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Heart of Sweetness

“Keep your heart with all diligence. For out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov 4:23).

Guard your hearts. We often talk about guarding our hearts against active evil - unedifying, sinful thoughts. But a more formidable evil can creep into our hearts, stealthily nesting there: “[Look] 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” (Heb 12:15).

Bitterness is a consuming fire. It erodes our rationality and justice in decision-making, influencing our response to events and people. Bitterness hurts the person harboring it more than anyone else. It stands as a heavy door shutting out warmth and sweet tenderness that is meant to fill a heart close to God. No one with bitterness can experience the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit or the joy of being filled with God’s love.

Think about Naomi, whose name means “sweetness.” Upon returning to Bethlehem, she asked to be called “Mara” (which means “bitterness”). Poor choices in the past led her to much bitterness, from the loss of her loved ones to the hardships of destitute life (Ruth 1). Bitterness can also spring from interpersonal relationships, even inside the church! In the course of serving God, if views differ or another’s actions hurt, we may unwittingly allow ill feelings to linger within us. Bitterness will eventually spring up and defile our hearts.

The Israelites once encountered bitter water at a place called Marah. Only God could turn the bitter water to sweet water that quenched their thirst (Ex 15:22–27). Later, they were led to Elim, where there was abundance of water. If bitterness is in our hearts, the best antidote is God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps 51:10). Prayer is the only way to rid ourselves of bitterness once it’s set in. Deep communication with God can lead us to feel His love, and only God’s love can uproot bitterness. There’s no place for darkness in our hearts when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Sweetness prevails when we truly feel we are loved by the Almighty God. May our hearts turn from Marah to Elim, luscious with God’s sweetness and grace, nourishing our own spirit and that of those around us.

Reflection Questions:

1.      What grievances do we have that are not resolved?

2.      Are they fast turning into bitterness in our hearts?

Author: Shuhong Lin