Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter. (Revelation 8:10-11 NKJV)
In the great days before the Lord’s return, a terrible tribulation will be poured out on the earth. One of these devastating moments of wrath will be the poisoning of the water of the world. Wormwood means bitterness and because of this poisoning, the water of the world will become bitter and a many men will die from it.
It’s fascinating to ponder the things that are to come. We look forward and see the destruction that will inevitably consume the earth. We may even look forward and say it is well deserved for a wicked mankind. The truth, though, is that it’s really hard to imagine how destructive this wormwood, this bitterness and poison will be. Yet we know many will die, many will perish because of it.
This is not just a future certainty, but is also one of the most destructive and devastating forces on earth today. I am not talking about the physical poisoning of the waters of the world. I am talking about the poison of bitterness that consumes and destroys so many.
The destructive power of even the smallest amount of bitterness is clearly seen everywhere. Bitterness is the single destructive force in marriages. Bitterness is the single destructive force in families. Bitterness is the single destructive force in the workplace. Bitterness is the single destructive force in the church. Bitterness is the single destructive force in almost all relationships.
We often think that our anger at or hurt by someone is personal, it’s private, only I know about it. Make no mistake, bitterness doesn’t just hurt a single person or even just a couple of people. Bitterness defiles many.
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15 NKJV)
The author of Hebrews cuts right to the point. Bitterness defiles many. Why does it defile so many? Because it spreads like wildfire. It is seen in everything you do and say and people pick up on it and follow you. People are hurt by it and then they become bitter and it grows and grows and grows.
A very good friend of mine once told me that bitterness is like alcoholism. The alcoholic sees everything through the fog of alcohol. With bitterness, everything you see is only seen through the fog of bitterness. Oh, how true this is. Once you become bitter towards someone, usually about some trivial or petty thing, then you become hypersensitive to everything that person does. You see every action they make through the fog of bitterness. What that fog makes you see never matches what the reality is. Be sure of that! The fog makes you see every action as wrong and you just add to your bitterness.
This is why the author of Hebrews says to not let even a root of bitterness start. A root is something buried deep. It is small and unseen, yet over time can grow into a mighty tree. Bitterness is the same way. It sits inside you, often times unknown to even you, and then it starts to grow. It’s growth is like that tree. You don’t really see it getting bigger, but after time, there it is full grown and casting a shadow on everything. This is why it is so extremely dangerous.
The root of bitterness is in fact ego. Ego and arrogance are the driving force behind bitterness. Perhaps it started as righteous anger. Yet even righteous anger will soon turn to unrighteous bitterness. In the end, however, it really comes down to us wanting to believe that we are better than that person. We want to see ourselves as more righteous, more holy, more correct. So, we form more scenarios in our minds of why we are right and they are wrong. We convince ourselves that we have every right to be bitter.
Bitterness can be fueled by many things. Of course, our own ego wants to keep fueling it. But, I have observed in most cases of bitterness another startling fuel for the fire. I say it is startling because it really did shock me when I realized it. Bitterness is very often fueled by the people who claim to love you. It is fueled by those that want to “support” you. Those people attach themselves to your ear and they tell you how right you are to be angry. They tell you that they know you were wronged and those people who did it are horrible. And, they keep telling you over and over. Unfortunately, we begin to believe that these people are our closest friends. Why not!? They saw us through our most difficult time, didn’t they!? Did they? Or, did they enhance and prolong that difficult time?
Sometimes, it is even more subtle than that. Sometimes they come to you in false humility and say things like “Well, I know I am not perfect and have no place to speak, but…” That “but” is quite telling. They put you off your guard with the first part of the sentence and give you a false sense that they were coming in humility and then they quietly deposit a drop of poison in your ear. This can be anyone: friends, family, husbands, wives, whoever. Whatever follows that “but” is likely poison.
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8 NKJV).
Yep, James says it right in James 3:8. The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. We often think of this verse as just meaning those that go around wantonly slandering people. But it really is speaking of the subtle whispering of the friend in your ear. Be wary of this friend. I don’t care how much you think they have helped you or supported you. What has really happened is that they have poisoned you. It might not be intentional. They probably don’t do it to hurt you, but do it to make themselves look better than someone else. The Narcissist loves to slander others to make themselves look good. The reason to be wary: there might not be any cleanness in them at all.
Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? (James 3:11 NKJV)
Out of that spring comes bitter water. It is often masked as fresh water so you drink. And then you drink again. And then again. Over time, that poison has added up to the point of bitterness that can even cause malice.
There is only one cure, Jesus Christ. Through Him, you can be set free from the bitterness. But, you have to want to be free. You have to acknowledge it. You have to pray for discernment to see through the fog. You have to see where and by whom you are being poisoned and be watching for it. Most importantly though, you have to realize that you are no better than the person you hold bitterness towards. Humility is the only way out. Humility to know that you were lost and wretched and yet to know that Jesus loves you and has drawn you out of your wretchedness.
Clear your eyes. Remove your friends’ mouths from your ear and listen to Jesus. Stop drinking from that bitter spring and be set free.
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed! (John 8:36 NKJV)
I am not telling you these things just because I have observed them. I am telling you these things because I have lived it. I have felt the hurt. I have crawled along in the fog of bitterness slowly spiraling down into despair and anguish. I thank Jesus for being set free. What a day it is to come out of the dark fog into the morning sun and see clearly! What a joy to be free indeed!