Pressing Deeper to Know the One Who Turns the Bitter Sweet

“I’ve come to give you courage,” she said as she stood on my doorstep and embraced the hidden parts of my story that I couldn’t hide behind bloodshot eyes and sniffles that Saturday morning.

Cindy Finley lives His courage. She met us at the airport with her not-so-small clan, all hands full of balloons and signs, to witness us walk through the double doors that introduced foreign-travelers to U.S. soil. We had two new kids in tow. Not too long later, we stood at that same gate, eyes locked on those same doors, as she ushered through the child they’d waited a year plus to call daughter and sister.

Her wisdom isn’t just words, she’s lived it. I’m excited you get to read her life-on-page today!

(For the month of May and two weeks into June, I will be pressing pause on my online writing and this space will become a series of testimonies of what He births in the midst of delay, perplexity and pain. Author friends from around the world, who love words on a page and Him even more, will share, here, how they have seen Him make the bitter, sweet.)


Sometimes we get caught up in sweetness and forget how the miracle happened.  The ache and fear and pain of thirst slide temporarily into the past.  We revel in the oasis with eyes focused on the blessing, and we don’t know the One who turned the bitter sweet.

The Hebrew nation, three million strong, sang on the victory side of the Red Sea.  Behind them, the torrent swelled, and tossed, and expressed the fury of the One who cast Pharaoh’s army into the sea.  Miriam, moved by joy, grabbed her tambourine. As the men held the babies and the children’s eyes grew wide, the women joined Miriam and swirled, and exulted, and danced, and sang.

“Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea!”

Night fell, tambourines quieted, swirling ceased, and in the morning the Hebrew pilgrims followed Moses away from the Red Sea into the wilderness.  As the Red Sea slipped from view, and day turned to night and to day again, exultation turned to weariness.  As they toted hot cranky babies, the dancing mothers’ weariness became worry.  No food.  No water.  The men put up a brave front, but they wondered had they made a mistake.  At least in Egypt they had food and water.

Three days they traveled.  Tired and hungry, but worst of all thirsty.  The people were so thirsty, but no water could be found.  But there, up over the rise, the front edge of the multitude sighted a pool shimmering in the heat of midday.

Rushing to the edge, the first man scooped water quickly to his mouth.  But just as quickly, he spat it onto the ground.  Bitter, the water was bitter.

Along the edge of the brackish pool, the scene repeated over and again. Word of water spread through the nation and the people had to taste for themselves.  Spitting turned to grumbling. The bitter water only increased their thirst.

“Moses, what shall we drink?”  The chorus rose around Moses. “We are so thirsty, Moses. What shall we drink?  What shall we drink?”

Moses knew where to turn.  He knew the One who spoke to him in the burning bush, the One who heard the groaning of these people, who redeemed them, and called them His very own.  He witnessed the miracles of plagues and Red Sea, but through the miracles Moses saw God.  He cried out to the One who he knew.

Moses cried out to the Lord and God showed Moses a log.  An ordinary log. With the men grumbling, and babies crying, and the women pleading, Moses heaved the log into the bitter water.  And the bitter water became sweet.

Reveling in the miracle and soon camping amid palm trees and springs of water, the Hebrew pilgrims enjoyed the blessing, but failed to learn the deeper lesson.  

And when life pressed in again, when they were tired, and hungry, and thirsty, they chose grumbling, and fear, and quarreling.  They longed for Egypt because they didn’t know the One who turned their bitter sweet. 

Do you know the One who turns the bitter sweet?

Can you recall a time in your life when God has transformed pain and loss into beauty?  Rejection that resulted in a better open door?  Infertility that ignited a passion for the fatherless?  Diagnosis, even a death, that took you deep into the heart of the Father of Mercies?  Marital struggles that brought you to the feet of your First Love?

When you experience this bitter turned sweet, rejoice. Camp by the palm trees.  Enjoy the flowing springs.  But, in the miracle, press deeper to not only recognize that the blessing came from the hand of God, but to know the One who turned your bitter sweet

How can you press deeper to know this One?

1.  Recognize your poverty

The Hebrew pilgrims were thirsty.  They needed water.  What about you?  Are you poor in spirit?  Hungry?  Thirsty?  Burdened with guilt and shame?  What are your needs?

2.  Come into His presence

Moses knew God.  Do you know Him?  Because of the blood of Jesus, we can come boldly into God’s presence, draw near to Him, and bring our needs before Him. Come into His presences and bring your needs before Him.

3.  Accept His provision

God turned the bitter water sweet and then led the Hebrews to Elim where there were twelve springs and seventy palms.  His provision for you many not always feel so good, but it is always perfect.  Accept His provision.

4.  Step into His promises

The Hebrew pilgrims rejoiced in God’s provision but they didn’t come to know Him personally, intimately and so they missed the promise of His presence, His leadership, His perfect provision.  By saturating yourself in the Word, devoting yourself to prayer, walking with Jesus, committing yourself to love others as Jesus does, you will come to know Him deeply.  He doesn’t promise us worldly wealth or worldly health.  He promises life in His presence.  Step into His promises. 

Press deeper to know the One who turns the bitter sweet.

Even if you are camping by the palm trees, there will be another day when you are thirsty, when you discover a stream that seems to hold promise, but holds bitter water.  But, if you have pressed deeper to know the One who turns the bitter sweet, you will not choose grumbling, or complaining, and you won’t return to Egypt. You will get more than merely an oasis.  

You will get a wellspring of life.  Press deeper.

Exodus 15; Psalm 1; Jeremiah 17:7-8; John 4:1-42; John 10:10; John 17:3; Hebrews 10:19-22

Cindy is married to Bill and the mother of seven children.  She and her husband planted Evergreen Community Church in Charlottesville, VA.  They have recently moved to Raleigh, NC where Bill is the pastor at Inwood Baptist Church. She writes and speaks to women about rooting their identity in Christ, cultivating intimacy with Christ and impacting the world through Christ.