The Sweet and the Bitter

For the last week or two a quote has been repeatedly finding its way to the forefront of my mind. It has been at least six months since I last read it, so I couldn’t figure out why it was popping up now. While life has thrown my wife and I a few curveballs lately, my attitude has been surprisingly even, no great hills or valleys. I’ve maintained a sense of trust that everything is going to be okay.

Then the weekend came, and along with it, quite possibly the worst “spring” snowstorm in my memory. The weather system, from the radar images, seemed to center on my city refusing to move away. While I know for certain that other towns and cities ended up with more snow and wind than we had, I was not at all happy. This storm, and the resulting hours of laborious snow removal, had cut into my strict marathon training schedule. And to make matters worse, the snowblower broke a belt, leaving me with just a shovel to deal with the drifts that were up to four feet deep.

Then once again the quote popped back into my mind. 

If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter.” –Brother Lawrence

I had allowed my circumstances to dictate my attitude. In other words, in my mind I had decided that I was more important than anyone and everyone around me. My self-centeredness painted a picture that the storm, the delayed workout, the snowblower issues, had all been a devious, conspiratorial effort to deny me pleasures in life that I deserved.

I went back through my reading notes and found the quote and read and re-read in five or six times, focusing on different phrases within the sentence each time.

“How much he loves us.” Yes, I know that God loves me, “for the Bible tells me so!” “For God so loved the world….” We hear these things so often that they go in one ear and out the other. We mindlessly meander through life without taking hold of the Truth and making it our own. While we have at our disposal more sound Biblical teaching than at any other time in history, perhaps we need to spend more time on the simple, yet foundational, truths found in scripture! If we only understood His love for us, we would also understand that He wants what is best for us; and He knows what is best whether we understand or not.

“We should always be ready to receive equally….” I carried a lot of baggage when I found salvation through Jesus Christ. I had low self-esteem, which is code for “I felt like a loser, but still felt I deserved better than I was getting.” All sin has one thing in common: it all has to do with selfishness (one day I’ll write more about this!). We want things that we feel we deserve to have, and rather than trust God’s wisdom and sovereignty, we focus on the things we want. We want to receive; and we want to receive good things; and we are ready to receive those good things. But we don’t want to receive equally.

“And with indifference….” These three words screamed at me while I was angry about the snowblower. We don’t want to receive bad things, but to be ready to receive them with indifference seems so far out of reach. Indifference here doesn’t mean apathy. It means that we accept that God’s love for us provides for us in good times and bad, and that He provides us with what we most need at the time, pleasant or not.

“From His hand the sweet and the bitter.” “From His hand….” I remember having to swallow some vile tasting medicines as a child. And that from the hand of the one who loved me best in the whole world. While I may have questioned the efficacy of those medicines, I never once questioned whether Mom loved me. Whether she approached me with cookies or cough medicine her love for me was never in question. We can’t always see and understand why bad things happen to us. “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew‬ ‭5:45‬ ‭ESV‬).


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