From Bitter To Better

From Bitter To Better

Preacher Huijun - 7 August 2021

Weekend Devotion: From Bitter To Better

Powered by Series Engine

We know God is good, yet sometimes we can’t help but feel that what He has allowed to happen to us taste bitter. It could be an illness, a difficult marriage, a toxic family environment, an unfair boss, the death of someone dear, even the current pandemic, and the list goes on. When we encounter bad things in life, we will question where is God? Our enemy the devil also likes to seduce us into doubting God and thinking that He has abandoned us. Indeed, sufferings in life and hurts from people can turn us bitter. One typical example in the Bible is Naomi. In the book of Ruth, Naomi said, “No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” <Ruth 1:13b>; “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” <Ruth 1:20-21>

Indeed, Naomi had left Bethlehem “full”, with her husband and two sons, but she had returned “empty”, for her husband and sons were no more. The meaning of her name “Naomi” is “pleasant”, but now she wanted to be called “Mara”, which means “bitter”, as that was how she felt about her life now.

While we can certainly empathise with Naomi’s plight, we also cannot lose sight of the good God who was still with her, and who had His plan and greater blessings in His mind.

 

God empties in order to fill.

Perhaps, Naomi had been placing her hopes on her husband and sons. Although God had taken all these from her, He gave her new hope and inheritance. While she lost her two precious sons, in the end, God gave her a daughter-in-law who loved her and was better than seven sons <Ruth 4:15>. When Naomi lost all the men in her life, it was indeed a pitiful state, as during her times, a widow without a husband and son was of the lowliest status. Yet, who would have guessed that God would turn her status around from pit bottom to a glorious one, when He made her the ancestor to the Messiah <Ruth 4:16-17>, thus elevating her to a place of great honor.

Likewise for us, when God wants to fill us, He has to first empty us. God has to tear us down before He can build us up again. As God’s disciples, we need to empty ourselves of our selfishness, pride, and sins, then our lives can be filled with the Holy Spirit as well as Christian virtues. Even though this process of emptying is painful to us, God will not empty us without good reasons. When we believe that He has better things in store for us, we will not be bitter.

 

In our sorrows, it is important not to amplify our hopelessness.

Just as tears will blur our vision, when a person is extremely sad, he cannot clearly see God’s presence, perfect will and grace. Therefore, when we are in great despair, do not believe our feelings too much. When we feel hopeless, it does not mean that we are truly hopeless in reality. Even though Naomi grieved over her situation, at least she had a correct view of God, which is, God is in control of everything. She kept pointing back to God’s sovereignty in her lament; in the short 3 verses we read earlier, Naomi mentioned God 5 times. However, though her view of God is right, her interpretation of her situation and her imagination of her end was not correct.

Often, we too magnify our despair when we see no hope. However, we believers should use God’s goodness to interpret everything that happens to us. We must trust God’s promises and character instead of our feelings and our own analysis. Our circumstances are not sufficient grounds to conclude if God loves us. In fact, when we are in trouble, instead of leaving us, God actually draws near to us.

 

In our suffering, we must continue to dig out God’s grace.

I used the word “dig”, because often, when we are suffering, God’s presence and grace seem hidden from us. Thus, we must look beyond outward circumstances and search for (dig out) evidences that God still loves us, sustains us and has perfect will for us. When we see these evidences, we will find strength even in suffering.

When we look at Naomi, although she felt miserable, God’s grace had never left her. She thought she had returned empty to Bethlehem, but in fact, she brought back Ruth with her. For the sake of Naomi, Ruth had left her own family, hometown and religion. And when both of them arrived at Bethlehem, it was the beginning of the barley harvest <Ruth 1:22>, implying that God had brought them back not to let them remain empty, but to give them their fill. Eventually, through Ruth, God also made Naomi a part of Jesus’ blessed genealogy. Indeed, Naomi had suffered much, but God still showed her great grace. Now, if Naomi who lost almost her whole family could receive grace from God, then even if our situation today also seems beyond hope, there will also be God’s hidden grace. We need to intentionally and patiently seek out God’s grace in our grimmest situation.

 

Sometimes, the reason why God does not reveal His perfect will earlier is so that man can grow in faith.

Sometimes, we think that if we have known the greater blessing that comes after our suffering, then we will not be so bitter now. However, God did not reveal His plan in advance to Naomi, He also did not explain to Naomi why He allowed certain things to happen. This is because He wanted to let Naomi grow in faith, He wanted to make her a better believer.

Sometimes, we also hope that God will reveal to us how He will lead us out of our troubles. We often wonder, “How can I survive without a job? Can my marriage still be salvaged with so many problems? How can I ever walk out of my depression? How can I cope with my illness?” As much as we hope God will reveal to us His clear solutions and blessings, sometimes God didn’t give us that but merely tells us what He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” <2 Co 12:9> In fact, it suffices that we know this promise.

 

Dear brothers and sisters, our natural reaction to suffering is to feel bitter, but God has better blessings in store for us, and He wants to make us better persons through our trials. When we look at Naomi, she returned empty but ended up being full; her story started with deaths (of her husband and sons), but ended with birth (of a new son through Ruth); she lost faith in God’s goodness, but she found Him faithful in the end. She also later became part of God’s salvation plan for mankind as she was related to Jesus’ genealogy. Her bitter encounters ended with better blessings.

Perhaps your circumstances may make you feel bitter. Though the pandemic situation in Singapore is quite under control, the repercussions of the pandemic may make you bitter with the loss of income and freedom, feelings of loneliness and mental stress, etc. However, let us not forget that even at our bitter moments, God is still with us. Bitter can be turned into better in His time and ways. We just need to keep hoping in the Lord and follow Him step by step, till we see for ourselves that His grace is indeed greater than our problems.

Preacher Huijun
Preacher Huijun
huijun@lifechurchmissions.com

Huijun joined The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) as a preacher in 2012. She is effectively bilingual and preaches occasionally at the Chinese service. She graduated from Singapore Bible College and currently lives in Singapore with her husband, Chengji.

No Comments