When loss happens, bitterness wants to move in.
Especially when your personal feelings of loss or emptiness come because of another person’s selfishness or irresponsibility, causing something in your life to never be the same. Now, sorrow has invited a bitterness you didn’t even know you were capable of. I can write about this because I deeply understand this.
But God has been helping me see that sitting in fresh grief can be a good cure for bitterness.
This is exactly what happened during a funeral I recently attended. She was young and passed away very unexpectedly.
And this loss … it opened up a tender place in me I had shut down. And softened those hard places. Conviction about ways my heart had gone a little off-kilter didn’t jackhammer its way through me. It didn’t have to. I just opened myself to grief. I let the weight of loss revisit me. I came out from hiding behind the unfairness of my own situation and felt my hardness be watered by the raw tears of fresh loss. This softening was good for me. Hardened hearts have such a propensity to get shattered. Soft hearts don’t as easily break.
The further we get from the original source of our grief, the more solidified our hardness becomes. Undealt-with hurt and pain hardens like parched soil. And the only way to soften it afresh is for the tears to fall soft and wet and free-flowing once again.
I learned recently about what to do if you have hardened soil that’s difficult to till and you want to prep it so it can grow beautiful plants.
First, you start with a little water … about a half-inch. You don’t drown it. You let the ground take in the water slowly. Then you let it sit for a couple of days, so the water has time to sink below the surface. After that, you can dig down about 8 inches to overturn the ground below, exposing it to the surface. You then spray the overturned soil with a fine stream of water to soften the surface before raking it and adding compost — organic material once alive, now decomposed. What could have been waste becomes fertilizer.
I am not a gardener of the earth. But all of this seems to be so applicable to my desire to tend to the hard places of my heart.
In a spiritual sense, this resonates with how to turn hard bitterness into fertile soil.
You don’t beat bitterness out of someone.
You don’t point at and poke it out, or plead with it or provoke it out of someone.
You soften the hardness out. And as the softening breaks up the hard ground, you then mix in perspective. Perspective is the best fertilizer there is. What we’ve gone through is not a waste when it fertilizes the softened ground of our hearts, increasing the chances for new life to thrive.
A good farmer knows this isn’t just a one-time event for hardened ground. Each new season, the hardness of the ground needs to be worked on by softening and tilling it again.
The same is true for our hearts. Left unattended, our hearts constantly get walked on and walked over, pounding us into potentially hardened places all over again. So we need to be aware of this to make softening and tilling a regular part of our life. And one of the ways we can do this is found in Romans 12:15, where God reminds us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” It’s easy to assume grieving with others is simply our gift of love and compassion to them. But God can also use those tears to do a good work in us.
I’m not saying we suddenly become inappropriately invasive stalkers at funerals. Not at all. But we can stay open enough to be aware of others’ grief. We don’t have to have a casket at the front of the church to have a funeral. Marked moments of grief happen all around us every day.
I don’t know where your own losses have caused bitterness to move into your heart, sweet friend. And if no one else in this world has been kind enough to say this, I will. I’m so, so sorry for all that’s happened to you.
But your heart is much too beautiful of a place for bitterness, resentment or unhealed pain. And today’s a good day for us all to remember that sitting with someone else in their grief may be exactly what we need to help us process our own.
Father God, You know how much my heart wants to avoid grief. Help me remember You can use it to soften and till me. Just like a farmer knows what is good for the ground, You know what is good for the human heart. Let this softening in me lead to new life, new fruit and new, beautiful beginnings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (NIV)
Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)