By Carole Keller
Before we can experience a transformation in our self-perception, the preceding steps dealing with self-examination, confession of faults and expression of our feelings, and forgiveness are inescapable. We really have to take ownership of our life’s experiences, accept the things that happened and be willing to change. One of the biggest obstacles to loving ourselves and others is unresolved bitterness.
A stronghold is a fortress; it is referred to many times in the Old Testament as “high places.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, a stronghold is a “place dominated by a particular group.” In the spiritual realm, this domination by a group, or principality, controls the thoughts and philosophies which govern one’s life.
Demonic “principalities,” which dominate the stronghold, are like governments which rule. They take dominion of our thought lives when we give a place of habitation to the devil, such as through un-forgiveness or fornication. For example, we give a place of habitation to the devil when we fail to agree with our adversary quickly and allow anger or sin to settle in our spirit. The devil accommodates us by causing us to reflect upon it and bringing it up in similar situations as a learned response. He then has control and a dwelling place from which he can regulate our responses and generally make our lives miserable. Among the principalities that establish the stronghold of bitterness are fear, wrath and un-forgiveness.
What is bitterness? We usually find it when there has been a protracted period of offenses that have not been resolved. There are several places in scripture dealing specifically with bitterness. In one verse of scripture, the word “bitter” means to “cut or prick”; it results in confusion and every evil work (James 3:14, 16). In another verse, we are told to “look diligently” lest any root of bitterness “spring” up and defile many (Hebrews 12:15). This means that a bitter spirit contaminates the pure and good in people.
Bitterness marks our feet as how far we can go, keeps us stuck in a trench, and brings punishments for our iniquities. “For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess (inherit) the iniquities of my youth. Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet. And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth eaten” (Job 13:26-28). This describes a person given to bitterness. Print means to “cut into, hack.” The Hebrew Lexicon explains this word: “…hast made a trench so that I cannot go on, i.e. thou hast stopped up my way. It is commonly interpreted around the roots of my feet thou hast delineated; i.e. hast marked out to my feet how far they shall go.” This stronghold of bitterness is established root system.
The Fruit of Bitterness
Bitterness, like a plant, produces sour fruit from its root: “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom and the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter” (Deuteronomy 32:32). This verse was used in the Old Testament to describe the rebellious generation.