Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

The book drew me, beckoned to me, really, from the bookshelves at Barnes + Noble. I was looking for a gift for my sister, and it wasn’t what I was searching for. But something about it spoke to me. Maybe because the title and theme speaks to something I continue to struggle with and seem to learn over and over again with God: Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.


How can every bitter thing be sweet? Truly, can we say every bitter thing? Can we really taste the goodness of God in our darkest of days and trials? Will God hold up under the weight of that, under the weight of our darkest questions and scrutiny?

Sara Hagerty is familiar with bitter trial and circumstance. In this precious book, she explains some of her story, her struggles in early marriage, her struggles for many years with infertility. Her struggle with a God who spoke to her and gave her a vision of a child toddling across her bedspread, and then closed her womb to this possiblity. The struggles through multiple foreign adoptions and the seemingly endless setbacks and disappointments. And all the way, she traces the glory of God shining brilliant in these darkest moments.

In her book she reveals how God took her, a child who believed in a God whose love was best displayed in blessing, and transformed her into a desperately hungry soul. She writes her story of encountering a God who cares to carve out spaces in the soul, empty, hungering spaces that He can fill.

“A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
{Proverbs 27:7}

What if our places of discontent and brokenheartedness, what if we discovered that these places are the very holy + sacred ground of God’s deepest riches, the “treasure of darkness” that Isaiah 45:3 talks about?

Here’s a little excerpt from the first chapter:

“The Bible resting on my chair showed wear–how could it not? My friend, my best friend in this hour, was the Author. The book I’d once used to plan youth ministry talks, the book I’d once used to quote pithy sayings and to confirm opinions I’d already formed, that book had found its way into my deep.

The God behind it was proving Himself to be fundamentally different than what I’d supposed for at least a decade, maybe more. But I was finding Him. In the places I had feared most and spent a lifetime avoiding, He was meeting me. My worst, my very worst moments were getting rewritten without circumstances changing. I was getting acquainted with the kind of deep satisfaction that bad news can’t shake. He was showing me Himself as strong enough. He was letting me hide in Him, letting me find a safe place.

And so I cradled my midnight questions while mamas cradled their babies, and I let God’s psalms tell me He cradled the answer in Himself. I felt forgotten, but I heard God speak that He had not left me. I felt weak, but I heard Him promise an overshadowing. I felt anxious that my constant fumblings would annoy Him, but I heard Him say He delighted in me.

And I felt hungry.

I wasn’t this hungry when God was a distant coach, forcing me to perform.
I wasn’t this hungry when I had a life easily explained, easily predicted.
I wasn’t this hungry when everyone understood me.

Pain had created space. Space to want more. Space to taste a sense of being alive. An alive that would grow to be my favorite kind of alive: secret, hidden to all eyes but mine and those nearest to me.

This had to be the hope of a lifetime, Him and Him alone.”

If you’ve ever wondered about this God, this mysterious God who both gives and takes away, and how anyone can love a God who gives the strange gifts of hardship and hunger at times, you would be helped to read Sara’s story.

If you’ve ever battled fiercely with hard circumstances and painful seasons and have wondered how to make sense of it all, you would be helped to read Sara’s story.

Essentially, if you’ve ever lived the human experience, you would find sweet company in Sara’s poetic prose.

Triumphant, encouraging, beautifully crafted. Sara Hagerty not only shares with you her journey to a deeper hunger for God, she stirs up your own hunger, too. I highly recommend it!

* * * * *

Book Look Bloggers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I am not required to give a favorable review and the opinions expressed are my own.

When you are Held {our marriage story, so far}


It was the way he looked at me that night, eyes shimmering wild across the gazebo from me, shimmering like the quiet lake backlit behind him with moon and stars.  We had worked together all summer leading backpacking trips and other outdoor adventures.  He had trained me and some other new staff, and our relationship had been strictly professional and platonic.  We had never broached the subject of feelings.  He had a heart deeply wounded from a broken engagement.  I was convinced God was calling me to potentially life-long singleness.  Neither of us had any desire or intention to fall in love.  Privately, we each fought it all summer long.  But the heart has it’s reasons that reason knows not of.

He had been away on a week-long trip and I had been busy with other programming.  It was nearly the end of the summer.  He came in that day from the trip and I saw him biking down the road from his 14-mi trek down Mt. Mitchell.  His grin was a mile wide and he was filthy and handsome.  I was taking some letters to the post office on campus and while I was gone, he must have run to my dorm room and taped a bunch of wild flowers to my door.  He drew the big dipper constellation on my white message board on the door and asked if I we could talk.  When I came back and saw it, my heart started pounding.  Suddenly I was terrified and exhilerated at the same time.  Something in me knew life was about to change forever.  We had gear to clean up and put away, final debriefings and a staff meeting that night to attend to, and this quiet secret between the two of us, still unspoken and hanging in the air, that we would meet up and “talk” after the day’s work was done.  He came to my room and asked if I wanted to walk to the lake with him.  We walked in silence, all nerves and sweaty palms.


I can’t remember exactly how he started off, only that he said he believed it was time for him to have this conversation with me.  And then he said these words that nearly knocked me off my seat, and certainly left me speechless:

“I want to see about marrying you.”

What kind of guy starts “the talk” like that?  He said it and his eyes were alive and wild and smiling so big.  Like he already knew something I didn’t know.  I hadn’t anticipated this in the slightest so I just sat there and let him talk and talk about how he had come to this conclusion, until finally he said something like, “Well, so, what do you think?  You’re kind of leaving me hanging here.”

I think I just said, “Okay.”  And told him I had feelings for him as well.

It began such a fun and happy courtship.  We had the chance in that kind of work environment to really become good friends and to see one another in all sorts of circumstances.  We were invested in a Christian outdoor program, and so we spent time developing bible study material together and praying together as a staff over every trip and during trips.  We saw each other filthy and stinky and sweaty.  You get through a lot of the superficial quickly working in an environment like that.

Six months later he proposed.  He had taken me hiking up the backside of Looking Glass Rock, one of my favorite hikes.  At the top he pulled out bread and grape juice and led communion with me and proposed.  It was so wonderful and so surreal!  And then about five months later, we were married.


What a whirlwind romance it was, and with that came some hardships we couldn’t have foreseen.  He came into marriage haunted by mistakes in his past and deeply broken by his failures.  I came into marriage proud and with expectations a mile high.  It was a recipe for disaster in so many ways.  But God knew what He was doing, weaving together this story from two broken souls.

I don’t know what most people’s marriage stories are like.  If their early years are relatively easy and smooth and then their middle years are more difficult?  I have no idea what is normal.  But for us, as sweet and fun as that first year was (in hindsight), it was a shock in so many ways.  It is so hard to join two lives together by people who have never done something like that before.  We soon hit some bumps that rocked us deeply and left us bewildered and desperate.  Thankfully, God provided good, solid, biblical counseling for us.  We’ve probably spent more years in counseling in our marriage than out of counseling, but I’m not ashamed in the slightest.  We recognized early on that we needed support and help, and we weren’t afraid that it was a sign of defeat.  We knew that those who care for their marriage will fight for it, and that’s what we were doing.  Plus I kind of love counseling.  It’s always wonderful to have someone be a listening ear and to come alongside and support, challenge, and mentor you.

God has provided just what we needed along the way.  And though I know there will be other seasons to come that will rock us unexpectedly, I am so grateful for those hard years now.  There was a time when I wasn’t sure we would make it through.  But in that time we saw that when we fail to keep our vows, our God does not fail us.  He is faithful.  So unbelievably faithful.  As the scriptures say, “In Him all things are held together” (Col.1:17), and He held us together.  In finding we were not able to keep our own vows to one another, we found that He alone is able to keep us in our vows.  

I don’t know where your marriage finds you today.  But I can promise you this, as someone who has lived through it: there is ALWAYS hope, if you are in Christ.  There is always a possibility for healing the unhealable, for repairing the ruins, for building from ashes something beautiful.  Sometimes it takes a fire that burns it all to the ground for us to see how marvelous His work is instead of trying to construct something on our own.  For us to see it isn’t in us to make something beautiful.  We can’t do that on our own.  And I’m so thankful that we learned that lesson.  Because in so many ways now, the pressure is off of us to “stay married” and to “hold it together.”  We lean all of that on Jesus.  And in every way that we are broken, sinful and selfish, He is STILL strong enough to hold us together.  There is no failure so great that He cannot forgive, that He cannot heal, that He cannot repair.  Sometimes I think He just wants to show off the greatness of His power in our shocking weakness.

So, now I’m hoping a lot of fun years are ahead of us.  They’ve already begun but I’m hoping for so many more.  The ugly-beautiful of marriage is that it’s not all pretty, and if it were, I think I’d be dead bored.  As much as we hate the suffering when it comes, and the seasons when we just don’t like each other much, when we break through to a whole new level of love and companionship, it makes it worthwhile.

If you find yourself in this hopeless place in your own marriage, please know, I understand.  It is the loneliest and deepest heartbreak I have ever experienced.  But hang on.  Just hang on.  Just don’t give up and throw in the towel.  If you can just do that for one more day, then another, then another, submitting yourself to Jesus every day and asking for His enabling, the days will turn into weeks and months, and sometimes it takes God a lot of time to mend a broken marriage.  Find good support, don’t be afraid.  It’s worth the fight.  And wait for your healing to come.  He IS faithful and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.

And in the end?  You will love your Redeemer more than you ever thought possible.

“The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.”
{Joel 2: 24-26}