Both the bitterness and the joys

Starlings
Don’t expect anyone else to fully understand both the bitterness and the joys of all you experience in your life. – Proverbs 14:10

I found myself in a strange place the weeks leading up to and following Christmas. Several (not just 1 or 2, but 4 or 5) of our close friends went through tragic, unexplainable, heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching circumstances. My heart and mind were so torn up for our friends and their situations. My body was in autopilot trying to prepare for family time with last minute shopping, cleaning, and baking.

As I was praying for and thinking about all that was going on, I found myself thinking about people I know in the generation(s) older than me that have gone through so much. I’m so thankful certain women older than me have been vulnerable and shared their deepest hurts and most painful losses. I’m not thankful because I love hearing the heartbreak in their voice and seeing the tears in their eyes as they share things that happened 10, 20, even 30 years ago. I’m thankful because it gives me hope that even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, testimonies are born and faith is built. It gives me hope that while the pain may never disappear, it does become part of the story of our lives, lives filled with sweet and bitter experiences.

There are certain individuals whose lives speak volumes to me. They are people who rarely complain, remain pure in heart, have no bitter roots eating away at their thoughts or emotions, and harness their strengths so well that few know or are even aware how strong they actually are. Maybe turning 30 this year prompted me to start thinking about the people I admire so deeply and aspire to be like. Whatever the reason, I spent almost the whole last month of 2015 making a list of the characteristics of people who hold the highest honor in my life. Here it is.

They are those who:

  • say through tears, pain, heartbreak, disappointment, disillusionment, and the unexplainable that God is still good
  • love unconditionally with no strings attached
  • fight for justice when no one else seems to care or notice because there is so much to be done in our towns, regions, nations, and world to right wrong
  • sacrifice time, energy, and resource to be loyal and faithful even when it’s inconvenient
  • learn to rest and live from a place of rest in the nonstop, ever-changing culture that we can get caught up in
  • find peace and then remain at peace even in the storms of life
  • recognize and accept present realities that don’t make sense and don’t match up with expectations without giving up and losing hope

While this list just barely scratches the surface of characteristics I admire, it expresses to the best of my ability those things I’ve learned to value so deeply.

I find this verse so challenging and freeing, “don’t expect anyone else to fully understand both the bitterness and the joys of all you experience in your life” (Prov. 14:10). It’s challenging because I want the whole world to know and recognize and value my own personal experiences. We all want validation. But it’s equally, if not more, freeing because I can fully embrace all the bitterness and all the joy knowing every single person on this planet also experiences both pain and happiness too. It’s freeing to know that while no one else sees, He sees. God sees and knows and feels all we go through. And in the end, that’s all that really matters.

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