Aug 282012
 

“So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?””

(Ruth 1:19–21 ESV)

In the wild and wooly early days of the Phoenix Preacher whenever we wrote extensively about a church scandal, proponents of those being scandalized would have a knee jerk reaction to call all of us “bitter”.

It was a “godly” rebuke intended to shut us up.

It became a running joke for years (we would award them the “bitter dove”)…but the reality of bitterness in the heart is anything but funny.

I’m past fifty now and things in life haven’t played out anything like the grand visions of my twenties and thirties and forties…even recent hopes prayed for seem to be dashed daily.

Like Naomi, I believe that God’s providential hand is and has been at work…but I’m not ready to change my name to “Mara’.

Yet.

While life in general is hard, God has redeemed my place in the church and my heart towards it.

Not so for all of us…today many of us say with Job ; “he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness” … even in regard to the company of God’s people.

I know the feeling…but I also know it will defile and ruin everything else I want to cherish. (Heb 12:15)

I write not as a critic, but as a fellow pilgrim and pastor…is bitterness now staining your heart and all that you carry in it?

Are you frustrated and angry with the providence of God in your life?

Tell Him how you feel..He knows already.

Is. 38:17 Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness;but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction,for you have cast all my sins behind your back.

 

  28 Responses to “Did Someone Say Bitter?”

  1. Naomi had good reasons to feel bitter…she had been through hell.
    Some of us have good reasons as well…but we must not let bitterness color our whole life.

    I’m off to work…

  2. “You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.” Ps. 38:9
    “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68
    I’m hurting, I’m limping, I’m crying and sighing….but i’m not bitter. In Him there is still hope.

  3. Michael cheer up it only get worse.. Your 60’s will be upon yo. I too had grad visions of wonde,hope dreams and great things. Now at 61 no great things have happened,i have a pacemaker and an irregular heat beat and fighting to save a house that has been in the family for 3 gererations. and I have also had the prividlge to get behind the scenes at the CC’s and have my illusions of how spiritual and wonderful they are only to see the garbage. I have gon thru a divorce,and pretty much lost everything. So am I bitter………no but I sure am pissed..and I think ther is a difference.The hop I have now is I am much closer to going home than ever before and I’m not even counting on the rapture we have thrown at us in CC’s. If we go great but I can only have another 20 25 yrs at best so I am on the downswing and that puts much bitterness in check

  4. We go through different seasons in life and much of it is difficult to walk through. I am reminded that the road is narrow and when I find my heart longing to enter the flow of a popular church movement for sake of riding a fresh current, then I must reassess the calling of denying self, taking up our cross and following Jesus. I think that was the general point that Jesus spoke to seven churches in Asia Minor.

  5. looked up the word litany just now … it originally was associated with prayer (as some here already knew i’m sure) … now it is associated with lists of complaints, i wonder how that happened

  6. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

    I take something very different from the book of Ruth. Just reading the quote above melts my heart. Ruth is about selfless love, a compassionate redeemer, and God’s provision for His people. Just read the end of the book:

    “The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

    Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”

  7. It’s interesting how King David’s trials made him a great psalimist instead the great bitterman. When the Lord took my business, He also took my home and He took my wife home leaving me with 4 kids and I was angry. He then showed me that it was because He’s God and He loves me more than anyone ever could. He let me get angry but He held me close. He replaced my wife with a beautiful woman who loves me and my children. I live in a beautiful home surrounded by redwoods and the coastline, it’s through those trials that He was training me to be a pastor and I am so grateful for His love.

  8. the entrance into the Kingdom not of this world maybe a narrow one indeed but the path to that mysterious land seems more of a zigzag through obstacles, failures, sin, grace and more sin and more grace than a linear excursion down the middle of the road. Maybe the sincere faith that pleases God is one that always hopes in Christ regardless of circumstances and the bitterness of life. Saving Faith is one that includes uncovering ones own failures and wretchedness, accepting fully the truth of unmerited favor and passing it on without justification. Divine allowances, all things filtered by the hand of God, are often engineered it seems to empty us of all false salvation, bitterness is the byproduct of an incomplete spiritual journey. For me, the deceiver in me has me fearing that I too must learn to trust Him, even though he slay me.

  9. Naomi walked through the hell life…the loss, sorrow, hopeless conditions….and yet there was a Redeemer that was coming….one day that hidden hope broke out and there was a day of joy to come. Both you and MIchael have taken truth from the story.

  10. #3 – i’m not so sure that it gets worse … circumstances do, perhaps, but God comes closer, too
    this is the year when 2 of my 4 children had their lives blow up in their faces – the unequally yoked thing (i’m not so sure that admonition was given so much because of what the unredeemed value as it was because satan has a wide open door to manipulate, to cause misery through the unsaved partner) … and my other 2 children are watching the fuse burn … about to blow! – these 2 are my most grounded and responsible ones

    somewhere between that age 61 and now 76 i had to accept that redeemed people environmentally are in the same boat with everybody else – this big boat floats on a sewer and there’s a leak in the bottom of the boat … why does God allow this to go on? … experientially and through study, i know our God is WONDERFUL, HOLY and BEAUTIFUL … but full of love and grace … ? … why aren’t we living well? … ? … i’ve come to this conclusion: we way underestimate, we probably can’t grasp, the magnitude of this war; not because Satan is so great, but because God *is* HOLY (this war involves justification of His own Name, perhaps)

    my own self? i’m watching my resources, gained through sobriety and sacrifice, by both my late husband and myself, dwindle faster than my body 🙂

    our God is WONDERFUL, HOLY and BEAUTIFUL – full of grace and mercy toward us – Onward, Christian soldiers and don’t lets leave our wounded behind, eh?

  11. #6 – yes and an experiential ‘amen’ to your example of God’s beautiful, tender, faithful love as we go through

  12. #7 – LIKE ! ! ! (those are supposed to be 3 thumbs up)

  13. #8 – LIKE ! ! ! !

    i suspect i’d better keep my “likes” to myself – the way this thread is developing, i’ll be posting the same thing all day

  14. WOW! Covered @ 7, that is beautiful.

  15. Covered and Em, beautiful testimonies of God’s faithfulness before, during and after the storms of life…… which seem to arrive somewhat regularly…..
    I love the Book of Ruth/Naomi….and find great comfort. Knowing others have suffered helps me not feel so alone in my various ordeals….. and not forsaken by God. God’s people suffer in this life, but He IS faithful. His Grace IS sufficient….(it just may not ‘feel’ like it at the time).

  16. I truly believe that we struggle with the storms that He ordains for us yet it is in the storms that He grows us. We want out and He wants us to learn during those times while on the journey. I love in John 6 when His disciples were in a storm and deathly afraid. John tells us 2 vital truths. First it says, “they willingly received Him into the boat” and 2nd it says, “immediately the boat was at the land where they were going”. The reason I love this so much is that vs. 19 tells us that they rowed “three or four miles” yet immediately after crying out to the One who can calm any storm, it was over. It seems like the easiest thing or the smartest thing we do is cry out to Him and when we do, He makes Himself visible and provides the peace we need to endure. My problem is that more often than not, I think I can handle it and thats where I get into trouble. I like Jesus! He’s been good to me.

  17. A short while ago, I discovered that I had no desire to see reconciliation between some folks. I desired to see the problem escalate to the point of knock down and drag out fight. I wanted to see someone win the day, whatever means necessary.

    A couple of years ago, my wife was told by a senior pastor’s wife that she was not allowed to show emotion. Especially around the kids. The bitterness, for me, I think started then. My wife was also told that she probably needed drugs to control the state she was in. Rage came when I saw the senior pastor’s wife crying at a service. My wife was not allowed to do that. There were other things, lots of them, that only seemed to compound it. I suppressed the rage because the reason we were there, the reason my wife was so depressed, was my fault.

    Quite a bit of time has passed since then. I don’t rage about those people anymore. But that was replaced with a desire to see the day when the leadership at that church collapsed, and the church folded.

    Now, as an official “refuse collector”, I have encountered stories, about well known people. I look at our own history with the bad, and consider it relatively small compared to what some people have endured.

    So again, like I said, a short while ago, the junk came back. All it took was one more bully to nudge me, and I saw nothing but red.

  18. i have too many people in memory who, when they come to mind, i picture standing under a grand piano – a falling one … will i live long enough for that to change to a prayer for their souls? i hope so, because *knowing* that God is in charge and His judgement will come should make prayer for them the first thing i think of, not pianos – i’m not there yet

  19. In the most difficult times in my life as a Christian, I have honestly found myself closer to Him.

    In 2003 my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. He chose hospice care through the VA instead of attempting to sustain his life. This was one of the most terrifyingly difficult times in my life.

    My dad had been an atheist his entire adult life. His salvation became my mission. One of my dearest friends, who was a USMC vet, like my dad, came and spoke with him twice. After his first visit, Dick said, “your dad has the hardest heart I have ever seen.” I begged Dick to visit my dad one more time. The second visit, I left the room to get dad some water. When I returned, my dad had tears running down cheeks (this is a man I only saw cry once in my entire life), and Dick gave me a huge smile.

    As we left the hospital, Dick said, “your dad knows Jesus.” I sat at a bench and broke down. Three days latter the cancer had metastasized to my dad’s brain. In two weeks my dad had died. When my dad’s battle with God was over, he stopped fighting and was finally at peace.

    How can I be angry at a God who does miraculous things such as this.

  20. I was often told I was bitter, even when I did not say anything. People could discern by the way I breathed, sat, what type of clothes I wore, and so on. It would either being bitter, selfish, self serving, manipulating (which was almost always what was attached) if I did anything kind, and so on. It was clear that “we” (other then them) and me in particular always had a vile motive for any action, from allowing my cells do divide thus adding to my rebellion to God to a prayer to a kind act. This has not been the case for some time, but it did set the “tone”.

    I do think I am bitter at being made to feel this way, or letting myself feel this way, or a bit of both. I also think I am bitter because much of what I have been taught just cannot be as literal as it is presented. But that is just me.

    PS thank you for reopening up the blog

  21. Urgent Prayer Request from my friend in CA.
    Just got a text from him saying his sister,” Princy”
    Is missing.
    The family is of course freaking out and the police are looking every where for her.
    He said the campus police, so I’m not sure what happened.
    Please pray for her safety and the family to be calm enough to think straight to help in the search.
    Thanks

  22. London…praying now. Will add on the prayer thread as well.

  23. London, praying now.

  24. Thanks. She is still missing. Apparently there’s now a nation wide Police Alert that’s been issued.
    Her brother, my friend, is limited in how he can get word of her disappearance out. His parents are concerned about reactions from some family in another country if they hear via FB etc
    I don’t understand that logic personally…and neither does my friend it seems but for now he is honoring his parents wishes.
    My guess he won’t for long…prayers for him to step up andake the best decisions for his sisters sake appreciated.
    He seems genuinely baffled by it all…

  25. Thanks to those who prayed. Got a text that my friends sister’s roommate reports she returned.
    She has declared however she wishes to speak to no one, so for now, it’s all still a mystery.
    But, at least she is safely home.

  26. home safe is a good thing. but will continue to pray for this soul.

  27. DavidH,

    What a wonderful story. That’s just amazing. But we serve an amazing God. We should never give up hope in what God can do.

    Thank you very much for sharing that. Wow.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)

%d bloggers like this: