Bitter Root Judgments & Bitter Root Expectancy
Last time we started the conversation about judgments. We talked about what I call ‘Simple Judgments’ and we took a little look at righteous judgment. If you haven’t read that yet, I would encourage you to read that first. I ended by saying that Bitter Root Judgments and Bitter Root Expectancies were the biggest plague ever unleashed upon the human race. Today, you’ll learn why.
Heb 12:14-16 Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord; looking diligently lest any fail of the grace of God, or lest any root of bitterness springing up disturb you, and by it many are defiled, lest there be any fornicator, or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.
A root of bitterness and a bitter root judgment are the same thing. They are closely held judgments that are there (in most cases) because of deep wounds and hurts. They have been there a long time and have polluted or defiled the heart of the person who holds these judgments. To make matters worse, this root of bitterness will spread to others and defile them which is why the writer of Hebrews warned against them. We often think that a root of bitterness just means unforgiveness to the point where a person is toxically bitter towards that person. While this is certainly included, it is really any closely held belief that is defiling your heart. Perhaps someone very close to you died of cancer and in crept the fear that you’re going to get cancer. Maybe your father was a drunk who lost his job and abused your mom and you. Now you believe that any man that cares for you will become a drunk and will abuse you. Perhaps you know of someone who came from a home like that. They got married and the person they married becomes a drunk and abusive. They divorce and later she finds another man and remarries. He also becomes a drunk and abusive. They divorce and she remarries and the pattern continues yet again. This is probably the reason or at least a factor behind this unfortunate pattern.
Before we get much deeper into this, it is critical that you understand this fundamental truth: bitter root judgments are in the heart, not in your mind. Your mind can say “oh, I would never thing this way or that.” But, your heart will cause you to do things, say things or behave in ways that your mind would think to be impossible for you to do. Let me give you an example; Have you ever had a situation where you were upset and then said horrible things and then when it was over, you thought “where did that come from?” or “I can’t believe I did that!” Well, as much as our minds can’t believe it, those horrible things came from our heart. Given the right circumstance, our mind will get out of the way and our heart will speak. Now, if those ugly words and actions can be lurking within your heart, then it should be clear that there may be bitter judgments in there also.
Let me give you another example. Let’s suppose that as a child you were abused in some way every year around a certain time. Year after year, this occurred. You dreaded when the calendar rolled over to that month because it meant more abuse. Now let’s fast forward many years later and even though you are no longer in that abusive situation, you still get nervous. You begin to get afraid and you don’t really understand why. In your mind, you understand that there is no more abuse and you know there’s no reason to be afraid. Yet, this persists year after year. Certainly, in this example, the root of bitterness can be long standing unforgiveness against the abuser. But it can also go deeper than that. Even though the abuser has been forgiven, this fear can remain. The reason is because the bitter root is really a destroyed identity. Because of what happened, this person believes it is supposed to happen to them. In a very real way, they are holding a judgment against their self. They are someone who is supposed to be abused. Somehow they deserve it. It’s their lot in life and they expect it every year. Now here’s the really sad part, they expect it and they RECEIVE it. This brings me to the other half of the equation which is “Bitter Root Expectancy.”
A bitter root expectation is the expectation that whatever the bitter root causes, will come to pass in your life. Perhaps a better term might be “Bitter Root Faith.” Let’s look at Mark 11:23-24:
Mark 11:23 For truly I say to you that whoever shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he said shall occur, he shall have whatever he said. Therefore I say to you, All things, whatever you ask, praying, believe that you shall receive them, and it will be to you.
Look at verse 23 …and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe… The key is what you believe in your heart. Your actions and words will come from that belief. Now, let’s go back to my previous example with the person who was abused every year. If the bitter root is “I’m always abused at this time of year”, then what is meant by “abuse”? Abuse is something bad that happens, something painful or hurtful. Really it’s anything that fulfills what you believe you deserve. So, now the calendar rolls over to that time of year again. You begin to get nervous. You don’t want to leave the house. You begin wondering what will it be this year? Perhaps your spouse has to go somewhere or do something and you get afraid and beg them not to. What are you really doing? You’re acting on your faith that something abusive is going to happen. You are speaking to that mountain and casting it upon your own head. You are bring it upon yourself because you have the expectation of bad things happening to you. Sadly this type of thing is far more common than you may realize. In fact, I think this is something that we all suffer from to one degree or another.
In my own life, I had a situation where I couldn’t pay my taxes and my bank account was levied and we lost everything in that account. Checks bounced. People got mad at me as if I had done it on purpose. It was traumatic. I found myself even years later making sure I had enough cash to cover a dinner out “just in case.” I was bound by the fear that this would happen again. The root became “I’m going to lose everything and I won’t even be able to pay for my meal.” Once I saw this, I began to look at other places in my life where this was happening. As the late Jack Frost once said, “if you have the fruit, then you’ve got the root.”
As I have studied this subject, I have read story after story of how this root of bitterness came to be and the havoc that it wreaked upon that person’s life and also those around them. Marriages are wrecked. Families are ruined. Friendships and other relationships are destroyed. Truly, this is like a plague that was sent to destroy mankind. Well, I may be exaggerating slightly, but not by much, as we will discuss in a later installment.
A lesson from Job
Job 1:1-5 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job. And that man was perfect and upright, and one who feared God and turned aside from evil. And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters. And his possessions were seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household, so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in the house of each one on his day. And they sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And when they had gone around the day of feasting, Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. So Job did always.
So, we can see from verse 5 that Job was in fear that his kids were in sin and cursed God in their hearts. He was acting upon this fear by constantly making sacrifices. Why? Because this was his expectation. The bitter root was the fear that they may be sinning and cursing God in their hearts. The expectation was that because they were doing this, they would be destroyed. He was trying to compensate for this by making offerings all the time. He was really trying to silence his own fear through religious service.
On one particular day, Job had messenger after messenger delivering bad news about how Job had lost all of his possessions. Then, even as the last guy was still speaking comes this devastating news.
Job 1:18-19 While he was still speaking, there also came another and said, Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house. And, behold, a great wind came from the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead. And I only have escaped alone to tell you.
Job’s children were all dead. Here’s Job’s own words about what happened:
Job 3:25 KJV For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
Job 3:25 Septuagint: For the terror of which I meditated has come upon me, and that which I had feared has befallen me.
From Job’s own mouth he reveals what was truly in his heart. The thing that he GREATLY feared had come upon him. I included the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) as it gives a deeper shade of meaning to all of this. There it says “the terror of which I meditated has come upon me.” It was those very things that was used by Satan in an attempt to destroy him.
Nothing has changed. Satan is still using these things (judgments) to destroy people. He is a legalist. If you’re clinging to a root of bitterness, then your heart is being defiled and you are opening the door to the enemy in one way or another. You will reap what you sow and if you’re sowing judgment, then you will reap judgment. You can dress it up like Jesus all you want, but judgment is still judgment. You can call it love, but judgment is still judgment and bitter root judgments are the worst of all because they defile and pollute the hearts of others. For Job it was a particular fear. For someone else, it might be anger/hatred towards a parent or sibling. For someone else, it could be the belief they cannot truly be loved. For another, the false belief that they have no value (worthlessness). The list goes on and on. All of these issues cause us to act or to react in ungodly ways. Unfortunately, unless the Holy Spirit reveals this to a person, they are generally blind to it. If you know someone like this, it will take prayer for their eyes to be opened that they might see it. That person also needs to be willing to take a long hard look at their own heart which isn’t easy.
I have more to say about these bitter roots and how to get free from them. We’ll cover that next time as we wrap up this important subject. Until then, may God’s richest blessings be yours in Christ Jesus.
Copyright (c) 2017-2021 M. Unruh