Devotional

©Zondervan 1991

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