Mary had a little cold,
But wouldn’t stay at home,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The cold was sure to roam.

It wandered into Molly’s eyes
And filled them full of tears;
It jumped from there to Bobby’s nose,
And thence to Jimmie’s ears.

It painted Anna’s throat bright red,
And swelled poor Jennie’s head;
Dora had a fever,
And a cough put Jack to bed.

The moral of this little tale
Is very quickly said –
Mary could have saved a lot of pain
With just one day in bed!

Bitterness is the most dangerous part of our Christian lives. Like Mary’s little cold, it can quickly spread and infect others. It starts when someone does something that hurts us, and we choose to hold onto it without forgiving them.

The way to overcome this harmful sin involves four things:

  1. We have to understand the reality that hurts and offenses are part of life — sometimes we will get offended.
  2. Our anger should not be directed at the offenses committed against us, but at the offenses committed against Christ. This way, our anger won’t become personal, and it will help us keep the offense in perspective — Christ forgave us from sins that were far worse.
  3. We need to pray for our enemies and put them in God’s hands.
  4. We have to choose to forgive.

Right now, you may be thinking of someone who has hurt you. Maybe a close friend turned against you, a person you respected fell short of your expectations, a family member was killed by a drunk driver, or you were the victim of injustice. Write the names of the three people who have hurt you the most. . . . Now pray for these people and forgive them — and destroy the list. Once you do this, God will replace your bitterness with love, and this common cold won’t infect others anymore.

The stink of sin would be unbearable but for the historical reality, the moral reality, of the cross which reduces us all to the common ground of sinners who are equally deserving of Hell and equally needing the mercy of God. — Prison Fellowship Volunteer

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder