Better, not bitter

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(FYI: This is the one and only tattoo I have ever wanted or will get. But I don’t regret it!)

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write. I’ve had so many thoughts swirling around in my mind, but it’s been hard to sort them out to make sense of them all. Not to mention, this time of year is full of things to keep someone busy. Fun things, some of my most favorite things, that leave little room for sitting down quietly with my thoughts.

And, in case you’ve been wondering, the day has finally come. Tomorrow, November 5th, was supposed to be our due date.  There’s a lot of things I could say in reference to this long-awaited day, but I’ll keep it simple. It’s bittersweet. Bitter, because it’s a reminder of what could have been. Sweet, because of what has been gained through loss.

It’s got me thinking back to the events of the past several months. I can still remember exactly how I felt that day, how kind people were, and different comments people said in effort to bring us comfort. Prayers that were offered, meals that were cooked, hugs that were given, and one question that people have continued asking that has blown us away every single time.

How have you been able to face this with such faith? You two are amazing!

No, we are not. But I want to give you our honest, heart-felt response to this question and statement. From the very moment we received our gut-wrenching news, my husband and I had a choice to make. We could get bitter or better. We could shake our fists at God in anger, demanding that He give us an explanation, or we could accept our circumstances and allow Him to turn a mess into a message. We chose the latter, and He has been doing exactly that. Not because we are “amazing people” but because Christ in us is our hope and our joy.

If you read Hebrews 11, you get to take a walk through what modern church people refer to as the “Hall of Faith.” I’ve been doing some reading through this list of spiritual heroes and have come to a few conclusions. Mainly, they weren’t heroes at all. They were ordinary people who allowed God to be their strength and use their weaknesses for His purpose and fame.

There’s Abraham and Sarah. A couple who faced years upon years of infertility, which was a badge of scorn in those days. They trusted God. He gave them a son, and made Abraham the father of many nations. They chose better over bitter.

Then you have Joseph. Sold by his own flesh and blood as a result of jealousy, he became favored by Potiphar and put in charge over much. When his family (who had sold him) needed food during famine, they had to come to come him, swallow their pride, and ask for help. Here’s what he said: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).” He chose better over bitter.

Take Rahab. She was a prostitute and had every opportunity to become bitter after years of being used and abused by men who did not love her. Yet God used her to help His people. She’s included in the lineage of Jesus. (Joshua 2)

In Judges, we find one of my favorites, Gideon. I love his story. I loved teaching it to kids last year at VBS and seeing their faces light up with wonder at what God can do. Long story short, the angel of the Lord appeared to him while he was hiding and called him a mighty warrior. He basically says, I think you’ve got the wrong guy! I guess I love him because he voiced his doubts and questions; it makes me feel better about my own! He had endured, along with his people, years of being oppressed by the Midianite people, a big group of barbaric bullies. He was a little bitter, but he trusted the Lord, and God used him to defeat the entire Midianite people with only 300 men. Thank God He chose not to be bitter anymore! What a powerful testimony his life had a part in! (Judges 6-7)

I could go on and on with other examples from the Bible. But I know a few people personally that I’ve seen make this same choice.

There’s the man we met this week during lunch. He owns a local restaurant and had to leave his country in 1996 because he wasn’t free be a Christian there. He left everything to follow Jesus. Instead of pouting about what he lost, he uses his business now as a ministry. Before we left that day, he placed his hands on my son’s head and prayed that he would grow up to love Jesus, too. Better over bitter.

I think of some of my closest friends. One has taken a life of low self-worth and turned it into a life of reaching out to teenagers just like her. Her house is literally a safe haven for so many kids from broken homes. She is a mother to many who aren’t biologically hers, all because she chose to allow the painful places of her life to minister to others.

I think of another friend who has just taken in a stepson who has a laundry list of physical disabilities. His condition requires constant attention, endless energy, and never-ending unconditional love. And she gives it freely instead of grumbling that her life is just too hard. She could get bitter that she has “no life” (and I’m sure she gets frustrated and exhausted) but she keeps pouring love out on that sweet boy anyway. Better over bitter.

I think of another friend who went through years of wanting another baby and finally had one. She didn’t get bitter, and that child is the biggest ray of sunshine you’ll ever meet. Her smile will brighten anyone’s day.

All these people are just like you and me, the ones from the Bible and my friends. Each one of us faced, at some point, with difficult and overwhelming circumstances that have had every reason to make us turn bitter. Yours may not be the loss of a child like mine is, and I pray it never ever will be. But it might be infertility. Or a child who, after all your effort, decides to go astray and the waiting for him/her to return to God is about to kill you. Maybe it’s illness, or loss of a life-long dream. Maybe it’s loneliness or living with a husband who’s first love is not God and second love is not you.

It could be any number of things, but I can tell you this: it’s not a matter of if you will face something, it’s when. At some point, if you haven’t already, you’ll be faced with the choice to get bitter or better. We all have this same choice everyday. Will you allow life circumstances to cause hardness to build in your heart or let God take what little, messed up offering you have and reshape it into something beautiful? He wants to– I promise.

I pray that the testimony of my life and yours can be the same words as Joseph: what was intended for harm, God used for good and used it to save many. 

Amy

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