“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15).

reflect

Everyone remembers their first bike.

Mine was a black Columbia BMX with yellow pads and a yellow seat.

I got it for my birthday, and I was thrilled to have my very own bike—and to be rid of the hand-me-down bike with a banana seat I had been riding.

I beamed with pride as I rode up and down the alley behind our house in the Highlands, and occasionally, I’d ride to Tyler Park or Mid City Mall with my older brother and sister.

On one trip to the mall, we chained our bikes to the bike rack in front of Zayre department store and went inside to shop. I can’t remember why we were shopping because I rarely had more than a dollar stuffed in my tube sock. Maybe we were just looking at Star Wars action figures we couldn’t afford.

When we left the mall, the revelry ended.

There before me was my new bike stripped of its pads and seat cover. It looked thin and naked, and I let out a deathly wail that attracted bystanders.

I was inconsolable.

My siblings eventually calmed me down, but I didn’t want to ride my “ruined” bike home. My brother let me ride his bike.

The whole incident seems inconsequential today, but at 8, your bike is everything. Looking back, it almost seems like it was more an act of vandalism than theft because what was taken from me had very little value to anyone but me.

At 8 or 88, having something stolen from you makes you feel miserable, helpless and angry, usually at the same time.

My parents found and bought replacement pads and a seat cover, which didn’t quite match, but it made me feel better about the situation. Though obviously, I’m writing about it 35 years later, so I never completely forgot.

All of us have been wronged at some point in our lives. We’ve been stabbed in the back, cheated, abused, neglected, lied about, stolen from or countless other things.

Each time I rode my bike, it reminded me of what had been stolen from me, and feelings of resentment welled within me. Granted, those feelings faded after a little time, but emotional wounds can last a lifetime.

Each time we think about how we were wronged or who wronged us, resentment wells within us, and eventually that turns into bitterness.

There’s an old saying: “Bitterness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”

Though time helps heal our wounds, the only true way to rid ourselves of bitterness is to forgive the person who wronged us and to repent of the sin of hate and resentment.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiving someone who wronged us is not something we can do in our own power, but the Holy Spirit living within us can free us from the bondage of bitterness. You just have to ask.

react

>Are you harboring unforgiveness against someone?

>Have you ever suffered the ill effects of bitterness in your life?