You’re out enjoying a walk and a tiny (yet what seems to be insignificant) stone sneaks its way into your shoe. You try your best to ignore it as it rattles around and pokes into your foot. Eventually, it becomes all you can think about. It’s a distraction, a nuisance and is becoming painful – a more serious issue. You have a decision to make: walk on and pretend it isn’t there or stop and take care of the problem.
As we journey through life, bitterness, like a stone in a shoe, can have a similar effect, yet in a much more damaging way. At times we will all be hurt and frustrated by others, yet we have the choice to continue to carry it, letting it fester in our hearts or release it to God. In Ephesians 4:31-32 we read “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Instead of harbouring bitterness, resentment and seeking out retaliation, we are told to live out the gospel of grace by extending forgiveness to others, just as Christ has forgiven each one of us.
In Genesis chapters 37-50 we read the account of Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. Eventually, Joseph’s life was restored by God and he was promoted to a place of leadership within the Egyptian government. When the opportunity arose for him to get even with his brothers during a time of famine in their homeland, he lavished generosity and grace upon them, ensuring that all of their needs were met. Despite the trials and hurt that he walked through, Joseph ultimately gave God the glory. The cure for Joseph’s bitterness wasn’t in getting even, it was in extending grace. The same cure is available for each one of us as we release our hurt and frustrations to the Lord.
Ireland for generations has been laced with bitterness within families, communities, political parties, religions, nationalities and unfortunately even throughout the Church. As followers of Jesus, we can start in our lives by being a living example of the freshness of forgiveness and being led by the Holy Spirit as pursuers of peace and reconciliation throughout this land.
Father, start with me. Help me identify the roots of bitterness in my life through Your Holy Spirit and help me to get rid of what has been festering within me. Help me to forgive others as You have freely forgiven me. Father, I pray that as You work in my life, You would speak into the hearts of people throughout Ireland and help them to set down any bitterness they may be carrying. May we extend forgiveness and seek out reconciliation. In Your name, I pray, Amen.