What I’ve Learned: The Bitter & The Sweet

A few times in my life I’ve taken a fruit that’s just not ripe enough yet and tried to eat it. It’s hard and bitter. It lacks the sweetness of one that’s ripe. Some things are meant to be taken in sweet. Some only stay bitter. Some need a little of both.

We all can identify with the concept of bittersweet. Sometimes more bitter than sweet, other times the opposite rings true. I know I’ve spent the past two years of this peculiar season I am in focusing primarily on the bitter. It’s easy to do, and it’s pretty evident. Barely have to peek my eyes open an eyelash to see it. But what I’ve not done, and should have, is look for the sweet.

Some days I’m good with reflecting on the obvious facts that I woke up that morning, am alive and breathing, have a roof over my head, clothes to cover with, and food for my body. Maybe at times I wish I had my own place, my own different roof over my head, new clothes to dress with, and food I’m in the mood for, but the sweetness found amongst the bitterness is thankfulness. It’s all those little blessings, one thousand gifts (as Ann Voskamp would write), that make life sweeter. You just have to stop focusing and dwelling on the bitter to see them.

God’s always giving me sweet blessings, every day. Life. Family. Love. Grace. There are so many sweet things to savor, if only I would get my darn mind off the bitter and stop letting my heart be filled with it. If only I change my perspective to learn from the bitter, cherish the sweet, and appreciate the peculiar blend the two make. When I accept my bittersweet, maybe then I can move forward in my desert/wilderness hybrid season of life and onto the path that will eventually draw me to a Promised Land.

“But if you can find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, to trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you’ll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there’s truly nothing sweeter.” Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Sometimes, probably more often than not, we actually neglect this time. It isn’t until we are further ahead looking back do we recognize the things that were right in front of our eyes. The things that were crying out, “I am a blessing. I am a divine gift.” They come in the form of rejections to protect you. They come in the form of closed doors to help guide you to the right one. They come in the form of opportunities that sadly, once they past, we wish we could go back and take advantage of it.

Life is bittersweet. Full of it – bitter and sweet, anti-joys and pleasant joys. Both are necessary and really, both are gifts. They are divine. They teach and they grow. They edify and purify. They close doors and open doors. They shift your perspective. They can strengthen your spirit and heal your heart, by the grace of God.

He uses both the bitters and the sweets to mold us into image bearers more like Himself and to draw us into deeper intimacy.

He knows the bitters. He’s faced rejection and oppression. As a man on earth, Christ experienced lack and pain. He knows sorrow and mourning. But He also knows perfect harmony and love. He knows abundance and joy. He knows laughter and life. Who better to turn to when you don’t understand or are overwhelmed by your bittersweets than the One who knows them in the deepest ways? The One who also, for a brief time in comparison to eternity, was bound to time and pain and sorrow, just like us, here on earth? God knows how our stories unfold and that the bittersweetness of life itself is the best way to showcase His power and authority, to extend His comfort and peace, revealing His glory to a world full of people experiencing their own bittersweet hardships and joys who need Him in their hearts and lives.

At times it can feel like the bitters of life are too much. When they constantly come, you begin to feel weary. Exhausted. Weak. Incapable. Undone. I get that, I really do. My bitters these past two years have left me doubting who I am, what I can do, what my worth is, resulting in my dreams fading. They cause me to wake some days dreading the hours to come. They’ve exposed my brokenness in ways I don’t understand and don’t like. But if I continue to focus too greatly on them, I lose sight of the sweets that are evident, however small of a package they may come in.

“What seems to be undoing you can ultimately remake you. What if the deeper you know your own brokenness, the deeper you can experience your own belovedness?” Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Hardships – the bitter, the anti-joys – can be overwhelming. They can seem out of control and larger than life. But is it not those circumstances that help direct our eyes to the God who is always in control? Do not the bitters of life help shift our perspective? Do they not make the joys of life that much sweeter? And to take a step further, don’t the joys make us begin to appreciate the hardships for how they taught us and grew us? We can thank the hardships because they helped bring us to the place where we have become stronger and wiser; to be able to see with a new outlook on the things in life with gratitude. They can bring us to our knees, crying out in sincere desperation to our loving Father who understands and knows our hearts, the state of our faith, the condition of our spirits, and who wants to bestow His unexplainable peace and comfort, instilling His divine strength in us, because He wants us to want Him to walk by our side through every season. Do not our hardships help bring us to have a more rooted relationship with Christ, which in turn, gives us great joy?

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

The bitter and the sweet are both a part of life. We need both. I know all we want is just the sweet, but very quickly that turns unhealthy. Same with too much bitterness. In this imperfect world, we need a healthy balance of both. It’s how we learn and grow, how we love and laugh. There are the challenges and the rewards. The hardships and the joys. Too much of one is not a good thing. When it comes to accepting your bittersweet, it’s all about perspective.



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