Behind the Bitter is the Sweet

Bitter.
The
characteristic sting of tears. Over ugly circumstances we never dreamed would (or dearly hoped wouldn’t) weave their way into
our life’s tapestry. Over the painful heart rending of letting go—losing. Over the haunting regret of
mistakes made. Over precious time lost.
Sometimes
the bitter of this life simply flattens me.
We’re treading
in bitter waters currently, so I write from a raw place. Our precious
“firstborn” is dying. Firstborn dog, that is, but family member
nonetheless—thank the Lord it’s not one of our people, but there’s no denying
how pets warm our hearts and lend joy in life’s unsightly cracks.
Adopted
over a decade ago by two stubborn young fools (aka: newlyweds), she’s been there through the thick and the thin and the
downright ragged. She represents an entire era, the end of which threatens with
each passing day, as we watch her deteriorate in the grips of lung cancer. Our
hearts bleed. This bitter is curdling—odious.
…But. (Thank you, Jesus, that in
You, there’s always a “but”–a treasure-trove of hope.)
But, casting my gaze upward, I find
relief. For it’s in the midst of life’s bitter, through the glint of the teardrops,
that we can glimpse God’s goodness more clearly. There, in our dire need,
through His unfaltering presence with us, He makes our joy complete; He
supplies the sweet.
Finding
myself face to face with cancer’s ugliness one recent morning, as I watched my
sweet pup struggle for one of her most basic needs–oxygen–I posted this on Facebook, tears streaming:
“Thankful (yes, truly) for
the desperate mess I am–for the dire GOD-NEED that springs from the tearful,
inadequate rubble of me. No place I’d rather be than in His capable arms…for THERE
I am strong. Hebrews 6:18: ‘We who have run for our very lives to God have
every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s
an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the
very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his
permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.’(MSG)”
Here,
in life’s HARD, the bitter intermingles with the sweet. The bad tasting stuff is
NECESSARY, making us grip our Lifeline tighter, and giving us fresh eyes to
behold the sweet–bitter’s companion. I’m learning there’s beauty in the mix. A perfect cocktail—a lovely balance that makes
life all the richer.
One morning
after working his magic at the espresso machine, my husband/baristo instructed
me to taste his dark chocolate mocha. Me,
the routine, averse to change, same-flavor-latte-every-morning girl. So, after
hesitating, I obeyed, knowing that the risk-taking adventurer I married
wouldn’t let up until I acquiesced. I braced my buds in anticipation of a new
taste, and immediately experienced brusque bitterness…and then, a moment later,
remarked on the richness overwhelming my senses. It was after the fact that my
taste buds realized the full-bodied flavor for all it was–nutty, savory notes swirled
together deliciously with an undertone of sweetness…bitter, with a finale of
sweet.
I don’t
know about you, but I can get all swept up in the bitter, to the extent of
missing the sweetness of this life: in the taxing childrearing season, in marriage,
in life lived in community, in growing and failing and learning. All the pain
and change and loss can engulf the joy of new phases, and growth, and the excitement
of it all.
Toughest
to endure are the bitter seasons—months
on end, when we have no choice but to settle into the bitter, it lingers so
long—when we feel parched by life’s deserts, and languish, beaten down by
hardship. These are trying times. However I’m learning to embrace them; to lean
into my Savior for all He has to show me through them…because I know He’s
preparing something sweet. Something to bless me. A Promised Land to my desert.
And it’s just around the corner.
“Therefore,
behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak
comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of
Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as
in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. ‘And it shall be, in that
day,’ says the Lord, ‘That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me
‘My Master’… ‘I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In
righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to
Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.’” Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20 (NKJV)
Yes, life
hurts. Love hurts. But I’m so thankful. Thankful that I’m learning–God’s
teaching me–to see all things through His lens of gratitude. “Being
thankful puts sorrow in perspective. It’s an antidote to bitterness, anger and
despair.” -Carole Lewis, A Thankful
Heart: How Gratitude Brings Hope and Healing to Our Lives
(Ventura, Ca:
Regal, 2005), 43.
I know
there are far more bitter pills than the one I’m swallowing right now. Some of
you are watching your precious children
fight for their lives against uncaring illness. Some, watching your marriages
fail. Still others, praying in vain, it seems, for loved ones who’ve strayed impossibly
far from Jesus. But hang in there, and be assured that He allows us to experience the bitter. So we can relish the afternote of sweet.

2 thoughts on “Behind the Bitter is the Sweet

  1. Leslie! This post could not have come at a better moment for me. Your writings are always God-ordained, but THIS one…this one has been put in front me for a very particular reason. I am leaving Wednesday for a very bittersweet trip. My Dad is in the hospital, struggling after a "simple" surgery. He had life-threatening complications, among which is three separate strokes in a short time. I didn't know my Dad well growing up, as he left us when I was one. It wasn't until a few short years ago that we really drew very close to one another, even tough our previously shallow relationshio had been present for many years. He has my heart. I look just like him. I have so many of his personality traits. I am cut straight from him. He is so very important to me. I have never seen my Dad as incapacitated as he is right now. Unable to speak. Only able to answer simple "yes" and "no" questions. Unable to comprehend small amounts. Having delusions. I want Togo be with him for a couple of precious days…but then again, I don't want to see anything but the man I know. But…he is not there. I know that God will give me a good dose of His sweetness as I face the bitter. I am printing off your blog and taking it with me in my Bible to remind me of how faithful my sovereign and loving Father is. Thank you, once again, for bearing yor heart and soul in obedience to God so that others may be encouraged by your struggles. You are loved.

  2. I love how much you love your dogs…it's truly precious! I'm sorry you're going through this as she's a sweet pup. The analogy of the latte is perfect, and I will think of it often as I remember the bitter turning into sweet. That's Jesus for you…always turning bitter to sweet.

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