A ROOT OF BITTERNESS UNCHECKED
It is fairly simple to lose sight of the need for the Lord’s approval. The effects of deviating from His standards may not be evident to you and others for a long time. As a result, more and more frequently these days I hear about another “model” couple who, after twenty years of marriage, are getting a divorce.
One such marriage might have been saved if they had heeded this biblical advice:
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 12:15, NKJV
I was sure this couple had a marriage that was grounded solidly on mutual devotion to each other. He had poured twelve years of his life into a service organization. He worked long and sacrificially, and his wife was by his side, supporting him. We all admired their commitment and even thought of them as a model couple who put serving the Lord as the top priority in their lives.
Then we heard the chilling news that he had resigned from the organization, was divorcing his wife, and would marry another woman. Everyone was shocked; all of a sudden this model marriage just collapsed. I had a chance to talk to him about the surprise development. He was quick to assure me, however, that there was nothing sudden about it. This break had been coming on for years.
He and his wife encountered conflict from the beginning of their marriage. The first issue was over money; she failed to record checks she had written. The monthly bank statements were consistently different from his checkbook. He brought the matter up repeatedly; she ignored the problem. After a few years he quit trying, but a root of bitterness developed in his heart.
There were other issues. One was a running battle about punctuality. They differed over rules for their two teenagers. Another issue was the level of involvement with their immediate families. These issues had rocked along unresolved for seventeen years.
Strangely enough, they had worked together on one project: creating the impression around friends and associates that they were a happy, cooperative couple. But in reality, skillful deception covered growing bitterness.
Eventually his work on a certain committee placed him next to a rather plain woman. He helped her into her chair and at the break he served her coffee. Nothing unusual about that. At the next meeting he arrived early, as was his custom. He was the first one there, and the second one, also early, was the woman who had sat next to him. He complimented her on being early. She replied that this was her custom, but when she went to meetings with her husband, they were always late. He remarked that he and his wife had the same problem. She complimented him on his attentiveness, remarking that her husband never paid much attention to such things.
He was given responsibility for producing a report, and she was to help him with research and typing. She was prompt and cooperative. He remarked that he wished his wife would work with him like that. He found himself thinking about this woman frequently. Once, they had lunch together to plan their report. His hand brushed hers and lingered there. She began sharing some of her problems with her husband, and he sympathized with her because he, too, had some problems with his wife. After lunch, she took his arm as they walked to her car. He found himself thinking about her in the office, and on an impulse, called her and offered to pick her up for the next committee meeting. After driving her home, they sat in front of her house and chatted a while. He walked her to the door and gave her hand a squeeze as he said good-bye. After the next meeting, they spontaneously kissed, which was an electrifying experience that he hadn’t enjoyed for a long time.
What these two people had in common was a root of bitterness. As a result, they had forgotten the sweet times in their marriages, and any grace toward their partners departed from their hearts. Along with the bitterness, uncontrollable lust flared up. From that point, reason went out the window and before they recovered, they had broken up two marriages, ruined two careers, and ended up married to each other. They soon found that they had new conflicts to deal with in each other.
Since then, they have come to their senses, have sought God’s forgiveness, and are trying to repair the damage that has been done. They are finding out that they have no good options, but that they must make the best of a hopeless mess: two successful careers and two marriages died.