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.