Sometimes life can bring us through an experience that just is “bitter”. For some reason, we do not like to use that word or even admit to it. It doesn’t even sound very nice or pleasant. Bitter, according to dictionary.com means:
- having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste
- hard to bear, grievous; distressful
- causing pain; piercing; stinging
- characterized by intense antagonism or hostility
See what I mean? None of those even remotely sound pleasant, enjoyable or desirable to experience. Yet we all go through those times at some point in life.
Even God’s chosen people, the Israelites, had those times when they were brought to bitter waters. Let me explain…
They had already crossed the Red Sea. God parted those waters for them. Scripture tells us they passed through on dry land. Not damp. Not muddy. Dry. That in itself is pretty amazing. He delivers them from their enemies, the Egyptians. But then God leads them from the Red Sea experience into the desert and for three days they travel without finding any water. I would think they are now experiencing “parched” throats. Very parched. OK, one could say that they felt like they were dying of thirst!
When they finally come upon water, at Marah, Scripture tells us, “they could not drink its water because it was bitter.” (Exodus 15:23 NIV). So the people do what comes natural to them (and to us as well, lest we throw any stones here!!) – they grumble (verse 24). God instructs Moses to throw a piece of wood into the waters & the waters become sweet, drinkable.
Here is where we would have to wonder as to why God would lead them to waters that are bitter when they have not had a drink for three days. What was this all about?
I think this experience of theirs can teach us a few things:
- there are places in life where we tend to go to when life is hard. We expect to find hope or encouragement but once there, we don’t get what we need. We find that what we thought was the answer, couldn’t deliver. Only God can provide for us. We will not find our answers in any other.
- there are times when life is bitter & God wants us to experience Him & His touch on our circumstances. He is the only One that can take that “bitter” experience & turn it into something that we will look back on as sweet. He is the One that can change our circumstances.
Where do we find ourselves today? What bitter waters are you near?
- a broken relationship?
- a disappointment?
- a frustration?
- financial hardship?
- a short sale or foreclosure?
- an illness?
- an addiction of any sort?
See, any of the above can represent a place of bitterness, of bitter waters in our lives. But when our God shows up in that area, He alone can make that bitterness, sweet.
This portion of Scripture in Exodus 15 ends on a most interesting note:
“There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:25-26 NIV).
It was there at the bitter waters turned sweet that God provided for their healing.
His desire is to do the same for you.