Words by VLB

Bittersweet

I've been thinking a lot about emotions lately...probably because I've been experiencing them in full-force these past few weeks.


Between saying goodbye to sophomore year at TCU, celebrating my younger sister's graduation, spending a few wonderful weeks with my sweet Colorado friends, and moving back to Fort Worth - my emotions have been all over the place. It's a never ending roller-coaster between the highs and the lows. In the past week even, I've felt content and restless; expectant and fearful; delighted and disappointed. More often than not, it feels like my emotions are in control of my life.


Over time, I've learned that I'm naturally one to run from sadness. But recently, I've been learning a lot about the beauty of CONTRAST - both the good and the bad.

We can only know LIGHT if we've felt the darkness wrap around us. We can only experience JOY if we've shed tears. We can only feel STRONG if we've once been completely broken.


Deep down, I know these contrasts are true and necessary for growth. But I can't help but to wonder why we even have to experience this dark dichotomy. If I'm being honest, I've asked God if my life could just be light and fun and easy always.

But I know that won't happen. It just isn't the way life works.


These thoughts feel almost too menacing to unravel, but deep down, something tells me that there's a lesson to learn within the mess. So, in efforts to unravel this emotional mystery, I turned to the most dramatic book of the Bible I could think of: the book of Psalms. And, I say "dramatic" lovingly - because the Psalms, in all their emotional glory, told my tired heart exactly what it needed to know.


I love the Psalms because they're so real. Psalms are those desperate middle-of-the-night prayers and the on-top-of-the-world praises. So many of these verses were written in the thick of anxiety, fear, and loss. Yet, these words are simultaneously some of the most vivid descriptions of joy, wholeness, and God's grace. It's desperation and celebration in the same breath.


As I've read through the Psalms, I've noticed: even in the toughest of situations, there is a deeper hope that coexists with the tragedy. The Psalms never deny the circumstances at hand, no matter how chaotic or confusing. But, the Psalms remind me that there's a divine reason we have to deal with this messy contrast of emotion while we're here on earth. I think it's the darkness that points us to the true Light - Jesus himself. After all, how could the world need a Savior if there wasn't any sin to be saved from?


That might just be what my heart needs to know. That life can be bittersweet, that it does't always have to be one extreme or the other. That we need both the beautiful and the ugly to experience His presence. That there's only one person with all the "right" answers - and His name is Jesus.


This tension between light and darkness isn't anything new - it's been in existence since the start of time. I'm not alone in my pain and questioning. The negative emotions are an unavoidable part of life on earth. People have wrestled this darkness before me, and they will wrestle it after me. So, even when my feelings tell me differently, I'm choosing HOPE. Just like in the Psalms, I will acknowledge that my situations aren't perfect, but I will celebrate the little victories along the way. I will accept my negative emotions for what they are, but I will not let them overpower my faith in Jesus. I will cry out to God for help, but I will also praise Him in the same breath because I believe He is always working on my behalf.


I believe God wants us to celebrate and enjoy our lives here; but, we should also be aware of this world's inherent brokenness. The pain and sorrow we experience on earth leads us to realize we were created for something even sweeter - an eternity in Heaven.


As I've been working on this post and it's morphed from one topic to another, there's a book that I read last summer that keeps coming to mind. It's called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, and I can honestly say - it is one of the most profound works I've ever read. Even a whole year later, I can't get it out of my head.


In Bittersweet, Shauna writes all about emotions - the good AND the bad ones. She sums it up like this: "Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.”


So, with that, here's my challenge: let's embrace both the bitter and the sweet. Let's stop worrying about the contrast and cherish the coexistence of many emotions inside our hearts at once. Let's be honest with ourselves about our feelings, but let's not deem them all as absolute truth.


"A life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul."

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