Did you ever notice that occasionally one single word keeps assaulting you? Perhaps it’s a word that normally would glide by in a passage you are reading or in ordinary conversation. But at another time in your life that single word stings and you wonder why it never affected you that way in the past. It’s probably not a coincidence that a specific word captures your attention.
I’ve been “reading” (listening to a recorded version) the novel Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese—a compelling story, beautifully written. Listening to the book yesterday I heard a passage about a doctor who was dying without regrets, but who understood that a man may die knowing that his biggest regret is leaving bitterness in the heart of someone who loved him. The doctor said, “I’ve been blessed. My genius was to know long ago that money alone won’t make me happy . . . But one thing I won’t have is regrets. My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts.”
And earlier there was the fortune cookie with the quote from Confucius—“It is better to live in peace than in bitterness and strife.”
Today in worship service, Pastor Mark was preaching on Ephesians 4 and the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Get rid of all bitterness.”
Bitterness is the word that has been assaulting me the past few days. I thought about the person I loved who died leaving bitterness in my heart. Over the years I have tried releasing this bitterness, tried through sheer strength of will to expel it. Obviously my will is not sufficient for I have not been totally successful doing it on my own. The passage of time and self-help books and medication and sayings in fortune cookies have not erased my bitterness. God must have wanted me to pay attention because he keeps putting the word in my path. I stand convicted.