The Lord is gracious to give me perspective regarding my everyday life when I actually step out of that everyday life for a day or two. Blurry thoughts become clear. Mountains are seen as only molehills. Priorities fall into laser-sharp view. Renewal, so desperately sought, comes instead like a whispered surprise. I remember how to smile and dance and sing silly songs again.
I went away with childhood friends last week, and being the gracious God he is, the Lord renewed. The path to renewal, however, began with recognition. What I've labeled happening to me over the last few weeks as weariness and discouragement has really been bitterness building in layers over my soul, untouched and hardening like plaque.
Bitterness is deceptive, because it points blame at others when really there is unacknowledged hurt and fear within. But bitterness is more than that: it's acid eating away at joy, cynicism that wants to take everyone else down with you, and exhaustion born from carrying compounding negative emotions.
I told one of my friends I was filled to the brim with cynicism, and she said the wisest and simplest thing she could've said: "Take it to the Lord."
I hadn't considered confession. I hadn't thought of telling the Lord that my heart felt so hard that no amount of my own thinking, rationalizing, or work could break apart my brittleness. So I did as she suggested and took it to the Lord, and a wave of hope hit almost instantly. The hope wasn't that I was suddenly free from bitterness, but that he would do the necessary work on me, that I didn't have to stay in my sin.
Not coincidentally, I've been in Hebrews in my daily Bible reading, and I saved Hebrews 12 until I got back home--back in that everyday life that can exhaust and choke with sameness and work and burdens. I savored the familiar phrase that I love so much: "Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith." Later the writer specifically mentions bitterness as a weight to lay aside: "See to it...that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled." I suppose bitterness is more like a vine that springs up and wraps itself around us, tripping us up, stalling the race.
Confession and repentance are gifts from God. He uses them to clear our blurry eyes, refresh our hope, and make soft our hardened hearts. He's done so for me, and this one who's been redeemed is saying so. I'm happy to report that I'm up and running my race once again, eyes off myself and on my Jesus.
Perhaps you too recognize bitterness hardening like plaque inside you. I'll tell you what my friend told me: "Take it to the Lord." He'll receive you gladly and trade your hardened heart for renewed clarity, hope, and joy.