See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled (Hebrews 12:25).
Over the years, I confess there have been times when I have let the strain of Margaret’s illness drive me to a point of despair and hopelessness. During these periods of discouragement I have also found myself getting angry with God. Perceiving our situation to be too big a load for a family to carry, I have either given the Lord the silent treatment, or blatantly told him that our situation was not fair. During these times I found myself living a two-faced Christian life: externally I wore the facade of loving and trusting God (my Christian happy face) while internally I stewed with anger and distrust. Can you relate? Today do you find yourself gripped with anger as you think about your medical challenges?
Throughout the twenty-seven-plus years of our health struggles, often folks have asked Margaret and me questions like these: “Why aren’t you bitter? How can you possibly have joy and thankfulness in your heart in light of all you have been through? Your medical challenges have lasted so long, and they are getting worse—don’t you feel you have a right to be angry and complain to God?” These are great questions. With the longevity and severity of her disease, common sense would say we should wake up most days grumbling, murmuring, and harboring all kinds of angry thoughts toward God. Yet as I write this month’s post, Margaret lies in her in-home hospital bed with peace, hope, and joy in her heart. I too, find my soul grateful for all the Lord has done for us.
How is this possible? Why isn’t Margaret habitually whining, complaining, and showing animosity aimed at the Lord and our family? Has she somehow worked up a happy face? Is this a manufactured joyfulness due to an abundance of human fortitude? On the caregiver side of things, is the peace and contentment I regularly feel in my heart the result of a gutsy resolve to not let her illness get the best of me? Have I somehow been given a special dose of caregiver hope due to my strength of character and my personality type?
Just to be clear, both of us are still prone to sin. Neither of us has attained a level of maturity where anger and bitterness issues have been permanently resolved. Yet, with God’s help, most days we sense hope, peace, joy and gratitude in our hearts. How can this be? The only explanation I can provide is this: it is the miraculous fruit of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you are bitter today, I have good news for you: the Lord can set you free of your anger and bitterness. You don’t have to clean up your life first, nor do some measure of good deeds to get God’s attention. Jesus would implore you to come to him just as you are. He stands before you with open arms and says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
For us, there truly is only one reason we have joy, hope, and peace in the midst of our medical struggles: His name is Jesus. He is the only lasting remedy for bitterness of the soul. The life-changing power of his gospel has transformed our lives, and it can transform yours as well. Jesus is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Christ wants to (and does) comfort and encourage medically broken people with his love. He is the good shepherd, and by his power he can “restore [your] soul” (Psalm 23:3). His precious soul restoration can change you from a bitter person to a thankful person. Fear and distrust can be quenched by his assuring words, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Doubts about the dependability of his care can be annihilated by the knowledge that he brought full provision to the greatest need you and I will ever have—being separated from God because of our sins.
Friend, come to Jesus today. What he has done for us, he desires to do for you as well. Yes, your bitterness can be cured by the living Savior who died for your sins, rose from the grave, and is coming again. If you would like some help in the understanding the good news of Jesus Christ, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to assist you in any way I can.