I’ve been thinking a lot about bitterness. I’ve been through seasons that left me bitter. I know you have, too. Sometimes, the season is fleeting. Other times, it becomes a fog that just won’t seem to lift even after the morning sun rises and dries up everything else.
I spend most of my days talking to other people. Whether my patients want to talk back or not depends on the day. But what I keep hearing is a lingering discontentment. Time well spent that now feels like a faraway oasis. Time squandered that now feels like an entrapment. Words left unsaid. Words wished could be washed away.
I looked up the word bitter in my study bible. It led me on a path that eventually landed on vinegar. I read again the story of a blameless man being nailed on a cross, his body failing. Thirst a very real human desire.
He was offered vinegar in place of water.
I thought about this scene, and how his mama was in the crowd watching. Helpless. I hate that feeling. Watching something unfold for a loved one and being utterly useless in fixing what’s going on. Knowing that, under the right circumstances and with the right set of tools, the outcome could be different. Instead, standing in the background and inhaling the flagrant whiff of vinegar.
I asked Jesus why we are served vinegar at times in our lives. Why do we do the virtuous thing and receive vials in return. He told me that He drank vinegar, too. He offered the best of the best. He did everything right. He had all the best things He could offer. And He was repaid with resin.
Then He showed me something else. He said that we have been feeding ourselves vinegar. We are taking the glasses out of the cupboard and mixing the marinade that we then guzzle. However, He says that He is the new wine. There is freedom and power in Him. All we must do is consume this better blend.
I felt like He was telling me that the people I serve are desperate for His gift. We cannot take another breath without Him. His gifts are not rancid, but righteous. Even when we feel as heavy as Jesus did dragging the wood to the place where He would be nailed to it, He offers us another way.
He is not saying that the chaos around us is not cumbersome. But He’s saying that if we put away the vinegar, we can find rest and security in Him.
You are seen. Your struggle is known. The things you’ve been through won’t be wasted. You’re safe here, despite all of those things.
Harlow asked me to refill her water the other day. Unwittingly, I poured warm water into the cup. She took a sip and said, “Mama, some sunshine got on this water!”
She was expecting ice cold water from her caregiver and received hot, unsatisfying liquid instead.
But I laughed at her comment, at how her little mind did not immediately see the transgression as evil. In fact, she saw the experience through the lens of watching a tired mama who had just finished washing dishes after working all day, paired with her little girl’s vivacious love of light.
How much of your vinegar could use some sunshine?
Hanging around the older generation in the way that I do, I’ve picked up lots of old wives’ tales and tried and true wisdom. Many include the use of vinegar. Yall, this stuff is basically gold. You can cook with it, clean with it, make “volcanos” erupt, and even use to heal sunburns.
It’s hard to see the bitterness and think any good will ever come from it. But the test is what makes your testimony and the underpinning for your faith. Through prayer and processing with Jesus, you will start to see that, even though you have consumed a lot of vinegar, and those around you might still smell it, it doesn’t define you.
And you know the saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” So, stop pouring others’ glasses of vinegar or water with sunshine on it. Be the sunshine. Be the honey. Let your words offer someone else hope and a reason to persevere, despite the sour wine you have become accustomed to.
Let’s drink the new wine! The wine that comes from grapes that thought their jobs were complete, only to be trampled upon and squeezed out, left forgotten and on their way to becoming vinegar.
God reminds us that, when the time is right, he himself will make it happen. He prunes at the right time. He ends the fermenting process at the right time to produce choice wine. He turns water into wine when everyone thinks the party is over.
If it feels like everything around you has soured and reeks of ruin, just remember that God’s not done yet. He is still in the business of turning lives around.
I listened to an old praise and worship song that we used to sing on Sunday nights and in churches all over America as we travelled with our church choir. The lyrics include the following:
I am pressed but not crushed
Persecuted, not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse
For His promise will endure
His joy’s gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes in the morning
That’s my prayer for you today, friends. That though it feels like you have been forgotten, you can find freedom today by turning to the One who takes your pain and suffering, through no action of your own, and replaces it with love and safety and peace and satisfaction.
Happy birthday, America! We are grateful this day to celebrate and freely worship the name of Jesus.
Proverbs 6:24 “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Psalm 69:19-22 “You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before You. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
John 19:28-30 “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Isaiah 55:8 “Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.”
Isaiah 60:22 “When the time is right, I the Lord will make it happen.”