Better, or Bitter?

Christ Community Church   -  

“They can make you bitter, or better.”
That’s what Don Beckman would say to me, especially after I had preached in our Colorado church about suffering and tragic times.
Don stood at the main door virtually every Sunday.  Shook every hand.  Made it his ministry to know every name, once he met someone and had an introduction.  Don wasn’t a scholar; he was a bricklayer, a mason who was a true craftsman.  And, he knew the inherent value people felt from him when he remembered their names.
“They can make you bitter, or better.”
You know what he meant.  Don knew what passages like Romans 5 taught.   That we “rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us,because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given us” (5:3-5).
Don knew that when any affliction is framed by what we KNOW from God about His purpose for tough times in our lives, that our hearts can fill with a HOPE that both today, and someday, the life we long for will flourish in an unending era that will never end.  We will NOT be disappointed that we allowed the tough times to turn our hearts to more deeply and fully hoping in God.
Or…”it can make you bitter.”
So many things, if we let them, can embitter our hearts, and we aim that bitterness at God.  The loss of a child, a sudden bout with life-threatening cancer, an unexpected financial crisis, a child that rebels and embarrasses the family…you name it.  When we respond with bitterness, it is a not-so-veiled demand that God has an obligation to protect us from that which involves loss and disappointment. 
When God fails to protect or preserve what we enjoy (as we see it), He’s done something wrong and we “modern-day” Jobs have the right to call Him out on it (“As God lives, who has deprived me of justice, and the Almighty who has made me bitter…” Job 27:2).
Despite our self-justified complaining, God knows that our greatest good is to desire Him first, and to desire Him (His presence, His closeness) like we desire nothing else.  Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth I desire but You,” so writes Asaph.
When God is in His right, primary, and unique spot with us, than all of the life and hope found in Him can flow our way.  When we put anything else (i.e., that which is demanded NOW though temporary), we are vulnerable to becoming bitter.
“They can make you bitter, or better.”  Don knew.  His life was often filled with very tough things.  And this blue-collar saint fully trusted in a God who stood behind Romans 8:28-29.   Those tough times, framed in God’s purposes, made him better.
How about you?