On Confronting Bitterness – Guest ArticleLianne Kernan – City of Angels ICC

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV

Sometimes we can go through moments in our Christian lives when we find it challenging to apply the scriptures. When close friends and family in the church begin to go astray, we can allow sentimentality to creep slowly in and confuse us. Undealt with emotion, plain and simple, is too often the foothold Satan uses to worm his way into the church and cause division. As disciples, however, it is our responsibility to uphold the purity of the church.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25 NIV

The scary thing about deception is that when we fail to do consistently what the Bible says, we become deceived. The problem with being led astray in our thinking is that we don’t know we have wandered off the path at that moment! The only way to cure a deceived heart and soul is to do what the Bible commands.

No one is perfect, leader or otherwise. The mark of a great leader is not someone who never stumbles and never makes mistakes but someone who stumbles, admits and takes responsibility for their shortcomings and mistakes. It is someone who repents, seeks to resolve and repair their relationships, gets back up again and never gives up. Praise God that, in a world of half-truths and deceptions, the Bible will always make a straight path for those who earnestly desire to love the truth and so be saved!

My prayer, sisters, is that we will allow the Bible to speak for itself. My prayer is also that we will then be able to use these precious words of God as a spiritual mirror that will help us to spot the areas we fall short in and then correct whatever is lacking in our example. The best way to study the scriptures is often to go simply word by word and focus on the definitions and synonyms described. Examining the meaning behind the words paint a picture for us and provides a guide for us to follow, independent of our emotions.



WHAT IT MEANS: All possible; the greatest possible degree of.

IN OTHER WORDS…Without exception. Each one. Whole. That means that there is no excuse not to do what comes next.


WHAT IT MEANS: A vigorous or determined attempt, the result of an attempt or a strenuous physical or mental exertion.

IN OTHER WORDS…attempt, endeavor, strain, work. That means there was a whole heartedness in going about making every effort. In the words of Yoda, “There is no try, there is only do.”


WHAT IT MEANS: To make one’s home in a particular place or with a particular person; to spend one’s life in a particular way or under particular circumstances.

IN OTHER WORDS…to behave, conduct oneself, comport oneself. There is a decision made to be a certain way, or bring about a certain behavior.


WHAT IT MEANS: freedom from disturbance; mental calm, serenity, freedom from civil disorder.

IN OTHER WORDS…composure, contentment, order, harmony. That means no panicked last-ditch efforts to lean on your understanding or bickering with others.

With everyone and to be


WHAT IT MEANS: Dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred, a person devoted to the service of God.

IN OTHER WORDS…godly, devout, God-fearing, spiritual. That means a concerted effort to stay pure and in the light every day. Devotion is not a one and done thing. It is a daily, hourly, minute by minute, second by the second decision to never give up fighting for transparency and purity. Another way to phrase it? Fully committed. You cannot have peace without holiness, nor can you have holiness without peace in the church.


WHAT IT MEANS: In the absence of, not having the use or benefits.

IN OTHER WORDS…lacking, short of, deprived of something. That means there is a serious consequence if we lack holiness and deliberately make excuses and give reasons for why we are faltering in our commitment to staying pure.

Holiness no one will


WHAT IT MEANS: Perceive with the eyes; discern visually, be a spectator of, deduce mentally after reflection or from information; understand, view or predict as a possibility.

IN OTHER WORDS…recognize, confer with, call on, turn to. That means we will be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding (Mark 4:12). To the pure, all things are pure. When we allow ourselves to become corrupted, we lose our holiness and nothing is pure anymore (Titus 1:15).


WHAT IT MEANS: Someone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler, a name for God or Christ.

IN OTHER WORDS…Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings. That means that without a consistent transparency, humility and fight for purity, we can no longer recognize our Lord! If we can no longer see our Lord, the one who has authority and power over us, how can we obey Him? We lose sight of him, and our way becomes unclear and confusing. Everything is murky. We can no longer see clearly, and therefore, we begin to doubt and stumble off the path. We begin looking back. And we lose sight of Jesus.


WHAT IT MEANS: To be sure, to not fail, to make sure.

IN OTHER WORDS…mind that you, take care to, be certain to. That means make it happen. See the task through to completion. Check. Double check. Probe. Dig. Verify. Take personal responsibility. The book of Hebrews was not written only for people in positions of leadership; it was written to the Christians at the time and for the benefit of all disciples. As the body of Christ, each member is responsible for the others (Romans 12:5). We are all responsible for upholding the unity and purity of the church, the bride of Christ!

That no one


WHAT IT MEANS: Fail to reach its target, be deficient or inadequate; fail to arrive at a required goal.

IN OTHER WORDS…to be insufficient, be wanting, be lacking, disappoint. That means to miss the mark, or to sin, to be unrepentant. It denotes an immaturity and a lack of skill. One through constant training develops great skill. Maturity is not merely aging in Christ, it is through constant use of the scriptures that we train ourselves to “distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) Training is hard work. It requires dedication, consistency, humility, teachability, fortitude, persistence and character. A lack of perseverance severely stunts our spiritual growth (James 1:4).

Of the


WHAT IT MEANS: Our salvation. The gift of the forgiveness of our sins. The gift of the Holy Spirit that agrees to dwell within us.

IN OTHER WORDS…There is a holy union, a bond, and we become part of the bride of Christ. Deliberate sin and nursing bitterness and resentment steal our salvation. It is a salvation issue! The consequence is if we continue to sin deliberately, we will eventually fall away. We are unfaithful to God, and we grieve the Holy Spirit within us.

And that no


WHAT IT MEANS: Angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment, full of anger and acrimony (bitterness or ill feeling), painful or unpleasant to accept or contemplate. Intensely cold.

IN OTHER WORDS…Sour, spiteful, churlish (rude, mean-spirited), hate-filled, poisonous, disagreeable, cruel, distressing, icy. That means if any of these words describe our behavior, we are on a path of mistrust, and we have become bitter. We now have a contagious virus, and if left unchecked, it will infect others.


WHAT IT MEANS: The basic cause, source, or origin of something, established deeply and firmly. Not easily removed.

IN OTHER WORDS…source, established, entrenched, ingrained,  frozen. That means we are paralyzed and fixed deep in a hateful and poisonous feeling or situation. Remember that there may be genuine reasons for bitterness to grow in our heart, but there are no excuses for bitterness. It is a dangerous and unmanageable addiction that will destroy our life and the lives of those it poisons.


WHAT IT MEANS: Undergo natural development by increasing in size and changing physically; progress to maturity, germinate and develop, come into existence and develop, become larger or greater over a period; cause to expand, come to feel or know something over time.

IN OTHER WORDS…to emerge, multiply, extend, progress. That means there is a lack of holiness. Sin is left to grow unchecked. We forget that all people are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. We forget to forgive because we were once forgiven. We refuse to let it go. We nurse the pain. We give in, feed it. We are dragged away and enticed. We let it grow until it becomes stronger than us and we can no longer control it. It becomes fully developed and gives birth to spiritual death (James 1:15).

Up to cause


WHAT IT MEANS: Difficulty or problems, the malfunction of something such as a machine or a part of the body, public unrest or disorder, cause distress, pain or anxiety.

IN OTHER WORDS…to cause strife, problems, disturbance, chaos, fighting, prey on someone’s mind. That means the natural symptom of the bitter root is that it causes confusion in the church (1 Corinthians 14:33). If we are the cause of disorder, we are not serving the God of the Bible; we are unknowingly serving a very dark and warped being. And that being is not our friend. That means our growing sin of bitterness, as it gets more and more unmanageable, begins to have an effect on others.

We take a victim stance and attempt to lead others astray by appealing to their sentimentality. We manipulate the emotions of others and try to gain their support through our stories on how we have been mistreated. Sadly, there is no personal responsibility taken, no willingness to resolve the issues. We become justified in our behavior, and our motives become skewed. We begin to spread our bitterness.


WHAT IT MEANS: To sully, mar or spoil, to desecrate (to treat with violent disrespect) or profane.

IN OTHER WORDS…to violate (break or fail to comply with, fail to respect, treat something sacred with irreverence or disrespect), debase (reduce in quality, discredit), degrade (treat or regard someone with contempt or disrespect), rape. These descriptions make it very clear why bitterness is such a grievous sin.

Bitter roots are a dangerous form of abuse, not only towards the people it violates, not only towards the conscience it sears and violates,  but because it dares to abuse and violate the Holy Spirit dwelling within us! If we are the abusers (the ones spreading the bitterness), and we deliberately continue to do so, how can the Holy Spirit grieving inside of us remain? If we are the unfortunate victims of the bitterness, we must fight with everything that we have to flush it from our entire being, lest it worm its way into our hearts and we too become the abusers! Abuse desensitizes us if we do not heal from it. Unhealed, the ultimate horror comes to fruition and we become the violator. We lose our spiritual innocence. We must fight to get it back, for the Holy Spirit cannot reside where no sacrifice for sins is left!


WHAT IT MEANS: A large number of, the majority of people.

IN OTHER WORDS…numerous people, countless people, droves of people. That means bitterness has a ravenous appetite. It never stops at one. It infects many.

How To Spot Bitterness

How do we identify bitterness in someone? How do we differentiate between weakness, hurt and bitterness, and resentment? Too often the lines become blurred, and we administer the wrong spiritual medicine for the wrong spiritual ailment.

“The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.” 1 Timothy 5:24

Bitterness is a mixture of hate and anger. It is anger that has been nursed for too long and has gone unresolved. Left unchecked, it digs down deep and wraps its roots around our heart. If left untreated, like cancer, it can become almost impossible to remove without killing its host. Spiritually, we must take bitterness and contempt very seriously as it has killed many of God’s people.


-A profound and real injustice or hurt.

-Iciness in behavior

-Depression and negative thinking

-A deep victim mentality (inability to see their fault in a situation)

-Disrespectful behavior

-Demonstrating an intense dislike

-A lack of humility

-Defensive behavior (blame-shifting)

-Begin spending more and more time with notoriously bitter people (the enemy of my enemy is my friend syndrome)

-Causing trouble (writing slander)

The Conclusion Of The Matter

What shall we say then? Now that we see the call of the scripture, it is time to hold ourselves up to it and examine what it reveals is lacking in us:

Did we see to it? Did we make every effort? Have we lacked consistently and deliberately lacked holiness? Have we fallen short of the grace of God? Have we been bitter? Have we defiled many as a result?

Do not rationalize, do not skirt the issue.

There may be reasons, but there are never excuses. As the saying goes, “If it is important, you will find a way, if not you will find an excuse.” Where words are many, sin is not absent (Proverbs 10:19). Have we obeyed this scripture?


If the answer is no, the next question is clear:


What good is it to examine this scripture and then turn away from it without making a decision to obey it and then actually apply it? The Bible must be put into practice! Our next study will deal with how to repent from bitterness and resentment. Sisters, let us spur one another on towards love and good deeds: let us fight for righteousness!