Summary: When hopes are dashed and life takes a bitter turn, where do we go? There is a tree that will change your life!

"When Life Becomes Bitter"

Exodus 15:22-26

Pastor Dave Campbell

The people of Israel had just come through a powerful deliverance through the Red Sea! For these people, it was the first time any of them had experienced freedom from the bondage of Egypt. It was a new day with new challenges in a new land. It was a time of rejoicing and praising the Lord for His mighty power! Only three days into the new land, the people were already having second thoughts. They were desperate for water. Not only did they need water for themselves but for their livestock as well. Hope sprang into their hearts when on the horizon they spotted a pond. Their hopes were quickly dashed, however when they found the water to be too bitter to drink. Perhaps it was full of sulphur or it had become brackish and stagnant. We don’t know, but what started out promising to be sweet turned out to be bitter. God showed them a healing tree to cure the waters and used the occasion to make them a promise of healing in their lives. This tree is an Old Testament type of the CROSS!

The bitter waters remind me of many people’s lives. The future looks great with wonderful things on the horizon, but the experience leaves them bitter. Young newly- weds starting out so well and years later, she discovers her husband has been unfaithful, or abusive or addicted. Parents delight in the birth of a child, but 17 years later are called in the middle of the night to get the boy out of jail .. or worse. A Christian is excited about serving God and some thoughtless act leaves him feeling offended and mistreated by others, by the church or by God.

Matt. 24:10 assures us that in the last days many will be offended.

One other place the word MARA appears in the Bible is in the Book of Ruth. It’s the story of a woman named Naomi from Bethlehem-Judah. Her name means "pleasant". Her husband was Elimelech which means "God is King". Their sons names were Mahlon "weakly" and Kilion "sickly". Famine struck the land and the family packed up and moved to Moab. There, in this strange place, the unthinkable happened: Elimelech died and left Naomi a widow. Within the next ten years, "Weakly" and "Sickly" married Orpah and Ruth. Then the two boys also died. Her life became a bitter experience. Meanwhile, God blessed the homeland again and Naomi prepared to go back. Her daughter-in-law Ruth chose to return with her. When they arrived, everyone was amazed to see Naomi again. Her response was : "Don’t call me Naomi. Call me MARA because the Almighty has made my life very bitter." (Ruth 1:20)

Maybe you’ve been there. Your hopes and dreams dashed on the rocks. You may not know why and should the truth be known, sometimes there are no explanations. In Naomi’s case, her troubles began when she left Bethlehem-Judah which means "House of Bread, House of Praise". For many, problems begin when they forget the place where they are fed and where they worship and praise the Lord. One hundred years ago, a young man shared the news with his pastor that he had gotten a promotion and would be moving to another city. The pastor immediately asked: "Is there a good church there?" When the young man answered that there was not, the pastor told him straight out: "don’t go!"

I have met numerous Christians who walked away from their commitments to the house of God and experienced all kinds of difficulties! Naomi’s situation began to turn around after she went back. She married Boaz and we read a happy ending to a nice story.

A word about hurts and offenses: A lot of things make us hurt. Family problems, marriage stresses, rejection, past abuses, loneliness, misunderstanding, conflicts church problems and the list can go on forever. If left undealt with, it can become bitterness in your soul! Everything you think about will be processed through the filter of pain and it will affect your thinking, your emotions, your relationship with others and your relationship with God.

KNOW THIS: The devil wants you bound by your past! Past failures, past disasters, past offenses. He loves to dupe Christians into thinking that they can’t get past their past. Its his game and he knows how to play it! If he can, he would like to tie you up in bitterness to keep you from experiencing growth, freshness, healing and freedom. He will do all he can do to hide the truth from you. We know however the words of Jesus: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) But not even knowing the truth is enough. You have to chose it! (Deut. 30:19) Choosing to get past bitterness is not an easy road, but it must be done!

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