Do You See the Blessings in Your Life?
Get rid of all bitterness…
In 1 Samuel 1:2, we are introduced to Hannah, childless for years. She was not only tormented by her “failure”, but her rival also continually taunted her. The pain was so great that her heart became bitter. In her depression and bitterness, she was unable to eat.
I find it easy to sympathize with Hannah in her misery. I suspect all of us have down times, when life seems dark and empty, as if everything has gone wrong, and we are poignantly aware of how unfair it all is. Bitterness can set in when we face the injustices and pain of this world. If allowed to take root in our hearts, it’s very destructive. Paul warns us: “Look after each other so that none of you will miss out on the special favor of God. Watch out that no bitter root of unbelief rises up among you, for whenever it springs up, many are corrupted by its poison.” (Hebrews 12:15)
According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition), the word “bitter” means: “exhibiting intense animosity; harshly reproachful; or marked by cynicism and rancor.” No wonder we are instructed to get rid of it. How can the fruits of the spirit live amongst such ugliness? Still, when bitterness wells up from our souls, it is tough to “put off”.
In Hannah’s case, the problem was resolved when the Lord eventually answered her prayer, giving her a child. For some of us, the answer doesn’t come so quickly — or perhaps at all. At least there’s no answer that we can perceive. It’s so important to know where to seek comfort during bitter times, before it takes root.
Hannah poured out her pain to the Lord, but while she waited for Him to answer, her husband, Elkanah, tried to comfort her. “…Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8). Rather than berate her for her failure to produce sons, the Bible says that Elkanah loved her. It’s clear that despite Hannah’s suffering, her husband was a constant, present blessing. He wanted her to see the good in her life, the blessings she was missing in her despair.
This is where you and I are to find comfort while we wait for God to relieve our pain. No, not in a loving husband or wife — but rather, in the blessings God may provide for us. We need to focus on the good things, for in them we find evidence that God hasn’t forsaken us after all. In them we find evidence that we are loved, even though we may be suffering.
Focusing on God’s good gifts won’t take the pain away, at least not immediately, but it will fight off bitterness. Gratitude can make the pain bearable, sustain us, and even lead us into joy. Whether we receive what we long for or not, awareness of God’s love and a sincere appreciation for His goodness simply cannot co-exist with bitterness.
God gives good gifts to all, but we need wisdom to recognize them and the grace to appreciate them. Often a good friend can help us rediscover the blessings in our life when we are blinded by the depth of our anger, grief, or sorrow. Let’s not allow the failures of this world to rob our joy. May our gratitude keep all bitterness from taking root in our hearts.
How can you “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures for ever.”? (Psalm 136:1)
Do you see that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows?” (James 1:17)
Maybe it is as direct as If you cannot see your blessings, ask God to refresh your memory.
Jim Grassi, D. Min.