Whenever Sam, my Irish Setter, hurts herself- getting thorns tangled into her coat, twisting her leg during a hard run – she sulks. When I attempt to help her, she growls and snarls at me, apparently conscious only of her pain and somehow mistakenly thinking I am the cause of it. I don’t take it personally. After all, she’s a dog, with limited understanding. The tragedy is that in my pain I sometimes react similarly to my Lord. Life hurts, my soul aches, disappointment washes over me. Do I run to Him? Sometimes, yes. But, sometimes, sadly, I grow mean and surly, snarling at the very One who is my Healer!
Bitterness is a terribly toxic condition of the soul. It hinders prayer, destroys faith, breaks down healthy relationships, and skews our perception of the truth. The Psalm of the embittered says this: “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. … This is what the wicked are like- always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. … When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (Psalm 73:2-4, 10-12, 21-22, NIV)
Have you allowed yourself to slip into this state, where everything in the life of everyone looks better than your lot in life? Have you started to accuse God of being cruel and unfair, singing the woeful tune- “Why me, Lord? Nobody else has to go through what I’m enduring. You’re mean!”
Life does get painful. Disappointment is real. Deep faith does not demand denial of our pain; but it does require that we are willing to give up our snarling attitude so that the Spirit can come to comfort us. “Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” (Psalm 73:23-28, NLT)
We need not resign to fate, settle for what we think is ‘reality,’ or grimly slog on through the dark. We go to the Rock of our Salvation with our broken heart. Find a place alone with Him, or in the company of a trusted friend and weep. Brokenness is not the same as bitterness. In fact, expressing our emotions honestly can protect us from becoming a little angry ball of self-protective misery. Then, too, there is a time when, like suffering Job, we must choose to silence, expectantly waiting on the Lord’s revelation of Himself. He railed at God in his pain (which was very real!) and then, as he caught a glimpse of the majesty of the Lord, he regained perspective and with it, humility. He said, “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer- twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5, NIV)
The old song advises:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings, name them one by one.
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one!
Count your blessings see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings see what God has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by. –Public Domain
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submit to and delight in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” – Jeremiah Burroughs
So, what will you do with that pain today?
Will you react like a wounded animal or will you choose to let our Abba minister to you?
Father, life hurts when disappointment overwhelms.
I confess that I wonder why the reward seems so disproportionate to the effort.
Keep my heart tender. O Christ Jesus, I need You to intervene, to give grace.
When I’m tempted to look around and compare,
Draw my attention to You and teach me to look up!
May I come to the place of contentment in You that allows me to think and proclaim:
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”
(Psalm 73:25, NIV) Amen.