Every Bitter Thing is Sweet
by Jen Hatmaker on November 12th, 2014

I’m pretty much a Fun Time Girl. Laughter and humor are my go-to staples. Brandon and I have had this conversation 338482 in our marriage:
BH:      What movie do you want to rent?
JH:       A funny one.
Bless. It is just what I reach for. I just love to laugh. I like funny people and funny things. (My sub-category is sarcasm.) This is both my preference and my style.
But sometimes life is really, really hard and I am in the weeds. Sometimes I need sober, thoughtful instruction to lead and comfort me. Sometimes I crave depth in the midst of struggle. As one who thrives in exterior spiritual work, it is innately good for me to learn from someone with a strong interior constitution.
Many of you know my mom has cancer. It’s so dumb. We still can’t believe it. She looks so normal and plus we don’t get cancer. Mom is the only calm and stable person in our family. The rest of us are prone to hysteria and drama; you would think we had the cancer to hear us go on. Crisis has found our doorstep, and it is decidedly not funny (even though Dad asked us in the hospital after Mom’s surgery if she was going to make us dinner that night…we are somehow managing Cancer Humor which apparently is a thing).
I guess that is why I was so glad when Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty found its way into my hands. It asks questions that are tragically relevant to us right now:
What does it look like to know God’s nearness when your world stops working?
What does it mean to receive His life when earthly life remains barren?
How can God turn the bitterness of unmet desire into new flavors of joy?


Sara takes the substance of her own life – spiritual bankruptcy, marital struggles, physical barrenness, loss and grief – and answers these questions with such sincerity and hope, I finished the book thinking there is absolutely no tragedy God cannot turn into beauty.

Every Bitter Thing is for the hurting person who needs reminded that God never leaves. It is a far cry from emotional jargon. Sara walks us through the discipline of praising God in the midst of pain, finding Him faithful and present and enough, discovering that He has beauty for us right here, right in the middle of the disaster, before it is resolved, before it heals. She wrote this:
“The question of pain, it’s buried deep in my bones. It is my story, though I’ve barely traveled the circumference that others have not even to the half. But God wants me to know the nearness of Him in response to the deepest questions of my story, the kind of nearness that, when realized, heals.”
Sara, like a prophet, like a loved daughter, writes about the ordinary, simple work that stripped her mind of a lifetime of lies about God and filled it instead with truth: adoration. Nothing complicated, no 10-step program, no fancy theological gymnastics. Just adoration. When she had none in the midst of crisis, she found them in the Word and said them out loud to God.
You are faithful.
You love me.
I can count on you.
You will not leave me when you see my failure.

“Line upon line, this (Bible) showed the chasm in my understanding. Line upon line, it brought me back to adoration as a way to bridge the chasm between my perceptions and God’s truth. Day after day, I felt the relief of holding my toxic thoughts up to His beauty. I saw more clearly the disconnection between who I said God is and who I believed Him to be. I saw that pain wasn’t a result of my circumstances; pain was a result of my detachment from the Father. Circumstances were merely unearthing my view of life.”
Isn’t that so incredibly wise and instructive? Let me tell you, as someone whose circumstances are completely off the rails right now, I am grateful for Sara’s words that lead me back to God’s presence and remind me that life is hard but God is good.
Did I mention that the writing is oh so lovely? As a writer who peddles sarcasm and rants, I am often drawn to introspective, interior thinkers who write with the tongue of a poet and lead me to a quiet, still space. I need this. This is a different part of the body that helps me function better; this is the heart giving the exterior parts nourishment and the strength to go on.
Good reader, if you are in a dark night of the soul, if you stripped bare and need to remember that God is good and He is for you, this is your book. It is like sitting on the couch with a tender and wise friend, finding your way back to peace. I want this for you. And when you feel restored, come back to me and I will fill your brain with long rants about Friday Night Lights, because SUBSTANCE.

Are you in the middle of a bitter thing? Do you need reminded that God can make it sweet? Tell me a little about your story and I will pick one commenter to receive a copy of Sara's lovely book. And count on my prayers, dear ones. You know I love you.

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