Bitter (Better) Herbs

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Last weekend, our home community celebrated the fulfilled Seder.  For you recent converts that would be the Passover meal that Jesus ate with His disciples the night before his trial and crucifixion. Ours was a modified version of the elaborate symbolic meal “enjoyed” by Jews which commemorates God leading the Hebrews out of their enslavement in Egypt.  For Christians however, through Christ’s death and resurrection, many of the elements of the meal take on even greater significance.

I am a raw food salad munching fanatic but even my sophisticated palate was unprepared for parsley dipped in vinegar during our hallowed meal.  I am naturally inclined toward the sweeter leaves and tend to avoid the bitter herbs. But in a very timely, I am sure coincidental, reading of the Passover account in Exodus, it was the runner up know-it-all Frau who pointed out that the bitter herbs are the most nutrient rich.  Well now, isn’t that just a spiritual analogy ripe for the picking.  (Get it? Picking? Salad greens? Man I am developing a serious roll here.)

The bitter greens eaten at the Passover were meant to symbolize the hardship and suffering that the Hebrews endured at the hands of the Egyptians.  Those four hundred years of slavery gave them not only a national identity but the impetus to cry out to God.  They were to eat the bitter herbs to remember their need for God and the depth of their deliverance.  They were never to forget it. And lemme tell you what. That flavor lingers on. And on. A very effective reminder to be sure.

As I take an inventory of the times of trial, suffering, unfulfilled longing, and desperation I have experienced, I must admit that they are some of the most formative events in my faith.  We could go back and forth about whether or not God causes hardship or merely allows it, Lord knows I do (no really. He does know) but, either way, the grief born of trials manifests so that “your faith- of greater worth than gold…- may be proved genuine…”  At the time, those trials tasted bitter. Painfully bitter. In hindsight though I see that they nourished my relationship with Christ in a way that times of comfort and abundance never could.  Those bitter times razed selfishness, forced intimacy with God, gave me a healthy sense of inadequacy and left me desperately confident in God.  They shaped my spiritual identity.  They distilled in me that this earth is not my home. My eternal home is with God who has, as promised, prepared a place for me in His coming kingdom.

If your Gospel is all about God affirming everything you think and feel and want, (hint, when I say your Gospel? I don’t mean T H E Gospel) I have news friend.  That is not the Gospel of Christ.  His chief concern is not your happiness nor your comfort in this life. It is not the American Dream.  He desires that we be warriors for the faith. That we are spiritually mature enough to do the hard things during the hardest times.  He intends for us to bind up wounds, release captives, take in orphans, care for widows, give generously, love the unlovely, serve His broken but cherished bride, speak unpopular truths, and do justice. To BE justice. He wants us to be holy.  Holiness doesn’t come from days spent sipping lattes or indulging in a seriously needed mani/pedi. (ugh. I know, right?) God wants to bring more people into His kingdom, and He intends to do so through a royal priesthood of believers. Those who have been tried as Christ was tried.  Those who have likewise discovered that God’s grace is indeed sufficient.

Of course I have known this truth on an intellectual level throughout my Christian life. I suspect many of you dear readers have as well. But, I am required to tell you that it has only been quite recently that I have not fought against it.  It’s only been recently where I strive less for the things that will cushion the blows or dull my pain.  It’s only been recently where I have willingly, painfully, entrusted myself to Him who judges justly. Because it’s only recently that I have truly come to believe that His ways really are best.  Even if the afflictions are difficult/painful/horrifying at the moment.

What bitter herbs are on your plate right now, friend? No, not the arugula in creamy balsamic. The spiritually bitter ones. Illness, loneliness, an uncertain future?  Where do you need His presence, provision, or direction?  God can use those trials to nourish and strengthen you. What is bitter to the taste now can become food for the glorious journey.

Turn to Christ who through His death and resurrection can lead you out of Egypt.

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33 thoughts on “Bitter (Better) Herbs

  1. Thanks for this. So much to “chew” on here for so many people. Your writings inspire me to keep writing myself, and unblock/unclutter this chaotic mind. Good Friday is such a cleansing time for me, Thanks for sharing. Much Love.

  2. Hi Askme:

    Dave Spaugh here. I haven’t written on my blog for months (Dr. Splog), but I follow yours and keep up with what you write. Your words are right on the money. American Christians have too often embraced an easy gospel. We have adopted a prosperity mindset, and fallen for self a esteem version of the gospel where God wants to affirm us, rather than mold my character regardless of the disappointment or pain. Deferred pleasure is out of the question, and the comfortable, easy life is our greatest pursuit. God would NEVER do anything to make my life uncomfortable. All sorts of verses come to mind concerning your post, but here are a couple. I think the applications are obvious.

    “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, THAT HE MIGHT HUMBLE YOU, AND THAT HE MIGHT TEST YOU, TO DO GOOD FOR YOU IN THE END.” (Deuteronomy 8:15-16. Emphasis mine. The whole chapter is applicable).

    ______

    “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary ]and lose heart.

    You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

    “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
    For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
    And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

    It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:1-11).

    Thus, the Lord disciplines us to mold our character, to purge us of selfishness and sin, and bless us “in the end” with not only His holiness in this life, but with glory in the age to come.

    May the Lord bless you Askme for your service to the Kingdom. Keep fighting the good fight, and have the most blessed and joyful Easter ever. He is risen!

    Dave

  3. That is so lovely! What a well written piece. I love the imagery of the bitter herbs and their meaning.

    From Dave above, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Oh, Amen to that. There is a bit of a paradox there that I have struggled with most of my life. I have an assumption that when things are going wrong, I must have done something wrong. I have learned however, that no, I am often doing everything right and that right standing is when God chooses to show up and teach me something new.

  4. Thanks for this! We are doing two Seders this year and last night I just casually thought about the Israelites in their bitterness and distress as we ate the bitter herbs….but didn’t really connect it. What a great observation about the bitter herbs and nutrients in them. Tonight I will be thinking more about my bitter moments and asking God to soften my heart to get the nutrients that He wants to give me in those moments. I love to hear your insight and your heart as you work to serve God.

  5. Oh dear, those pesky Liberal christians, preaching our gospel rather than the gospel: sin as you like, believe what you like.

    My greatest trial was my transition. God brought me through it: for the broad way which leads to destruction is following the herd, while the narrow way is being entirely and idiosyncratically you.

    It is not that we do not care about sin, but that we emphasise different wrongs as sin. What promotes the flourishing of the human being and the growth of the Kingdom?

    • My dear Clare. The gospel is not about being “idiosyncratically you.” It is about dying to yourself- pretty much the exact opposite of being true to yourself. It’s recognizing what you want and who you are and then letting God transform you into the image of His Son. It’s about losing your life and being last and being a servant to all- none of which will be found in following our human dreams, passions, or desires. If there is a broad way today (like it ever was), it is the way of being our own God. The way of Christ is self-sacrifice for the purpose of obedience and God’s glory. There is nothing fun this sacrifice in the short term. But what a long-term harvest for those who can accept the cup. I understand why you want to frame the gospel the way you do. Many others spin a few of Jesus’ words into something that is more palatable for their lifestyle. But you would have a hard time arguing your gospel if you were to take what Jesus said about Himself in its entirety.

  6. When you go to edit post and put the cursor on the first line, what does it say in the box under bold and italics buttons? It should say Paragraph. If not highlight everything and then click paragraph. This font is 8, you usually type in 12. When I type anything I do it in 16 so I don’t need glasses, and then reduce it to 12 when I’m finished.

  7. I just love your blog … really, I do. I love this analogy, I love your application of it. Today in our Sunday School we had a lesson on The Passover. Someone made the comment that if the Jews had NOT been enslaved for 400 years, that it would not have been as big of a deal when they were freed from bondage. But the fact that it WAS 400, and how many generations? It WAS a BIG deal. Like you said, that bitter taste lingers sometimes and helps us remember. So, Happy Easter to you (I don’t want to call you Bigot, because you’re totally not — but I don’t know your name) hope your day was great! Keep up the great writing.

    • Thank you, friend. I once read through the old testament and was amazed at how many times the exodus story was recounted. Clearly God wanted it remembered- and believed that the Hebrews were capable of forgetting it. (Sounds a lot like me.) My name is Katy. If you missed all the drama about my “coming out” it can be seen here: https://askthebigot.com/2014/04/03/im-coming-out/.

      Hope you Easter was wonderful. And thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. The sad thing is that most of people’s spiritual growth comes on the heels of adversity, not times of plenty. Our very contingency and mortality work to drive many to God. However, not everyone reacts the same to suffering and evil in the world; some are embittered by it and use it to deny or slander God. As they say, the same sun melts wax and hardens clay.

    In this fallen world, where each man imagines he is the captain of his own soul, adversity must necessarily result. After all, there can only be one god. The mystery of Scripture is that it teaches that God permits and uses it even while He is not pleased that it exists and will meet justice on the perpetrators.

    I think that the extent of the suffering that He allows and can make use of is an indication of the profound nature of what He has in mind for us. St. Paul suffered as much as any man and he calls it only “momentary, light affliction” compared to the glory he looked forward to. There are greater things than life and worse things than death. The great joy of some and horror of others is the truth that eternity waits for us all.

  9. “You darn kids and your technology! Back in the old days…” Is what my Granddad always says. And then he proceeds with calling us “Yipper-Snaper” whatever that means. Don’t you just love computers though? I mean, where would we be without them? Yea… just random thoughts going through my head. But if you know, could you tell me what the Majeki a Yipper-Snapper is?

  10. I had the good fortune to attend a Seder meal administered and explained by a Messianic Jew probably a decade ago. It was a wonderful experience. It is great to hear all of the things a Gentile like me misses out on from the Jewish roots of what we celebrate.

    I wrote a piece in my blog (which is mostly just me musing aloud, it’s not really something I try to publish around to more than my friends) about how storms affect me – how much I enjoy thunderstorms and dislike life storms, even though life storms tend to produce fruit in me. I wish I could learn without needing hardship to do so. Better to have been through the desert, though, than to hang out in the cool without Jesus.

    I still default to calling you Ms. Askme. Glad to see you back and posting, especially after the whole publicization of your name. God be with you in this time. I hope you remain bold in speaking truth in love, even though it is more likely to make you a target. God bless.

  11. What does this word means to you?

    Love

    It’s a simple 4 letter word that holds the power of thousands, but how? How can a simple word hold that much power? Kids learn how to spell it in Kindergarten. It is the most overused word in the human vocabulary. (Believe it or not, it’s used more than “selfie” or “instagram”) And everyone knows another word that means the exact opposite.

    Hate

    Another 4 letter word that holds the power of thousands. People say Hate is a strong word and suggest you use the term “strongly dislike” instead. They don’t teach kids how to spell it in school, (or at least not at my school) but yet they find out anyway.

    Now please, tell me what these 2 words mean to you. Are they powerful? Are they meaningless? How often do you use them?

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