Yesterday, I sat in a dentist’s waiting room, while the clock ticked two hours past my appointment time. It was packed: at least a dozen people sat waiting, watching TV with Hebrew subtitles, while the dentist punctuated the subdued murmur with repeated cries for his very busy secretary, and I tried not to watch the other video on the wall: the one with the gruesomely fascinating scenes of dental problems and their solutions.
It was not at all where I wanted to be.
I hate even hearing the word “dentist” brought up in conversation. I look the other way if I see the sign for a dentist’s office when I’m out and about. After an unfortunate wisdom tooth extraction where the wonders of modern anesthetic didn’t fully mask the pain, I still battle waves of inordinate fear.
I’m ashamed of my fear. And bewildered by its violence. Why is it that I’m undone by so simple and ordinary a thing as caring for my teeth? Earlier that morning, a friend told me she had never suffered a cavity or needed a filling, in all her 70-something years of life. I could easily wonder why the One who turned aside the pain, the weakness, and the fear for her, didn’t choose to do the same for me.
But I could also wonder why, on that particular morning, I was rereading Every Bitter Thing is Sweet in preparation for this book review. I could wonder: why did I win the book in a blog giveaway in October, bringing joy into a day where I felt unraveled and unseen? Why did it travel from America in my little brother’s suitcase, which was lost for 13 days, providing the perfect metaphor for the unchanging horizon of my single life, and arriving just when I was desperately hungry for the message it held?
Like me, author Sara Hagerty was not asking “Is God good?” But she needed to know: “Is He good — to me?” The way she longed to have His love for her shouted to the world? The opening of her barren womb.
But in the wait and the pain of this hope deferred for a dozen years, in the shatteringly difficult early days of her marriage, in the wait and pain of the start-and-stop adoption process for her four African children, God made real HIS intense longing to know and be known by her.
Proverbs 27:7 reads,
“The satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.”
This book in a nutshell: When life is bitter, when your heart is hungry, look for the sweet!
Does it work?
Yesterday, I sat in the dentist’s chair for an hour with trembling hands and a trusting heart. Instead of inwardly railing against my fate, I asked, “What are You up to, Lord?”
I heard the compassion in the dentist’s voice, and recognized the skill in his hands. I saw the kindness behind the sheaf of red tulips and red and purple anemones sitting in a shaft of sunlight, placed just where each patient would be sure to see it.
And I knew that kindness came from my Heavenly Father.
Could God withhold the thing I long for, long enough for me to recognize my truest hunger, and look around for Him? I believe He can, and does. And I’m beginning to see, bit by tiny bit, that each severe mercy is all mercy when it leads me back to Him.
Sara wrote this book so we too might seek and find the goodness of God in all things. It’s not just for the infertile, the adopting, or those with unexpected storms in their marriage. I’ve seen it encourage the single, the painfully single-again, the 30-something newlywed whose waiting has not stopped, but only wears a different face.
This book? It’s not all about waiting and bitterness and pain. It’s about the audacious bravery of continuing to hope, no matter how long the wait. It’s about tasting God’s goodness in pain, and experiencing His miraculous answers.
I really hope you’ll give it a read! It’s short and very sweet.
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