Monday, November 26, 2007

Bitterness of Soul

On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here's the 9th in this series.

The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "Bitterness of Soul" chapter nine of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. - 1 Samuel1:10 (NIV)

Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
- Job 7:11 (NIV)

Naomi knew the pain of a bitter heart. She lost her husband and both sons in a foreign country. When she returned home her soul was so wounded that when friends called her Naomi, a name that means "pleasant," she replied, "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty" (Ruth 1:20-21). Literally translated, the Hebrew word mara means "bitter." The idea behind this word is marrow, or the core substance of something; thus Naomi's bitterness penetrated through the very depths of her being.

Mara is quite similar to the word used to describe the bitterness Hannah faced as she went before God after years of pain and longing for a child. Hannah's bitterness, marah, also indicates great heaviness, disconnection, and chafing.

Bitterness is described in Hebrews as a root that defiles the soul, causing us to miss the grace of God. Nothing chokes out peace faster. Intense marah was deeply rooted within my heart for a long time. I felt raw, weighed down, constantly rubbed in the wrong direction. I was disconnected from God, my husband, my friends, and even myself.

I felt totally neglected and abandoned. I wondered how I could trust a God who would be so unloving as to give me such a strong desire to reproduce then not enable me to accomplish the task. All the waiting, disappointment, frustration, faith, hope, prayer, begging, pleasing, doctor's visits and medication seemed futile. God seemed so very far away.

Finally I had it out with God in a yelling, stomping, fist-shaking, tearful fit unlike any I had ever dared before. I had never dared admit to Him, nor to myself, just how really angry I was. But He had known the true nature of my heart all along. I couldn't shock or surprise Him with my temper tantrum. He was big enough to handle all my rage. By fully confronting Him, I admitted to both of us exactly how I perceived our relationship. But to my surprise, rather than driving Him further away, He drew me close!

Honesty unlocked the rusty gate to the wall I had built around my heart. It was an amazing breakthrough for me to understand that even if my prayers are only yelled at God in total disillusionment, I must keep taking my pain to God. He cannot help me when I lock Him out, hide or run away. I am free to weep with Hannah, as long as that weeping was done before the Lord.

The truth is, even when He seems silent to my cries, He is listening and does care, grieving deeply with me in my loneliness. Not only does He care, but He relates with personal understanding. Remember Jesus' cry from the cross, "My God, why have you forsaken me"?

While I demanded the joy of motherhood, I never stopped to consider how it would break my heart to be rejected by my child in the way I was treating the Lord. By grace, just as I could never stop loving a prodigal, God's persistent love never abandoned me either.

But neither did His love trespass where uninvited. In order for fellowship to be restored, I had to ask Him to knock down walls and weed my heart. Jesus declares, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:1-2). Pruning often seems more painful than letting bitterness remain rooted, but God is the master Gardener who desires to see us bloom. By drinking deeply of Living Water, even when I don't feel like it, the soil of my heart will slowly soften, allowing weeds to less painfully release their hold.

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