Have you ever found yourself in a place of pure bitterness, a place where you’ve been convinced that life will never be sweet again?
I really don’t want bitter to be an adjective that describes me. I don’t want to wallow in seasons where I have felt so wholly disappointed and unsatisfied, but more times than I care to count, I have labeled seasons of my life as fruitless and hopeless.
I know I’m not the only one. Scripture is full of stories of the dejected and desperate. The Israelites were delivered after centuries of slavery and then were led to an oasis in the desert with brackish water unfit for drinking to quench their extreme thirst. This barren place of no relief, in sharp contrast to the miracle of passing through the Red Sea, was labeled “Marah,” which means bitter.
“Bitter” became the name of a woman far from home who experienced the death of her husband and two sons. Naomi surmised the condition of her life and resigned to hopelessness. “…Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter,” she proclaimed in the first chapter of Ruth.
I would label my state of affairs bitter at the beginning of this year. In January, I wasn’t filled with hope at the prospect of a fresh start. I was looking in the mirror discouraged at my lack of progress and the absence of the elusive habits of discipline I was striving for. As a newlywed, I felt overwhelmed with transition and disappointment in myself. My job felt unfulfilling and overwhelming and equally unchallenging yet too difficult at the same time. I had come to a point of dismay so acute that I believed this to be my new normal, a permanent condition.
In the midst of confusion and questioning I found out I was pregnant. Profound shock and gratitude flooded me. How could this season of sour produce such a sweet surprise? While I wasn’t immediately delivered from my despair, I did feel a weighty invitation to a place of reflection and learning. It felt like an opportunity to reflect on my perspective and patterns during seasons of melancholy. It is my hope that by sharing some of my revelations, you would also feel encouraged and equipped to survive when life feels unbearable.
Here’s what I am learning:
–God is present in messy places. So often, I feel God is tired of my lack of progress and avoids my untidy parts, but the truth is He wades into pain and darkness. He sees all things and works in invisible ways. He plants miracles in the middle of the wilderness. He redeems seemingly impossible situations. He is in the business of restoration, renewal, and revival.
–God’s goodness is not dependent on my behavior. His blessings are extravagant and incomparable to our efforts. He loves us immensely and never stops. I cannot increase His love for me or become worthy of His favor. Better yet, I don’t have to. His miraculous love for His children moves Him to act. The beauty of the Gospel is its lack of dependence on me.
–God’s perceived silence is not proof of rejection. While seasons of pain are inevitable, how I define them can be the making or the breaking of me. I want to strive to cling to the truth of His goodness and dwell in His promises especially in tough places. This does not mean I have to ignore or deny my feelings; it merely means I will work to exist in the paradox of feeling sad but also trusting a big and loving Father.
Moses was instructed by God to throw a stick into the bitter water at Marah and make it sweet. Mara was restored to Naomi as she witnessed the faithfulness of her beloved daughter-in-law and the fortuitous marriage to a wealthy kinsman. The Lord showed up in the midst of dissatisfaction to deem me worthy of a little life beginning in me. May you find peace among the upheaval of pain and transition, and may you come to know the perfect weaving of His purposes in your life.
Author | Elizabeth Black
Elizabeth Black is a Licensed Professional Counselor and currently works as a therapist in Warren, MI. Her favorite things include buying new notebooks, Mexican food, and laughing with others. She loves teaching, mentoring, and encouraging others to follow after Jesus with abandon. Above all she is passionate about authentic, healthy, and Godly relationships and believes that the pursuit of truth is one of life’s most rewarding endeavors.