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Bag of Bitterness

The testing of our faith during the first few years in our business seemed unrelenting. Yet we both knew that God was the One who had carried us through. Looking back, I realized that Scott’s and my individual responses to this encounter with God were in direct opposition to one another. As our history with Him began to unfold, we each had conflicting responses.

 For Scott, there was calm reliance on God that renewed his faith. He yearned for a better understanding of the God he had seen work tirelessly on his behalf. He sought to learn more about the character of God. He based his unwavering thirst for knowledge on the humility and gratitude he felt, after each crisis was over. With his faith in a higher place, he began to think more deeply about spiritual things.

However, my faith became watered-down reliance, and I saw our good fortune — that of God’s intervention on our behalf — as merely a reward to be enjoyed. Like Scott, I was humbled, but only for the duration of each crisis. I did not seek to understand fully the purpose behind the relief I felt, even though I knew it was because of God’s appearance in our life. I chose to believe, without question, that God was aiding us solely for our own benefit, and because we deserved it. I ventured down a path of false security brought about by God’s successful involvement in our day-to-day lives, and tried to wing it spiritually for another seven or eight years.

Scott showed a greater capacity for dealing with business strife than I did. His approach was a balanced and friendly attitude toward a life without leisure. He rose early in the morning for Bible study and prayer, never complaining about his lot in life. The resentment I felt over this entrepreneurial prison, overflowed into all areas of my life, including the relationships I had with family and friends. I hated everything about the business.

During this downward spiral, it became clear that no matter how successful I felt we had become, and no matter how rich, attractive, or smart I felt I appeared to be, there was always someone with more stores, more sales, better buying techniques, a more palatial home, a bigger diamond, a better mind, a better this, or a better that. I had strapped on a bag of bitterness, disillusionment, and hostility. I could not let the bag go.

Our one lasting and permanent departure from the insane busyness of two stores came each Sunday morning, without exception, when we attended church, even at the risk of a fine, by the mall, for opening late during the Christmas season. I firmly believe that the habit of worshipping God every week, in spite of our hectic life, is what kept me from losing my faith all together. It was no sacrifice. We looked forward to attending church. Our time spent in church was of enormous value as we listened to words that gave us tremendous comfort, and the ability to keep going. To believe in something bigger than ourselves during troubled times kept us grounded, though not as thoroughly as now. God kept a watchful eye on us. More importantly, He waited.

My thoughts were fixed on punishment—punishment from God for turning my back on Him. Tormented, I thought God was punishing me. On one of the days, during this three weeks, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to attend the next Gleaners women’s Bible study at the church, convincing myself that if I did that, I could get back on the good side of God, and He would make everything turn out perfectly—and quickly.

The following Thursday, I hopped in the car and drove over to the church. I had a new lightness of step when I walked into the classroom. I figured that if I took thirty or so minutes out of my busy schedule each week to attend this Bible study, I would be back to my old self again in no time. The other women did not know me, even though I had been attending the church for many years, but they welcomed me anyway. When I found out that the study lasted for two hours, I was shocked. I thought, “I can’t spare two hours.”

As we studied, I hoped the hotness in my cheeks from embarrassment, went unnoticed. All of the material the women were discussing was foreign to me. It was as if I was attending my first calculus class, without taking algebra or geometry beforehand. Here I was, having accepted Christ as my personal savior some twenty years prior, and I still knew nothing about God’s Word with the exception of the few things I had picked up, when attending Sunday services. I did not return.

God had my attention.

The points Scott had been trying to make started to register in my mind. As the truth of my shallowness surfaced, I was embarrassed at myself. It did not feel good. In fact, I felt pathetic. I was ashamed and stunned at how far down I really was. For several more years after that two-hour Bible study, I crawled at a snail’s pace trying to understand the points God was showing me, with marginal results.

 

 

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