Bittersweet: The Intersection of Joy and Pain

Bittersweet

Public Voice of Joy: “I’m so happy for you!!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Lord, did you forget about me?”

Public Voice of Joy: “Look at God opening doors for you!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Yeah..while He is closing doors on me!”

Public Voice of Joy: “God is answering your prayers! Praise God!”

Private Voice of Pain: “Did God even hear my cry last night?”

Have you ever had the voices of joy and pain collide? This collision is the internal intersection of being genuinely happy and grievously sad at the same time. How in the world could you be happy for someone’s blessing and at the same time, question if you’ve been forgotten? You’ll often hear “It’s their season — yours is coming!” or “If God can do it for them, He can do it for you!”. If by any chance you cannot fully embrace these catch phrases, watch out! You may be charged with the villainous term that has seem to catch fire in our culture today: YOU’RE A HATER! 

Despite the accusations or the title we desperately try to run from, here’s the truth: We all have dealt with the intersection of joy and pain called BITTERSWEET. This intersection causes you to pause with joy for how God works in the lives of those around you. But, this intersection also wrestles with the feeling of insignificance, doubt, worry and the nagging feeling of being forgotten. The very thing you’re praying about someone else may receive (and at times, without praying for it). What do you do? 

1. ACKNOWLEDGE Your Stop At the Bittersweet Intersection

Too often, we deny our feelings of being happy for someone and being disappointed about our state of affairs. How could we ever feel that way (we might ask ourselves)? You’re supposed to be mature and rise above it all. How could be so self-centered and selfish? Before cracking down too hard on yourself, the acknowledgment of being disappointed about where you are or what you have is real. Yes, thank God for what He’s provided. But, it doesn’t mean that you are satisfied. The best course of action is to at least acknowledge that your feelings are legitimate. The denial causes greater harm than good.

2. CHOOSE To Follow Sweet Over Bitter

After your acknowledgment of these dual feelings, it’s time to make a choice. Will I wallow in what hasn’t come in my life or will I celebrate what has come in the lives of others? When you genuinely celebrate God’s favor in someone’s life, you are celebrating God! You are acknowledging who He is and His ability to turn situations around. It’s not just about the person — God is watching how you praise Him. Will you be mad or angry because what you prayed for didn’t come your way? Or will you worship God because you had the opportunity to see how He blesses in real time? It’s a choice we all have to make.

I want to encourage you to choose sweet over bitter. The “sweet” road leads you to celebrate others, cast off the victim mentality and gives you a freedom from the burden of despair. But, let me warn you — it will not feel good at first. Our human nature desperately wants to gratify our own desires. Philippians 2:4 tells us:

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (NLT)

When you take the “sweet” road, it drains the frustration of unmet desires and focuses on the sovereignty of God’s timing. It draws your attention on the greater things God is doing around you and the character He is forming in you. It takes a mature person to choose sweet over bitter. It is common to be bitter. Reject the common — be unique. Find joy in another’s blessing!

3. RESIST The Temptation To Compare

The dialogue between the voice of joy and the voice of pain will typically land in the area of comparison. This territory is dangerous because it is comparing your unique story to someone else’s story. It’s considering timelines, scope, and benefits. It doesn’t even fully consider the private struggles, issues and pressure that comes along with blessing. Although the temptation is great to question God of why it appears like He has forgotten you, consider that He always remembers and knows you well (even more than you know you). Could it be that what you’re praying for is not bad but not good right now? Could it be that what you think is a blessing could turn out to be a curse that you cannot bear? Could it be that what appears good on the outside has the potential to drain your life on the inside?

Rising above the temptation to compare aids in your pursuit of genuinely thanking God for others, their provisions and God’s plan for their life. In turn, your response to another’s blessing is the precursor to the blessed responses you will receive when your request is granted.

We live in a time when some people feed off of others hate and jealousy. They find strength in another’s weakness. They take great pleasure in another’s demise in the midst of their success. It’s tragic and shameful. But, you don’t have to contribute to this destructive pattern. Celebrate the Giver of all good things and who He gives it to! Acknowledge where you are, choose the “sweet” road over the bitter one, and on your journey, resist the temptation to compare what you have to another. You will discover a life rich with promise of what’s to come and joy for what has already been done!

Let’s pray for one another that we can love and support each other on this journey of faith. – RF