For the past few days in Kenya, we have been waking up to very scaring news. Recently we woke up to some story that made tears to build up in my eyes, I could not control the pain I felt at the news about the death of a young girl, at 25, my age mate, who was just clearing with medical studies and had all her dreams set before her only to be brutally killed in broad day light with an axe by a man who claims to have loved her. I do not know her neither do I know her family but I was heartbroken, I developed a lot of interest in that story and I went ahead to read about the 28 year old guy who killed her, reports say that he had just finished his shift at work in Nairobi that morning without any signs of stress, before driving 300 kilometers to Eldoret where he committed the brutal murder. Reports also say that he is known by his colleagues as a quiet man who neither smokes nor drinks alcohol and always gets home straight after work. His parents and relatives said that it was impossible that he could have performed such a despicable act, one speaking to the media mentioned that they just thought perhaps he had been bewitched, it was unbelievable to everyone! The act by this 28 year old is still a puzzle. All kinds of speculations and wrath has been poured on social media, I have taken time to read through all the reactions from people after this act, with everyone taking sides according to their own perceptions and ideologies- to some he deserves the worst kind of punishment in human history, to others, the young girl should not have received Ksh. 14,000 from the guy and ladies should learn from that act and behave themselves. Well reading comments and the harshness depicted from fellow citizens made me to question what exactly could be wrong with our society? I mean what exactly got into that young man? Bewitched?- no I don’t think this explains his actions at all, what about the people who think that the young girl and other ladies deserve such a death? Are they also bewitched? What about the other news just the next day, the 24 year old woman who was killed just the next day by her lover? And other similar stories that have been hitting the headlines… men and ladies killed by lovers for different other reasons, relatives have slain each other brutally over this and this and when you hear the reason you just cannot match the exact reason at the time of murder and the act itself. Then in all this people are being slain by the people who claim to love them, close relatives or friends who in a normal context should love and protect them.
And as I kept reading and reflecting on this matter I came across some stories from scripture that led me to some light on the reason for the current state of affairs.
In 2 Samuel chapter 13, we are introduced to the story of Amnon and Tamar(who was Amnon’s step sister), most of us know the story, Amnon ‘fell in love'(whatever that was) with his step sister Tamar and he later schemed on how to lie with her, faked sickness and requested his father, David(who was a king) to send Tamar to serve him after which he raped her. Tamar had a brother called Absalom, who has become my person of study in this case. Absalom knew what Amnon did and invited his sister Tamar to stay with him and even soothed her telling her to forgive Amnon and not to take the matter to heart(Chapter 13:20), an advise Absalom never followed himself. In verse 22, the bible tells us that ‘Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad…’ But the bible records that Absalom hated Amnon for what he had done to his sister. In literal terms we can say that ‘alimnyamazia tu'(he just went silent on him). But it’s quite another story from verse 23- which the bible records that it was two years later that Absalom decided to take revenge on his step brother and invited him for what we would call a thanksgiving party for his progress, and Absalom organised for Amnon to be killed. Reporting to the king in verse 34, Jonadad mentions that Absalom had expressed this intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister, Tamar.
Well! Looking at this story makes me think over a number of things- Why after two solid years? Why did Absalom just keep quiet when the matter looked fresh? He actually acted to have forgiven Amnon and even urged the sister to do likewise, but for two solid years, bitterness kept building in Absalom’s heart each day till he killed Amnon.
Bitterness is the word friends, let us forget the other reasons for such acts, the root cause we need to uproot is bitterness. Absalom was a bitter man for two solid years, bitterness is like a root that unless it is cut off right from the beginning takes time to grow and mature with time. And just like we do not see the roots of a tree, bitterness is not noticeable- we might look very calm, very religious and go on with our normal business with a lot of bitterness in our hearts until its fruits manifest in public, not only are people shocked at the fruits but even the perpetrators of such acts cannot believe some of the actions they end up doing later.
Reading through the comments to this stories that make headlines, bitterness in our society is so loud! Actually it’s more painful to imagine that with such reactions, even punishment by law of the culprits does not necessarily prick out the weed of bitterness in our hearts. People look bitter over some matters that have happened in their lives; heartbreaks, friend’s betrayal, family conflicts, money conflicts, injustices done to them in the past and so on, and they plainly express it even by celebrating murder and injustice that we feel is a lesson to those who have wronged us before. The enemy has succeeded in using the object of bitterness we have nurtured in our hearts to destroy and kill us.
From my reflections I have come to a conclusion that bitterness is a weed that cannot be ignored anymore, I cannot underrate it, it needs to be monitored carefully and it is only by the grace of God that we can approach the throne of Mercy and ask God to help us not to be consumed by it. Was it fair that Tamar was raped by her own brother? Not at all! Was it fair that Ivy has been killed by the man who claimed to love her? Not at all! Is it fair that you have given someone money and they ill-treat you afterwards? Not at all! Is it fair that the person you loved the most has betrayed and heartbroken your heart? Family members have done all the things you call wrong to you? It is just not fair! Do you deserve to be bitter? Yes you do… But if you choose bitterness, it will destroy you completely, it is like a destiny killer which births a series of sins. Let us learn from Absalom, he seemed to have a bright future, as the favourite son of the king then, he could possibly be the king in the making, but bitterness grew in his heart, he killed his brother, he fled away from the kingdom, later he came back to try and overthrow his own father as king, he slept with his father’s concubines in broad day light. What had become of Absalom? This good brother to Tamar who had become successful in his keeping of sheep, and then has now becomes a murderer, rapist and revolts against his own father! Absalom’s destiny came to a very shameful end.
Have you ever had those moments as a christian when you feel you are so boiled up, you feel you should do something or say something, when you know its actually not right, whatever you are contemplating at the moment, you know very well,it would be sinful but you just can’t wait to do it. That is what bitterness can make us-Sin! God uses the image of a weed to describe some particular sins that have a way of creeping in our hearts, I think bitterness is one of them. It is not one of those flashy sins that you can see on the surface. In Heb 12:14-15 it is clear that it will one day sprout and once it does, many will become corrupted. In other words, if the root keeps growing it always brings a harvest of pain for us. Therefore we truly need the Lord’s help to yank and chop out that baby of bitterness up by the root!
The journey of not letting bitterness dwell in our hearts is not easy and that is why we need the grace of God, because people will heartbreak us, friends you trusted will betray you, family members will cause us harm and that is the reality of life because we live in a broken world. And so we need to take a minute-to-minute decision to keep focusing on the Love of our Saviour Jesus Christ, we need to learn how to vent it all to God and leave our bitterness and wrath towards God’s children on the Cross, and actually repent for it lest we continue justifying it and encouraging it to grow in our hearts. Many times I have had to ask God to prune out bitterness from my heart, and in so many cases I still don’t feel vindicated on some of the wrongs people have done to me, but I have learned the secret of recognizing my sin of anger rather than dwelling on the sin of the other person towards me.
The recent past months my life has been marked by quite some unexpected circumstances, one after the other, I started the year on a very low note, I felt hurt! I struggled with responding appropriately to the circumstances, I wanted to simply let people know of the hurt they had caused in my heart, their self-centeredness and to alert them that am going to write them off forever. I found myself angry, bitter, recounting every wrong these people had ever done to me(many times recurring habits), every slander, taking me for granted, harm to the people who are dear to my heart and so forth until one evening the Lord rebuked my sin of bitterness towards His children, and I took time to repent and God deposited tremendous peace and forgiveness in my heart. And I noticed that it is all I needed- even trying to punish wrongdoers with an attitude does not grant you any peace, it only makes it more difficult for you and keeps you in a constant effort to try find & show a ‘new and worse’ attitude to them thinking that they will be hurt by it and you will feel better!(which is never the case); Ignoring them and giving them silent treatment is not the correct vindication for your own emotional and spiritual health but sincere love, genuinely doing good to them and the right attitude that only the Lord can give is the only true mark of good health for you!
When you actually recognize that trying to take vengeance on your hands is not part of your job description you ask for God’s grace to forgive. People can treat you unfairly and walk away and act like everything is okay, actually in most cases that is how you will feel treated by some of the people closest to you, so you can choose to spent your time thinking about them, stalking them to make sure they are living a nasty life so that you feel vindicated and even making prayers for them not to succeed, worse enough you can choose to say nothing to them, neither good or bad, but hate them with the last bit of your strength and it will keep sapping your energy day by day and the fruits of that will yield in very dangerous ways. On the other hand you can choose the best way and the only right way to handle injustices- you can bring it to God in prayer and ask Him to help you to release them, you can be vulnerable before the Lord, vent to Him and recognize that bitterness has taken hold of your heart and you can by God’s grace ask him to walk with you towards healing and grant you peace, after which you can start praying for the people with Love for their success, blessing their lives with all sincerity. We should also be careful who we walk with because we can easily walk with people who encourage our bitterness and grow it even more by giving us advice that is not pointing out our sin by showing us gracefully that actually we are committing sin by choosing to live in bitterness. I am very grateful to God for the gift of mentorship through one special lady in my life, Rev. Josephine Nguuh, who has taught me so much and helped me grow. I was at one point sharing with her an issue I thought was unjust and how I had developed an attitude towards the ‘culprits’, and she gracefully and quickly asked me to first repent of my sin for having a negative attitude! Oh my, honestly that took me by surprise but it brought me to an immediate moment of soul-search and I actually noticed that I had been too deeply engrossed in what I thought they had done wrong and that kept justifying my attitudes and I had overlooked my sin of developing such a negative attitude in the first place, and later we held hands and I confessed and asked for God’s forgiveness. Since then am careful on what kind of advice I give my hurting friends especially when the object of their hurt is a God’s child, not ignoring the fact that they too feel hurt and need comfort but we should be watchful lest we sin in our hurting moments, because bitterness once encouraged is like a mother of other sins.
Ephesians 4:31- “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander as well as all types of evil behavior.” Most times bitterness travels in a nasty pack producing anger, slander and malice. If we do not manage it it keeps progresses and we begin to recruit others to it-(Slander), desire to do harm to the person and in turn joy is stolen, relationships are broken and our spiritual growth is stunted. I therefore think it is wise to ask ourselves often, “Am I bitter?”
In John 15:1 , Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener”. We should search our hearts diligently and be honest to ourselves and to God, He the gardener will uproot all kinds of bitterness in us and give us peace, he will give us hearts that are able to accommodate people and those that will always be quick to forgive without any desire to avenge ourselves. I have actually learned it’s not my job to tell God to vindicate me or how to do it, lest this keeps me in constant stalking to just ensure the people who wronged me are suffering. Actually God can forgive them and bless them, just like how David who was King knew that Tamar had been raped by Amnon and failed to do “anything” and Absalom decided to take the matter in his own hands and that ruined him. I have had to learn the hard way that how God decides to handle His children is actually none of my business- He may not choose to punish them as I had hoped, after all, if I personally got all the punishment I deserved for the wrongs I have done in life, perhaps I would not be here writing this blog- Mercy gave me a different story! Praise the Lord!
Our bitterness can be replaced with the fruit of Joy, goodness and love and we will always desire to do good to everyone who does us wrong if we choose to trust the gardener.
Let us see that we do not fail to obtain the grace of God out of bitterness.(Heb 12:15) and finally Romans 12:18- “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.”
So help me God!