How to Remove the Root of Bitterness from Your Life

A Christian woman with her face in her hands as she struggles with a root of bitterness

By Haley Hobson

When we hear the word “bitter,” what’s the first biblical reference that comes to mind? 

Some of us may recall the widow Naomi in the book of Ruth, who said, “‘Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,’…‘for the Almighty has made me very bitter’” (Ru 1:20). 

We digest Naomi’s heartbreaking loss and her sojourn of survival, then perhaps file her story under the category of logical reasons for bitterness.

Bitterness doesn’t always develop as a response to tragic life events. 

But, if left unaddressed, bitterness can creep in on the coattails of everyday anger.

Anger is a common human response to living in a fallen world. 

We may feel angry when life doesn’t go as planned or if a loved one hurts us. Anger can be a reaction to fear, frustration, injustice, grief, or stress. 

Even if we’re not faced with a life-altering tragedy like Naomi’s, anger can infiltrate our everyday lives in a myriad of ways.

We can’t always avoid anger, but how we handle it is crucial to our sanctification journeys. 

A Christian woman with her hands on her head and her mouth open in anger

How Anger Turns to Bitterness

Though anger and bitterness are closely related, anger precedes bitterness. Bitterness begins as a seed of anger, watered by the mind and allowed to sprout in our hearts. 

If we hold onto our anger, it festers and slowly stifles other fruitful areas in our lives.

When discerning between the emotions of anger and bitterness, consider these points:

  • Anger flares up in a present circumstance and dies down quickly. Bitterness fans the flame of resentment to a past situation.
  • Anger is an emotion we can control. Bitterness is a multilayered emotion that consumes us.
  • Anger is a visible outburst to a situation. Bitterness is the unseen posture of the heart.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:26 HCSB to “be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” 

Knowing the tendencies of the human heart, Paul encourages us to let go of anger quickly. Otherwise, clenched anger can sprout a root of bitterness (Heb 12:15) that pollutes and poisons the mind and heart.

Rooting out bitterness isn’t easy or instantaneous, but these five steps can help transform our hearts.

A Christian woman reading a Bible

5 Steps to Combat Bitterness

1 – Bring bitterness into the light.

Because bitterness is an internal sin others can’t see, we should bring it into the light as soon as we notice the roots growing. 

Bitter feelings fester and grow in darkness, but the light reveals the truth. 

In Ephesians 5:13-14 HCSB, Paul writes, “Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light.”

The first step to combat the root of bitterness is to admit our feelings to someone we trust. 

God gave us community so others can walk alongside us in life’s highs and lows. 

Fellow believers help carry our burdens to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2) and offer opportunities for healing through transparency, authenticity, and confession (Jas 5:16).

2 – Don’t avoid your root of pain for the bitterness.

Avoiding encounters with the root of pain is a surefire way to allow bitterness to fester. 

Sometimes, we strategically avoid certain events, people, or places that trigger the hurt of our bitterness. By doing so, we compartmentalize our bitterness and pretend it’s not seeping into other areas of our lives.

But attempting to isolate our bitterness only serves to bury it farther within ourselves. 

This makes it more difficult to unearth and bring to light.

Once we identify an area of bitterness in our lives, we should continue to walk in our daily routines and rhythms. Facing the triggers of our bitterness can become the tipping point to face and release our bitterness.

3 – Preach the gospel to yourself.

When we dwell on the injustice and hurt of our situation, we can easily forget how we have also caused others pain.

To overcome the root of bitterness, we can remember how Jesus is bigger than our current situation and past hurts. 

We can shift the spotlight from ourselves and point it heavenward with Christ as our eternal focal point. 

A Christian woman with her hands folded in prayer to combat a root of bitterness

4 – Pray for release.

Though prayer should be naturally woven throughout our daily lives, the weeds of bitterness can choke out the genuineness of our prayer lives.

While there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1-2), unconfessed sin becomes a wedge between God and us, hindering a close, personal relationship. 

This can affect our worship, service, understanding of the Word, and prayer life.

We should call bitterness what it really is—sin.

Bitterness refuses reconciliation, but reconciliation is the foundation of the gospel. God chose Jesus to restore humanity to Himself. 

5 – Give it to God.

Though it sounds simple, we uncurl the final finger of control from around our once-hardened hearts by handing our bitterness to the Lord.

Through this process of surrender, God may lead us toward reconciliation with others. 

He might leave some personal situations unresolved, but we can have peace because we surrendered it to Him.

We can trust God’s providence and sovereignty in our lives.

A Christian woman standing in the sunlight with arms raised and her face toward the sky expressing freedom from a root of bitterness

From a Root of Bitterness to Redemption

God redirects Naomi’s self-focused eyes of bitterness toward helping her daughter-in-law, Ruth. When Naomi’s bitterness ebbs, she assists in pairing Ruth with Boaz, a kinsman redeemer. 

When the couple later bears a son named Obed, we see the culmination of Naomi’s 180-degree transformation from bitterness to joy (Ru 4:14, 17). And we also discover this lineage produces the Savior of the world—our perfect Redeemer (Mt 1:5).

Though our own stories of bitterness may differ, we can also recognize God’s divine providence in our lives. 

God is at work no matter how long it takes to release our root of bitterness. 

May we never doubt His hand in our lives and the freedom of release and reconciliation.

Haley Hobson

Nestled at the foothills of the Northeast Georgia mountains, Haley, her husband, and their four kids have embraced small-town living with the great outdoors at their fingertips. Day to day, Haley helps her husband with his small business, serves in her local community, and wears many (often outlandish) hats for their kids. Connect with Haley at

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