Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making the Bitter Sweet

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools. [a]
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Psalm 84:5-7

I awoke this morning with this Scripture in my mind. I remembered that the word "Baca" means bitter, and this in turn brought to mind a quote from my book for caregivers, due to be published by Bridge-Logos next month:

I felt an absolute dread of my mother's demise, not just over the fact that she would at some point die; but I was afraid of the loss of function that might happen before that time. The ingredients of the cocktail of grief of which I had unwillingly partaken included terrible pity and love for my mother, anger, resentment, guilt, and fear of the future. This draught was complex and it was bitter. It was as though I didn't want to analyze the components of my pain, but I had no choice about dealing with the results of having drunk such a bitter brew. I didn't feel so good!

Those of us who are Christians live our lives here on earth with our hearts "set on pilgrimage" (See Psalm 84:5, above). We are on a journey home, and our life experiences are like scenery on that journey. We will face difficulties and there will be sorrows, but the bitterness of those experiences is made bearable by the hope we hold in our hearts. Praise can flow in the midst of sorrow because he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

The art of living a Godly life has to do with making the bitter valley a place of refreshment. That’s why things like cleaning out drawers and doing laundry and preparing meals (or taking care of an Alzheimer patient) can be Godly pursuits.

The passage from Psalms doesn’t say that we simply provide little oases of refreshment here in this bitter valley, but that we transform the bitterness into sweetness as we pass through. The sweetness travels with us, emanates from us; and like the Israelites sitting safe and free from plagues while the Egyptians across town suffered affliction, we have been enabled to stay free from the corrupting and embittering influences of the world by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Lord show me today how to abide in Your presence so that my words and actions become a sweetening agent for my mother, my family, and myself; an antidote for the bitterness of coping with Alzheimer's disease .


  1. A friend of mine who also writes sent out a devotional that fits so well with this post of yours. Here are his words:
    "What hinders us? We get our eyes off God and onto lesser things. We forget that our greatest need is not comfort or respect or any of the physical necessities of life. Our greatest need is our own weakness. Our greatest need is the sin, the faithlessness, the lovelessness that plagues our lives and our hearts. We forget that without God's grace, sin is a debt we cannot pay and a trap we cannot avoid. But by simple trust in Jesus Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3, NIV)." Ken Bible.

    It is good to read, think and pray over the things that both you and Ken write. It helps me so much. Thank you for writing.

  2. Here I tarry, crying again. Thanking our merciful Lord - the ultimate spring of sweetness - for faithful servants such as yourself, willing to lay it all out there with the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit, to encourage others. This is a beautiful, blessed post.
    Thank you ~ Melody