Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

When Bitterness Leads to Death

I have been reading through the Bible chronologically, and I recently found myself reading through the book of Esther while I also listened to a sermon series about about the same book. I guess you could call it a true immersion. (On a side note, I am also super excited to go see Esther come to life at Sight and Sound Theater in Branson in 2023!)

Esther is definitely the central character of the book, but there are multiple co-stars. Normally, I think about Esther and her bravery in confronting the king and saving her people. Mordecai, Esther's uncle, is often recognized for his wisdom and integrity. Vashti, who was deposed from her position as queen, is often overlooked but I find myself having great respect for her.

And then there's Haman. Human is definitely the villain of the story. Let me give you a quick summary.

After Vashti is deposed from the throne, Esther wins a beauty competition and becomes the new queen. Her Uncle Mordecai uncovers a plot to assassinate the king and becomes a hero himself. Unfortunately, Human hates Mordecai and sets out to destroy him, not realizing his relationship to the queen. During one particular night of insomnia, the king asks to hear  the story of his reign. As only God can, the king hears the story of Mordecai saving him from assassination. The next morning, Haman is directed to honor Mordecai--and he is furious! That's when Haman plots to kill Mordecai.

In a strange twist, Haman's plan to kill Mordecai fails...miserably. Instead of having Mordecai impaled on the pole he built, Haman loses his life on the very instrument built to kill Mordecai.

Haman's bitterness led to his death.

We all know Christians are commanded to forgive. We are told not to let a root of bitterness grow in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15). We often hear that unforgiveness is a poison that will kill us.

But Haman stands as a true representation of what happens when we are consumed with anger. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Hatred. Haman shows us the damage that can occur when we don't live God's way.

Are we going to be impaled on a pole if we refuse to forgive? Most likely, no. But, when we allow ourselves to be consumed with anger and bitterness, it destroys our lives in other ways. It destroys the abundant life God wants us to live.

I know it's a whole lot easier to talk about forgiving and getting rid of a root of bitterness than it is to actually make it happen. Trust me. I've been there. Sometimes I still find myself wallowing in my bitterness.

But I've also experienced the perfect freedom that comes with forgiveness and it is absolutely amazing! It is a freedom I would never want to lose! It is such a gift from God!

So how do we go about finding the freedom from forgiveness?

Pray. Honestly, I don't believe that true freedom is something we can do on our own. It's something God does in us and through us.

I've told the story of hearing God tell me to forgive the woman who had an affair with my first husband. I couldn't believe God was telling me to extend forgiveness, but (after a bunch of arguing) I decided to walk in obedience. The truth is, it was one of the most supernatural experiences of my life! It was if God's forgiveness literally flowed through me.

If god calls us to forgive, He will also give us the ability to forgive. We simply have to ask and walk in obedience.

Train your Brain. Scripture tells us repeatedly to focus our minds on God if we want His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3, Philippians 4:8-9). We must stop rehearsing the wrongs done against us and begin rehearsing the goodness of God. We must rehearse forgiveness.

When we choose to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we choose to know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).  We must train our brains to move away from the negative and focus on the things that are lovely and noble and true and right.

When we practice repeatedly, we learn new ways of thinking. We are truly transformed.

Choose Compassion. Have you ever heard the phrase that hurt people hurt people? Have you ever thought about what your "enemy" has experienced to cause him or her so much dysfunction?

I love Matthew 9:36 where scripture tells us Jesus looked at the crowd with compassion because "they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." There's a picture from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that reminds me of this scripture. The photo shows a firefighter carrying the bloodied body of a 2-year-old child out of the building. You can see the pain and compassion in his face as he looks at the child in his arms.

And that's the same compassion our Father has on us as He looks at us. He sees our battered hearts as we walk through this life, and His heart breaks for us.

That's the compassion we need to have for those around us. We need to see behind the pain others cause us and see the pain they have experienced. By having compassion, we will find the ability to forgive.

Remember our own sins. It's so easy to look at others' sins and forget that it's only the grace of God that prevents us from being in the same situation. Maybe others sin differently than we do, but we all sin.

Hate their adultery? What about our own pride? What about their theft? I shudder at my own greed. Whatever their sin, I guarantee we also have a sin that is in equal or greater proportion. That's why scripture tell us we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).

It's so easy to get caught up in someone else's sin and forget that Jesus Christ died for us, too.

I know it's hard to forgive. I know it's hard to remove the root of bitterness. I also know it's worth it. I pray you will take the steps to find the freedom that comes from forgiveness rather than walking that road to death like Haman.

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