"Every Bitter Thing is Sweet." This provocative title comes from Proverbs, where we are told that a full man will turn away from even honey, but for a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
I read that title and I thought to myself "How can this be?"
Throughout the Scriptures, God comes to us with food. He prepares a table for us in the sight of our enemies. He feeds us with marrow and fatness.
And Jesus' sacrament was bread and wine, eaten together. It seems like God would be most present in the nourishment and abundance, yet what worth is food without a hunger to satisfy?
Could God be in the hunger, as much as in the manna falling from heaven?
That is one of the questions that Sara's book will encourage us to ask.
This is her story, and she tells it with grace and truth and awe and a sense of what is sacred and lasting.
Her awareness of God began when she was fifteen, when a rather pedestrian youth retreat led to an encounter with her Savior underneath a canopy of stars. It was a summer of falling in love, of dipping into prayer and Scripture and letting His tenderness fill her heart.
And then, because she loved God so much and she wanted to work hard for the Kingdom, she emptied herself out in ministry.
And along the way, she lost pieces of herself- until she could hardly find them again, even to share with her new husband.
(Sara's words about marriage make this book a must read for an engaged/newly wed woman. Sara talks about how two married people learn to "hold each other's wounds," letting them know that their pain will not lead to our rejection. And she talks about how we now have a unique role of healing towards our spouse speaking God's words of life to them. Her own insights said more to me than some nonfiction books on marriage have.)
And then, in the middle of learning to share their hearts and work through their hurt, Sara and Nate entered a decade of infertility. And she watched as woman after woman around her gave birth to multiple children, attending the baby shower where a mom-to-be rejoices that she got pregnant after one month. For Sara, it left her wondering- God is surely good, yet why isn't He being good to me? It was a season where she struggled not to identify herself as "Overlooked. Unseen. Unremembered."
One thing she said jumped out at me as I read. (I'll paraphrase here.) It wasn't so much the dream deferred that confused her, it was the knowledge that our God could have given the gift and He was choosing not to.
Another thing I loved was when she described re-learning to pray. Instead of praying with hands clasped as a beggar, she began to pray with her hand palm-to-palm in God's, daring to hope the answer would be yes, knowing that it could still be no. That kind of praying, she says, made her incredibly vulnerable, and she reassures us that God loves our vulnerability.
This book is the kind you'll return to, to meditate on passages like that.
And if all this isn't enough, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet contains the story of how the Hagerty family gained four children through adoptions from Africa.
If you know an adoptive family, if you know a couple that chose to reach into the fields of the fatherless and scoop up a child and bring them home, then you'll want them to have this book. The last half is all about the journey God led them on, that brought them to the children He meant for them to have.
It is a praise hymn to the God who finds homes for the lonely, who is near to the broken hearted, who adopts us and gives us the desire to adopt others, and who is fully present in both the hunger and satisfaction of daily family life.
Thank you so very much to Booklook for my review copy.