I’ve written about cat briar before, and since then we’ve moved into a new-to-us house. It’s been over a year since we moved in, and there is still much to do both on the house and on the grounds! Cat briar happens to be abounding around the front of our yard. Not only does it have sharp thorns, it has tendrils that help it hold onto and climb up anything vertical. Trees, bushes, signs, and even old cat briar vines.
A few months ago I spent a few hours on an overgrown patch of ground, digging up tons of briar roots. I worked so hard on it that I was sure I’d cleared out at least a six foot square! When I stepped back and and really looked at it, it was more like three. Those roots were everywhere, and hard to get out!
The roots themselves aren’t really the problem, it’s what grows from them. Without the briars springing up every year, I wouldn’t care if those roots were there at all! But that’s not how it works. Briar roots are hard to get rid of, difficult to kill, and extremely persistent in producing many thorny nuisance vines. The vines grow exponentially in the spring, and their thorns can be quite troublesome!
The roots of the cat briar bring to mind another root spoken of in Hebrews 12:15:
Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (NLT)
The ESV says, “See to it…that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
I’m sure you’ve known a bitter person or two in your life. Not exactly sunshine and daisies to be around, right? Now turn the lens to your own heart. Is there something in your past that you’ve chosen to dwell on for years, tending the resulting hurt so well that it’s become a major part of your identity? You may think you’re protecting yourself from hurt by your thorny exterior, but you’re hurting those around you. When they withdraw, you chalk it up as just another rejection and injury to your heart. It can be a vicious cycle, perpetuated by bitterness! Old, dried up vines can still cause trouble. Just look at these thorns!
So how to break this cycle, and not let those roots spring up? One method of killing briar roots takes a year or more, but can be very effective. Briars produce vines rapidly because the roots need a lot of sunlight to survive. Regularly cutting all vines back to the ground ends up starving the roots, and they eventually run out of reserves and die. Regular heart maintenance is crucial to eradicating a root of bitterness. If that root is there, it will spring up and cause trouble! It must be starved instead of nurtured and tended.
How is your heart? Do you have roots that need to be starved out so that fruitful vines may grow instead of thorny ones? Ask God to open your eyes to see your heart as He does. He knows our hearts better than we do!
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT)
Once God shows you your heart, you have a job to do. Ephesians 4:31 says,
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
Bitterness is not to be tolerated, it is to be eradicated! Any time that root tries to spring up in your heart and mind, cut it off. Don’t dwell on it. Starve the root of it. Instead, follow this guidance:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8, NLT
Think about these things. Dwell on them instead. Let fruitful vines grow, vines that produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
This is not a one-time solution. Just as starving the cat briar roots takes time and regular maintenance, so do the sinful roots in our hearts. Remember, “Watch out!” (Hebrews 12:15)