Have you ever fallen so deeply into a pit of bitterness that it would take a ladder, a rope, and a whole slew of firemen to drag you out?
Well, last year that was exactly where I found myself.
We all have reasons for heading down there in the first place. Mine happened to be illnesses that hit one on top of another until pretty much every part of my body was affected. My vision was a mess, my hearing completely gone on one side, and my ability to balance (or even sit up) was almost nonexistent.
I needed a dark place to hide away for a while, so I crawled down into the bitterness hole.
The air is dangerous down there. It is caustic and it affects how you view yourself, your life and the world around you. At first, I could still look up and catch glimpses of the blue skies above me. But, before long, all I could see was darkness. And, the enemy found me there (for he dwells in dark places) and he whispered in my ear: “This is where you belong.”
And, I believed him and the bitterness grew.
Sometimes, I would tentatively climb up the side to try and find some beauty again. But, at the top, the people seemed so happy and healthy. I felt I had nothing in common with them.
But, some of them saw me peeking over the edge and they tried to “help” me by hurling heavy words down on top of me:
“Other people are so much worse off than you are.” Or: “God only gives you what you can handle.”
(Can we please agree to strike those sentences out of our vocabularies forever?).
Other people threw wonderful pieces of rope down into the hole, only they weren’t tied to anything I could use to crawl out:
“You are strong enough to do this.” Or: “I know someone who crawled out of the pit with one arm tied behind her back!”
These pieces of rope are useless when you’re laying at the bottom with barely the energy to breathe.
After a while, I became too weak to even attempt to climb. So, I set up camp in that dark place where nothing was good and nothing mattered. And, it began to feel like home.
I lived in that pit for most of 2016.
At the end of the year, I wearily read through my journal to get notes for my yearly Christmas letter. And, I suddenly saw what I had become. The anger and bitterness filled almost every page. Nowhere was there any mention of my blessings, or God’s love and grace, or hope expressed in any way. It was the most depressing thing I’ve ever read, but it was the wakeup call I needed.
Because, the truth is that no earthly person can carry you out of the pit. You have to climb out on your own.
So, this year, I am working on that. It’s not easy, for the issues that sent me down there in the first place still remain. They’ve grown larger in fact. And, the enemy still whispers in my ear until I’m often tempted to crawl back into the depths and stay there.
I am starting with baby steps while I try and find my way back into the light. I realize now that I had ignored the fact that my Jesus was right down in the depths with me the whole time. I was just too consumed with bitterness to acknowledge his presence.
So, as I put my foot on the first rung of the ladder out of bitterness, I invite those of you who are stuck in a pit of your own to join me. In the months ahead, we’ll share ideas about what helps and what doesn’t. It may be tiring and we may feel overwhelmed, but together we can find our way back into grace and joy.