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The root of bitterness 2/2 -overcoming bitterness

Updated: 4 days ago

"And yet I know that good will come to me - that good will always come, though few always have the simplicity and the courage to believe it." 
(George Mc Donald/Phantastes)

"And her life may be the richer for having now the memory of what came but could not stay." 
(George McDonald, Phantastes)

"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you." ( Isaiah 54,10)

My dear friends, dear women of God.

Why does God allow this?

There are so many Christian concepts, so many faiths that try to deal with the question of suffering. To explain the question of loss, of pain, to explain it away.

This life is like a rollercoaster where we are thrown from highs to lows - just on the way to the cloudless sky where the sun shines - and a second later torn into the abyss, into darkness, thrown, confronted with death, illness, incomprehension.

The most popular thought-construction we build is that of Satan's attacks, which, like an unpredictable darkness, endanger our actually well-planned, perfect life.

And yes: there is truth in this statement, there is truth in believing in the darkness and the reality of this power that has nothing but ruin and destruction in store for us.

Alone: Anyone who thinks further is in danger of despair.

For we learn early, very early, a shocking fact: suffering does not stop even for Christians. Even we who live in the realm of Christ, on the other side of the cross, justified, loved, chosen, experience sickness, death, loss and pain.

When my mother had the stroke that was to change not only her life, but mine as well, I lost all inner support at an age when, according to our standards, this should not happen. No, she didn't die, but the battle she was fighting with herself, her disability and the worldly consequences of that - it didn't go away.

I already knew and loved Jesus when this happened. Only a short time before, I had been promised Isaiah 54:10, His grace, His covenant of peace that whatever would happen would not depart from me. Though the hills should fall and the mountains be removed.



Not: not a hair of your head shall be burned, and green pastures await you.

So is God not almighty?

Many take refuge in this belief, and it seems to me that those who love God most do so most intensely. It is not fitting, we think, for God to expose us to such circumstances, to allow such suffering. He must have been powerless at that moment, bound by the contract that Satan is allowed to rage and snatch sheep in this world.

The problem is: No scripture proves this, and giving Satan this power means two things:

  • We make him equal to God and give him an equal status that he never had and never will have as a creature, as a created destroyer.

  • And we trivialise Christ's work of redemption, his final and unshakeable victory over darkness, over Satan, over death itself.

And so we are left alone.

With uncertainty and fear. Yes, it may be that God heals. It may also be that he does not. Yes, it may be that this friendship will carry me to the end of my days on this earth, it may be that it will not, that I will lose it before my heart is ready.

We protect ourselves, preferring not to love so much, so unreservedly. And the more darkness there has been in our lives, the less we allow the good - because to lose it again, no, we don't think we can bear that again. Better not to hope unreservedly. You never know.

Brent Curtis says in Sacred Romance and the accompanying lecture series from 1997, recorded a year before his tragic death*, that our heart is struggling: it is struggling with the message of unimaginable beauty and love on the one hand, and destruction, hatred, death, loss on the other, the message of the arrows of fire, as he and also John Eldredge call it.

And he names it clearly:

The message that the Book of Job brings us is the message of the doubt of human hearts that love God, when he, in his goodness and love, grants them everything they could possibly desire. "Allow me to take it from them," Satan demands, "and then see how much of this supposed love is left."

Are we, then, pawns in a poker game between Satan and God? Is this the love, this the great story that the Father Heart of God is writing for us? To be at his mercy? To suffer loss helplessly? To be sacrificed for higher ways?

These are questions that we do not express commonly. We are ashamed of them, we repress them. We build concepts that allow us to avoid the question:

"If you are not healed, you have not believed enough. "If you have so much suffering in your life, you must be cursed".

The answer that is consistent with our experience of a loving God must be there somewhere

Job's friends went the same way, and Job's wife urged him to stop clinging to God when it was not blessing but suffering that came upon Job. When God allowed this unimaginably cruel test of faith.

The answer to the question of why God allows his faithful, his righteous, to suffer, why he doesn't just come and take away the suffering, is the one that is most sought after.

I think the answer is simple:

If we had everything and only knew green pastures and quiet waters, we would not reach out for what really remains, and even less for who is left. We would graze in complacency, forgetting that there is more than this life. We would confuse God's blessings and gifts with Him, loving Him for what He gives us and not for who He is.

This life is a trailer.

An admittedly long trailer, almost eternal to us, for a book that will be opened later. In this book, in this life, we experience both the absence, the curse of God and the blessing, the presence of God, His sweet promises to us, His good gifts, His eternal guarantees of what He will give us when. When the new kingdom comes.

And just as a trailer never tells the whole story, but keeps us guessing, only touches on beautiful scenes, leaving us hopeful and expectant to enjoy the whole story, so the snippets and blessings in this world are limited. They are appetisers to show us what God has for us when we enter the new kingdom. The friendship we lost - it was a trailer for the friendship that will never end. The love that died in our hands - it was secured and was a preview, a little hint from heaven, of the good that is promised to us. What we love, what is good in this world, is a reflection of what is to come.

God, in his goodness, gives us these things for a time. We must not cling to them, or else we will declare the trailer to be the book, or else we will confuse hope with reality.

When something good comes to an end, know that what you have experienced is a blessing, a greeting and a hope. There is no death and no end in God. If it is taken away from you, know that what was not given is waiting for you.

Gather the good moments like pearls and collect the good memories for what they are: The truth. God's promise to you. An outpost of Eden, given to you to know what awaits you in the eternal world to come.

We have a choice:

We can be bitter about what is taken from us in the valley of death, the valley of decision.

We can look at the world and our lives from the perspective of what has been taken from us. What has been taken from us, what has not been given to us.

We can lose ourselves in the wickedness of Satan and become quietly and silently bitter.

We can protest and call it wrong, fight it or refuse to acknowledge it. We can accuse God of hating us, of not seeing us, of destroying us.

We can hate him, rage against him, and acknowledge the pain and suffering that comes with seeing that this life is only a snapshot of our true destiny, drumming like fists against his chest.

Or we can understand what he proclaimed: That nothing will be taken away from us. That sorrow will turn to joy, injustice to justice, that the same hand that takes will bless again.

We can savour all the good things in our lives with joy and gratitude, accept them, let them nourish us and see them as the hope that has been proclaimed to us: The hope of a kingdom that brings joy. We can accept the dark times as a reminder that the kingdom is not yet here, but that we have already been allowed to share in what is meant for us, and keep it alive, in us, with us, celebrating and sustaining it as the good that awaits us in another place to be fully realised there.

Or we can despair, become embittered, and with the bitter roots in our hearts, participate in all the condemnation, all the bitterness, all the accusations against God of not being good, not being omnipotent, not being love.

It is our choice and it is our gift. The gift of accepting the invitation to the sacrificial feast that God has given us- or to refuse it and to remain in bitterness.

This earth shows us both: heaven and hell. God's distance and God's nearness. Blessing and curse, life and death.

May we choose wisely - and be ambassadors of life.

For pain will pass away. Death will be no more - unless we choose it.

Is it true, then, that we can never know how long we will be granted the joy that nourishes us?

Yes, it is.

Is it then that we must accept God's painful reminder that this world is not our final destination?

Yes, it is.

But in our hearts we carry all the blessings, all the good, all that He tells us about a much better life - without robbery. Without pain. Restored. Some things that seem indispensable to us we will have to wait to get back.

We will be reminded longingly of the times when we had them. But even the longest wait passes - and the trailer gives way to the full epic. The first volume, the book of life and death, of curse and blessing, gives way to the book of life.

And everything that has given us life, that has filled us, that has been our blessing - will unfold its power, its beauty, its whole story there.

So if the good that happens to us here is just the appetiser, which does not fill you up, and yet is as delicious as fresh, fried green tomatoes....

what will be the main course? Do we weep for the finished starter?

No. We wait for the main course, and in the meantime we do not starve.

For that which nourished us will endure, and he who gave the one will not forget the other.

Let us seek the good. For there is no reward in bitterness.

And what we have lost, let it be a promise to us. We are heralds of what is to come. May we be it with the joy it deserves.

Christ's blessings upon you!

Sibylle/Daughter of Zion


The Bible. Elberfelder Translation/German Version. New International Version/English version. Both:

*Podcast: Sacred Romance Part 3: Brent Curtis. Direct link:

Quotes: George McDonald from Phantastes, translated by, (German Version)

Photo: Pixabay: Photo by Michaela, at home in Germany, thank you!

This article is part of the preparation and accompaniment of the eight-week Study: "Becoming myself- embracing God's dream for you" Stasi Eldredge; starting 20.03.2023-15.05.2023.

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