When bitterness leads to death

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I read the Bible in chronological order and recently found myself reading the Book of Esther while listening to a series of sermons on the same book. I guess you could call it real immersion. (By the way, I’m also super excited to see Esther come to life at the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson in 2023!)

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

And then there is Haman. The man is definitely the villain of the story. Let me give you a brief summary.

After Vashti’s removal from the throne, Esther wins a beauty contest and becomes the new queen. His uncle Mordecai uncovers a plot to assassinate the king and becomes a hero himself. Unfortunately, the man hated Mordecai and sets out to destroy it, not realizing his relationship with the queen. During one particular sleepless night, the king demands 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 instructed to honor Mordecai – and he is furious! It is then that Haman plots to kill Mordecai.

In a bizarre 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 that 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 is a true representation of what happens when we are consumed with anger. Bitterness. Unforgiveness. Hate. Haman shows us the damage that can happen when we don’t follow 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 by anger and bitterness, it destroys our lives in other ways. It destroys the abundant life that God wants us to live.

I know it is much easier to talk about forgiving and getting rid of a root of bitterness than to make it happen. Trust me. I was here. Sometimes I still catch myself wallowing in my bitterness.

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

So how do we find the release of forgiveness?

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

I 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 lot of arguing) I decided to walk in obedience. The truth is that it was one of the most supernatural experiences of my life! It was as if God’s forgiveness was literally flowing through me.

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

Train your brain. The scriptures repeatedly tell us to focus our thoughts on God if we want his perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3, Philippians 4:8-9). We need to stop repeating the wrongs done against us and start repeating the goodness of God. We must repeat forgiveness.

When we choose to be transformed by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), we choose to know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). We need to train our brain to move away from the negative and focus on the things that are beautiful, noble, 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 hurting people hurts people? Have you ever thought about what your “enemy” went through to cause him so much dysfunction?

I like Matthew 9:36 where the scripture tells us that Jesus looked at the crowd with compassion because “they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. There is a photo from the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that reminds me of this writing. 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 on his face as he looks at the child in his arms.

And it’s the same compassion that our Father has for us when He looks at us. He sees our hearts beating as we go through this life, and His heart breaks for us.

It is the compassion we must have for those around us. We have to see behind the pain others cause us and see the pain they have suffered. By having compassion, we will find the ability to forgive.

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

Do you hate their adultery? What about our own pride? And their flight? I shudder at my own greed. Whatever their sin, I guarantee you that we also have a sin that is in equal or greater proportion. This is why the scriptures tell us that 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 that you will take the necessary steps to find the freedom that comes from forgiveness rather than walking this path of death like Haman.

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