Today’s Scripture: “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord. Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many.” — Hebrews 12:14-15
I enjoy taking walks in the local park through the trails in the woods. It’s a peaceful experience. The air is cool and crisp, the birds are singing, and the rustling sounds of busy chipmunks can be heard along the path. I often sit on a fallen tree by the river to pray while I listen to the calming sounds of the rushing waters.
One day, as I was about to get up to continue on my walk, I looked to the left and saw a small pool of water. It was protected by the roots of a thin tree, but the water in the pool was stagnant. I thought about its story, about how it might have ended up that way. I thought about how we can sometimes end up the same way, stagnant and ineffective in God’s kingdom.
The roots seemed to protect the small pool, keeping out forces that might upset its space. They reminded me of the walls of a fortress. They are meant to protect, but if they are too impenetrable, they keep out the benefits that can come from the outside world.
When we build up walls, their original purpose is to protect us. We use them to shield us from getting hurt by the words and actions of others. But our walls don’t help us deal with the problem, only hide from it.
I realized the stagnant water in the pool was like bitterness. Just as the roots of the tree kept out the water, allowing bacteria to grow, the walls we build cause bitterness to brew in our hearts. We are no longer receptive to the words of others. We even shut ourselves out from the work of God in our hearts. We continue to grow bitter and stagnant, rendering us ineffective in our service to God.
The water level of the river would sometimes rise when it rains, allowing water to flow over the roots and through the stagnant pool. This would only last for a short time until the water level decreased to its normal depth and the roots of the tree returned to shielding the pool. The water would grow stagnant once again.
There are times that, though we have our walls built up, the “water level” rises, allowing us to strongly feel the presence of God again. Our walk with Him feels stronger. This might happen through a powerful conference, an effective sermon, or an answer to prayer. These events get us hyped up, but only for a short time. They are merely external circumstances. We need to still feel fulfilled even when there are no external circumstances that are powerful enough to scale the walls we’ve built.
The only way to find this fulfillment is to break down our walls. It’s a scary thought because those walls have protected us from pain. However, the Bible says that the root of bitterness “causes trouble” and “defiles many.” Through allowing bitterness to fester in our hearts, we have not only hurt ourselves but also the people around us. To remedy this, the writer of Hebrews says to “pursue peace with everyone.”
To break down our walls, we have to deal with our bitterness head on. This may mean going to the people who hurt us and talking it out. It means finding forgiveness in our hearts. This allows us to get to the point where we are able to separate the helpful lessons we learned through our experience from the hurt that we feel. We can then keep the positives and let God take the hurt from us, healing our hearts.
Once we deal with our bitterness and the walls we’ve built, the peace of God is able to flow through our hearts, returning us to a state of greater fulfillment and effectiveness in Him.
Today’s Thoughts: Have you built up walls that are keeping you from feeling fulfillment in Christ? What circumstances caused you to build them? How can you work on dealing with any bitterness you’re holding onto in your heart so you can begin once again to walk in freedom?