Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“So they both went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred about them, and said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ And she said to them, ‘Call me not Naomi (pleasant); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
Ruth 1: 19, 20
“How to Deal With Bitterness”
“What Is Bitterness?” – Part I
“Bitter” – Distasteful to admit, accept or hear. Something which is unpleasant.
“Bitterness…is the eternal cul-de-sac.”
Is there a situation in my life that has caused me to feel or become bitter?
How do I think bitter feelings affect me each day?
“Bitterness hardly cares what food it eats.”
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.”
One summer, when our family was spending time at my grandparent’s ranch in Arizona, I went out in the early morning with my dad to watch him work on clearing a bright green foliage out of some of the trees that surrounded the pecan grove. At twelve-years-old, I couldn’t understand why perfectly healthy plants, called mistletoe, were deemed so undesirable, and were being destroyed in order to, “save the trees they were growing in,” as my dad explained.
Before this particular day, I’d always thought of mistletoe as a Christmas plant, displayed around the house during the holidays. Hanging up mistletoe always caused a lot of “kissing” to take place. It seemed impossible to imagine that such innocuous greenery was so dangerous to the trees where it took up residence.
This is where “parasitic mistletoe” and our topic for the next few days, “bitterness,” intersect.
If you would have asked me several months ago to give you a brief overview of the book of Ruth, I would have told you this was a four chapter book in the Old Testament named after a Moabite girl who left her country to go home with her widowed mother-in law, Naomi, where in Bethlehem, she met Boaz, married him, and had a baby named Obed, who became King David’s grandfather – and they all lived happily ever after. Well, almost happily, except for a few falters along the way.
The last thing I would have thought to include in my short review would be information on the topic of “bitterness.” Yet, there are some very critical lessons in the book of Ruth about the challenge of bitterness and how it affects our lives.
Over the next few days, we’re going to take time to not only identify this parasitic emotion which can sap us of strength and joy, but we will also look at the heavenly guidance we’ve been given to help us cope with the toxic effect this corrosive emotion can have on our life force.
Several months ago, I was cleaning a cabinet under the sink next to my washing machine. Obviously, a bottle containing some type of caustic cleaning material had fallen over, and the cap on the top of the bottle was not tightly sealed. This acrid fluid leaked out and ate away at the shelf paper as well as the cleaning rags. I had no idea this was happening until the day I decided to clean the cupboard. And there in the corner, was this destructive mess.
Perhaps, in your life and mine, there are some dark corners we don’t like to visit. Furthermore, cleaning can be a pain. But it can also be necessary to prevent damage. None of us want the destructive power of bitterness to erode away at the power potential in our lives. However, this is exactly what bitterness does when it is allowed to take root and grow – unchecked!
Maybe things have happened to you in your life that make you feel as though author Tillie Olsen is describing you in her book, Tell Me A Riddle: “Vinegar he poured on me all his life; I am well marinated; how can I be honey now?”
Do you feel as though the bitterness of vinegar has surrounded you so long until the sweetness of honey will never permeate your life again? If you’ve ever felt this way, then I encourage you to return to the garden tomorrow, for our God will honor His promise, “You shall be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I will satisfy you” (Psalm 81:16). God will replace the bitterness of vinegar for the pleasantness of honey in our lives if we will let Him.
“Bitterness imprisons life;
love releases it.
Bitterness paralyzes life;
love empowers it,
Bitterness sickens life;
love heals it.
Bitterness blinds life;
love anoints its eyes.”
Henry Emerson Fosdick
A Prayer In Times Of Trial And Bitterness
“How shall I stand if I stand alone
when everything goes against me,
when the ground
once firm beneath my feet
has the feel of shifting sand?
Who can survive
The kind that cuts the heart in half,
dashes the senses against the rocks,
smashes the will to go on giving,
the way we were.
Who among us has not mourned the loss
of childhood’s imaginary friend,
the end of a cherished relationship,
the moving beyond the perimeters
of our own securities,
the death of God
of our own making?
Myths crumble, boxes break,
beyond our boundaries,
refuses to fit
our frames of reference,
refuses to leave us,
even as structures
no longer serve us…
O Mystery, You are beyond
the borders of our best intentions,
there at the point
of unbearable pain,
at the root
of every small hope
You make a way
where there is no way,
you teach us
to walk on water,
to pick up the broken remnants
of our shattered expectations
and begin to build
You give the words
we are to say
in times of trial
and give you the strength
to walk away
when we cannot overcome.
be with us always,
let Your grace
stay with us
to heal us
and to hold us.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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