So often we hear stories of faithful Christians who have now turned their backs on God, their faith, the church, and all things spiritually foundational in their life. How in the world can this happen? Well, the answer lies before us in Hebrews 12:15.
When we go through painful and difficult times in our lives, there will be a season to seize upon God’s grace enabling us to deal with our circumstances in a spiritually beneficial and healthy way. However, if we choose to let that season of grace pass and come up short of it, pushing God’s grace away when He offers it, the result will be bitterness that settles into our lives.
This bitterness is not directed toward the circumstances, it is directed toward God. We feel that God in some way has failed to meet our expectations. He has not moved or worked in the way we desired. This resentment toward God does not remain static. It moves from a smoldering or simmering resentment to expressions of anger toward God. Because we cannot physically in some way take out our growing frustrations on God, we choose to spiritually pull away from Him and everything associated with Him. This is where, for instance, most people who are atheists or agnostics start out. It is not that they never believed in God or thought He existed. It is actually quite the opposite. They once believed, but there came a circumstance in their lives in which God did not meet their expectations and they turned their disappointment and frustration into a platform of unbelief. In essence they are saying to God, “I’ll teach you, God! I just choose to not believe in You any longer and I will tell others you do not exist!”
The other direction our bitterness can be directed is against those in our sphere of influence. We cannot get to God physically, so we take out our anger and bitterness against those around us. Bitter people, if you have ever been around them, are very toxic. This is why our author declares in 12:15 that when this bitter root becomes planted in our hearts by rejecting God’s grace it “causes trouble, and through him (or her) many become defiled.” Bitterness reflects a smoldering resentment, a brooding grudge-filled attitude. It is the opposite of sweetness and kindness. It is the spirit of irritability that keeps a person in perpetual animosity making them sour and venomous. Do you know someone like this or does this attitude describe yourself? If this describes someone you know, then pray for them and seek to live before them by grace to be an example. If this attitude characterizes you, be repentant and turn back to God. We are not hurting God by harboring this kind of bitterness, we are only hurting ourselves and others. Bitterness only drives a wedge between us and God, and between us and others.
In times of trial or adversity, each of us has a choice. We can receive God’s all-sufficient grace and come through that season in our lives even better than before. Or we can push God’s grace away and refuse it thereby becoming bitter rather than better. Rejecting God’s grace comes with serious consequences. Give up your bitterness if it has settled in your life. If you are presently navigating the waters of life with God’s grace, then keep it up! You will never regret or be disappointed when you look back on your life that the grace of God was your constant companion.