See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Hebrews 12:15

It was not an easy time. My husband, Ray, had been invited by West Point, his alma mater, to attend graduate school, all expenses paid, and then to teach at the United States Military Academy. In fact, if he wished, he could get a master’s degree—and his doctorate. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer. I mean. Wow. Free PhD? How cool was that?

It wasn’t until we were too far into the decision to back out, that we realized “free” wasn’t exactly … free. God blessed us with two little girls just 15 months apart, and our second one arrived during those two years Ray was in grad school. I juggled two in diapers while he juggled extra courses. We had a great church and support system and somehow it was working, even though we both felt a bit frazzled and disconnected from each other. Yet … as I handled the household alone and soldiered on, tiny little roots of bitter discontent began popping up in my brain.

Then Ray became a professor at West Point and writer of a dissertation—and that’s when life became unbearable for both of us.

Ray had to leave early in the morning and drive half an hour to West Point to teach. He’d return home and go directly to his office to create lesson plans, grade papers and write another chapter in his dissertation. He ate with us … barely … normally without speaking and returned to his office until bedtime. He was always exhausted and always felt behind. I wish I could say I was the super understanding wife, but that would be a bald-faced lie.

I was home all day with preschoolers, paying the bills, running the household, and caring for my two tinies—all without assistance from my overworked husband. It felt like this cycle of overwork was never going to end. I was convinced I had married a workaholic and was destined to basically single parent for life—and the bitterness began to grow.

Then, I allowed my thoughts to drift into comparison mode. My neighbors’ husbands had chosen to settle for master’s degrees and a life. One husband could be seen from my window playing with his daughters on the hammock in the early evenings while mine raced through his grading alone in his office. The other neighbor’s husband was famous for taking his little girl on a Saturday morning date every week. I’d watch her in her pretty little frilled dress walking out to the car hand in hand with her daddy week after week. It hurt. And my bitterness grew and started to choke out any remaining joy. When Ray finally had a small chance to come up for air and talk to me, he was given an angry earful about how poorly he was doing as a husband. That didn’t exactly encourage him to want to spend more time with me.

The author of Hebrews warns against a “bitter root”—and that is a perfect picture of what happens. Roots entwine to uphold their plant or tree, and the longer that plant is around, the more entrenched the roots become and the harder to pull them out. My bitterness had become entrenched. When I saw the kindness of other husbands, my heart immediately went to bitterness and dug that ugly root a bit deeper. Our home was a most unhappy place, and I became an ugly, unhappy person. I started to dislike me. A lot.

At this point, I actually cried out for help. I called a wise pastor’s wife, who didn’t spare me with platitudes and agreement. She warned me about that entrenched root and told me it had to go before it killed me—and my marriage. She challenged me to “turn every bitter thought into a prayer for your husband’s well-being.” What? That was, of course, the last thing on earth I wanted to do! But I was desperate—and it was obvious that bitterness was wrong, evil, and suffocating. So, painful uprooting began.

Each time I felt bitter, I prayed. I prayed that Ray would love God with all his heart and soul and mind. I prayed that Ray would love his family … us … more and more. I asked God to bless and help him. When I saw one of the other husbands at the window, I turned and prayed for mine. It was hard. It took time. It took discipline and encouragement from my mentor. But slowly, prayer by prayer, that bitter root was unearthed … exposed … and cut off. The plant of bitterness in my life began to fade, and my happiness made a comeback even though our circumstances had not changed.

Ray and I are still married, these 37 years later. Our daughters now have children of their own. How thankful I am for my mentor’s wise advice and for God’s Word that cautioned me to “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God [oh, how my husband needed grace from me and not condemnation!] and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).

I shudder to think what would have happened if I had allowed that root to continue growing unchecked. I suspect it would have caused major trouble, and we likely would have divorced. I would have missed out on a wonderful marriage with a man who has grown closer and closer to me in love and tenderness with each passing year. Our children would have been “defiled” by that bitterness and robbed of their daddy. Our ability to serve God would have been severely hindered, if not stopped altogether.

God’s Word is true. His commands are for our good. Do you sense a bitter root in your own life against someone? Take it from one who has been there. With God’s help: Rip. It. Out. Turn those thoughts into prayers for that someone. No matter how hard it is! Tear those roots out! Life is far worse when we ignore God’s wise instruction and allow them to grow.

You are loved,



Sweet Selah Ministries

To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)



6 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you for this word of encouragement. I have a bitter root towards my husband. The story is different but the bitterness has overcome me

    • Sharon Gamble
      October 2, 2017 12:41 pm

      Dear Laura, I am stopping to pray now that God will give you the strength to pray against those roots. I’ve been there. ((hug))
      Love, Sharon

  • Definitely needed to read that!! Thank you! I need to pray instead of complain!

    • Sharon Gamble
      October 2, 2017 8:11 pm

      Praying does a LOT more good. But complaining comes a lot more easily sometimes. May God guide you and me on how to pray in difficult situations!! Thankful God used this little blog to encourage.

  • I have some roots that need uprooting….thank you!


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