Growing up in rural Ontario, I spent most of my summers barefoot. Occasionally, a sharp pain would stop me dead in my tracks and after careful examination, I would discover a tiny thistle barely visible beneath the surface. I was always surprised that something so little could cause so much pain. Knowing from experience it was more painful to leave it alone, the only solution was to go after it aggressively, dig down to the root of it and remove it completely.
In Hebrews 12, God encourages us through His Word to search our heart diligently for the root of bitterness. Like that tiny thistle, bitterness can start small but left alone, it will only work itself deeper and deeper beneath the surface, causing more pain than it’s worth to just leave it there and try to go on ignoring it. Like a deeply embedded thistle, bitterness remains hidden until pressure is applied and then all of a sudden, it is impossible to ignore. If you are easily hurt or offended by people’s comments or actions, you can be sure that bitterness is hiding beneath the surface of your heart with a root that stems from past hurts or disappointments from family, friends, the church or even from God.
While God promises healing and restoration, this passage in Hebrews makes it very clear that it’s up to you – not God – to remove the root of bitterness from your heart. That means putting the pain from the past behind you, forgiving those who hurt you and allowing God to transform your heart and life into the image of His Son.
Your Father in Heaven desires to refine you and show His love to the world through you. Difficult situations and circumstances often reveal what is in your heart. Like the thistle, when pressure is applied, you can quickly pinpoint the source of pain and remove it completely from your heart and life. Sometimes it takes some digging to get to the root, but the result is that you can begin to walk in freedom to fulfill your God-given purpose and destiny.