I had planned, of course, that life would turn out differently.
Moving from place to place as a girl provided lots of adventure, but few close friends and fewer happy memories of time spent with cousins, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, and such…
I was after all, too shy for Hellos, and not fond of saying so many Good-byes.
When I grow up I want something different… A family settled in an established neighborhood… A husband and four kids… A two-story-house on a tree-lined street at the edge of town, with a park close by for picnics, riding bikes and sledding…
We’ll minister at a small church with a tall steeple, raise our kids, be a blessing to the congregation, to visiting missionaries, to the community, and stay there for the rest of our lives…
Now, decades later, this life looks very different:
Two kids—not four (though I wouldn’t trade my two for anyone else’s
Packing and unpacking at several homes in several locales across the country for 25 years,
Plus numerous ministry positions served in multiple churches (in various locales across the country) for over three decades.
After several great upheavals in churches where we served, where pastors got distracted or people grew disgruntled—
and God’s plucking our family many times from the one place to plant us firmly in the next place—
I could feel my enthusiasm for the ministry waning.
I started noticing, small callouses had formed on my heart.
All those years I tried to maintain my optimism. All that time I believed God had good things planned. In all those different places, I held on to my faith—even in the difficulties, even when it required saying Good-bye—again.
But that last time, having spent close to seven years in an ever-spreading desert metropolis, where I was willing to endure oppressive heat for six months of every year, in order to continue serving with people who had become the best of friends…
Where many were praying and expecting and hoping for us to stay, to continue ministering in greater ways…
Another disruption occurred, scattering church members here and there, and leaving our family dazed.
Within that same time period God had opened the door to a new place of ministry, where neither my husband nor I had any desire to go.
I told my husband, If I wasn’t a believer I could easily think that you and I have been jinxed.
My husband told me, If we hadn’t already committed ourselves to (the next place), he’d get out of the ministry.
Deflated described our spirits.
After all we’ve done… and all we’ve given… after all we’ve put up with…
Not only was my heart calloused, I found myself becoming bitter.
At one of our lowest points, my mouth had barely opened to voice the faithless words of complaint, when the Holy Spirit shook His head, whispering ever so firmly:
Don’t do it. You have no reason to be bitter. Look at all you’ve learned in this place—in all the places where I’ve put you. Look at how much fruit has grown, at all the good that’s come as a result, and how many friendships you’ve gained… No, my child, you have no reason to be bitter.
Bitterness. Nasty at the start. Nasty to the end.
God’s reprimand is something I’ve never forgotten.
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane (Godless) person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. – Hebrews 12:14-17
There was a time when Ahithophel was King David’s closest and wisest counselor.
And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. So was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom. – II Samuel 16:23
Because of bitterness, Ahithophel defected from his king to the king’s pompous son.
Because of bitterness, Ahithophel revolted against that same king, advising Absalom to claim his father’s harem.
Because of bitterness, Ahithophel conspired the king’s murder.
Because of bitterness, Ahithophel continued to advise in schemes against the king.
And in a turn of events when Ahithophel’s advice was not taken, because of bitterness, Ahithophel came to a bitter end.
Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb. – II Samuel 17:23
Who exactly was Ahithophel?
Besides being privy to all that went on in the royal court, Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba.
That could explain where all his bitterness came from.
But it ruined him in the end.
Even though he had enormous reasons to be angry with David for his double-whammy-of-a-sin (adultery and murder),
and even though you and I can understand how next-to-impossibly-difficult it would be to extend forgiveness to the man who brought such devastation to his family, especially when the penalty for both crimes under the Law was death,
God would have helped Ahithophel to avoid the trap of bitterness, if only he had turned to Him.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. – Leviticus 19:17-18
Bitterness spreads when a wound refuses to heal… when constant picking prevents the wound from healing, and keeps the one wounded from becoming whole.
Not only did Bathsheba lose her husband and a child…
Because of bitterness, she also lost her grandfather.