Bitter into Sweet

“Some of you have offense against God, that things didn’t happen the way you thought they would.  If that’s you, stand up.”  I was on my feet.

I’m not sure the exact moment when waiting turned to grief; nor the moment I covered over my grief with bitterness.  Over a year ago I imparted to a friend that the word “hope” could incite a string of profanities in my head.  At a women’s retreat over two years ago, God gave me the word “love” for 2016.  We had these beautiful river stones and wrote our words on them.  I nearly threw my rock across the empty parking lot.

So there I was, Friday before last, in a service about physical healing. I completely missed the context of her statement.  It’s not that my healing didn’t happen the way I thought it would.  It’s that my life didn’t happen the way I thought it would.  And when she said those words, “didn’t happen…” I knew that litany in my heart.

I repented.

I had no idea that beneath the bitterness would be the grief.  I had no idea how bitter I actually was.

Tuesday evenings I play violin with the worship team.  This last Tuesday, I was looking at what seemed like a whole paragraph of words, when one word in the middle leapt off the screen:


I stared it down like a spiteful enemy.


God drops in, “Hey, you remember that time I gave you love for your word of the year?”


“Remember how you rejected it?”


“Remember on Friday when you repented?”


“That’s your word for 2018. We’re going to keep doing that word, every year, until you get it.” It’s like I’m on the remedial plan with Jesus.

We moved into the newish song, Reckless Love by Cory Asbury and I was on my face leaving snot stains on the carpet.

I wish I could say my heart melted, and I got up a different woman.  Maybe I did, but I still have a string of swear words every time God mentions hope and hoping.  You guys, if this is up to me I’m toast.  There is no way I can change this on my own.  And yet…there has to be some way to respond to Jesus other than swearing or bawling. Yes, He’s big enough to handle both.  He always has been.  It’s just time to lay that down.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I can hear the verse of Mary, meek and mild, saying, “I am the Lord’s Servant.  Let it be done to me as He has willed.”  I am so far from her.  So far from being meek, so far from being mild.  So far from who I was when I identified with that verse.  But this morning, I realized the significance of her name.  Her name isn’t meek and mild.

Her name is Mary.

Mary means bitter.

Listen to the story from Luke 1 again, in that light.

And the angel came to Bitterness and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 


But Bitterness was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 

Me too.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Bitterness, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Bitterness said to the angel, “How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

Barren and bitter…and they’re going to change the world.

And Bitterness said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

I can do that. I think. I hope.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. talknmore
    Dec 18, 2017 @ 09:51:44

    Beth, this is a beautiful reflection of the difficult work God is doing in your life. I think so many of us on on the remedial track with Jesus (intention” again for 2018) Mary as bitter brought to mind the words from the very old words of the stations of the cross prayers, Mary is given voice quoting a scripture in Ruth after Jesus is laid in her arms. So different from the Mary of Advent. Thank you for connecting these two parts of Mary for me. This Advent has been challenging for me too.

    “XIII. The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Arms of His Mother

    V. We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee,
    R. Because by thy holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.

    All ye that pass by, behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Mine eyes do fail with tears, my soul is troubled; my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people. Call me not Naomi (which is Pleasant), call me Mara (which is Bitter); for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.
    V. Her tears are on her cheeks:
    R. She hath none to comfort her.

    Let us pray.

    Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    R: O how sad and sore distressed
    Now was she, that mother blessed
    Of the sole-begotten One.”


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