We had no idea weeds could be so hard to pull.
The half acre of land, where 0ur new home had just been built, was covered in weeds. But we had visions of a well-manicured lawn surrounded by flowers, shrubbery, fruit trees, and a garden full of luscious berries, fruits and vegetables. And so we attempted to remove the weeds, which ranged in size from two inches to three feet tall.
We thought it would be easy — grip, pull and toss.
Unfortunately, the weeds were tenaciously riveted to the ground with roots very reluctant to leave the hard-hearted bosom of Mother Earth.
Had the weeds produced food or beauty, we would have been thrilled with such healthy plants. But these were obnoxious, repulsive weeds which would overtake all our efforts to beautify our surroundings, and eventually kill the love, joy and peace of home ownership.
So, with gloves and shovels, my wife Darla and I attacked the weeds, straining and struggling. And after several days of blistering work, we had completely weeded that half acre. Though we keenly felt our aching backs and hands, we were glad to have seen the deforestation project through to completion.
What a work-out!
The memory of that tenacious vegetation reminds me of another root that can be equally as frustrating and destructive.
What is this pernicious, obstinate, unyielding root of ill-repute?
The weeds of the heart
The wisest Botanist this world has ever known identified the source of weeds in our hearts in a life-gardening manual He inspired, commonly known as The Bible. In it, He identified the source of weeds in our hearts as the “root of bitterness.” These roots reportedly trouble and defile many people who would like to know how to forgive someone completely.
Confession time — the “many people” includes me.
Through the years there have been times that I have peered into the backyard of my life and found the root of bitterness sprouting several varieties of weeds, obnoxiously disturbing the tranquil scenery I try to maintain.
- Denial — The weed that leads me to pretend that bitterness doesn’t exist in my soul or that it would simply wither away.
- Blame — The weed that influences me to believe others are responsible for planting or removing my attitude of bitterness.
- Criticism — The weed which sabotages and strains my relationships.
- Discouragement — The weed that robs me of the peace I yearn for, and dampens my hope.
So what is the Roundup® for my soul, the spiritual Weed-B-Gon® to rid my life of the root of bitterness that plagues the garden of my heart?
Herbicide for the weeds of the heart
The formula to kill weeds in the heart is found it in another section of the life-gardening manual (Mathew 18). It’s a story about a merciful king who forgave an ungrateful citizen for an impossible debt. Planted within the story is the formula for creating a certain herbicide that destroys the bitterness root within our hearts.
The herbicide formula is to “forgive, from the heart, forever.”
- Forgive? Ouch – that’s potent! But the story shows that it’s imperative. No exceptions!
- From the heart? Yes, because forgiving is more than a cranial action. It’s not just in your head. Forgiveness must come from the very place in which the hateful root of bitterness grows.
- Forever? Did you see it at the very beginning of the story? Peter thought forgiving a person seven times was pushing it way beyond reasonable limits. Yet, Christ’s mandate of forgiving 490 times suggests an action which never stops, regardless of another’s actions or attitudes.
But HOW do we forgive from the heart?
That formula sounds good, but how can you forgive someone from the heart when your heart is saying…
“They aren’t even sorry.”
“She doesn’t want to change.”
“He doesn’t care that his words cut like a knife.”
“They don’t think they did anything wrong.”
Thankfully, God gives the answer in the form of application instructions.
Step 1: Admit my bitterness
The very fact that the servant asked for mercy (vs. 26) shows the admission of a problem. And for me, denying, hiding, or ignoring a problem has never removed it. However, when I simply agree that this acrid root exists, then I am able to start dealing with it.
Step 2: Be moved with compassion
The second step involves developing compassion for the person who did you wrong (see verse 27). We can do that by:
- Remembering how much God has forgiven us. This germinates juices of compassion like nothing else can.
- Separating the person from their actions. Jesus did this when He said, “Father, forgive THEM (the person), for they know not what they DO (their actions),” Luke 23:34. So look for and focus on the good in the person. And though it may be hard to believe, each person has some good in them!
- Seeking to understand why they do what they do. This doesn’t justify their hurtful words or actions. But it does help create a climate of compassion for the person, their struggles, what they’ve experienced in life and how those experiences may have influenced their behaviors.
Step 3: Release the perpetrator
Forgiveness has been defined as “giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” Releasing them means not reminding them of their mistakes or behavior, not trying to make them pay, not demanding change before forgiving them… to the point of genuinely wishing them well.
Step 4: Overcome evil with good
Our heavenly Botanist also instructs us to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Overcome evil by praying for those who have wounded me, by thinking and acting loving toward them, by affirming their strengths, by manifesting goodwill toward and doing good things for them.
“But they don’t deserve it!”
True. I don’t deserve God’s goodness either. But that’s what grace is all about. And grace means doing something good regardless.
“They’ll think I’m condoning their behavior.”
Maybe. But more important, they’ll see a fresh view of God’s goodness, which seems to be the only thing that leads any of us to repentance (see Romans 2:4).
“But what if they don’t change?”
Indeed, they may never change. But the important thing is that you will. For the better!
The change will come in the form of uprooting the feelings of bitterness that are eating away at your heart.
At last, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor
If the root of bitterness has been hiding in the garden of your heart, wouldn’t you like to apply this formula to get rid of it?
Is there be someone in your life whom you haven’t forgiven, from the heart, forever?
I pray that God will give you the discernment, desire and power to apply this special herbicide that He has approved and provided.
After all, it comes with this trustworthy warranty: “Satisfaction Guaranteed!”
Still find it hard to forgive?
Maybe you have tried some of this formula before, but still find it hard to know how to completely forgive someone. Sometimes things that are the most beneficial are also the toughest to do.
If you still struggle with the roots of bitterness, I invite you to make your needs known. Don’t hold it in your heart. It will only make matters worse.
Why not join our free membership forum for our readers. We have a special section in our forum for prayer, as well as a section for your questions. When you post your requests or comments, one of our pastoral staff will be happy to pray for you and answer any questions you have.