The Bitter Gets Better

March 9, 2023 | Read Time: 2 mins

By: Rev. Mark Sorensen

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [a]) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. – Exodus 15:22-25

For this Lent, I have been taking some time sitting with the story of Jesus in the wilderness. Specifically, you find this moment right after His baptism which marked the beginning of His public ministry. No sooner than He came out of the water, two things happened: the Father took delight in His son, and the Spirit led Him straight into the wilderness where He spent 40 days fasting, praying and facing those three temptations thrown at Him by the devil.

What’s interesting to me is though this was the first recorded moment we have in the Gospels of Jesus’ trip to the wilderness, did you know that it wouldn’t be His last? In fact, if you read the Gospels and follow Jesus and His travels, take note of how many times you see Him going into a “lonely, solitary place” to be alone and pray before His Father. My conviction in looking at Jesus and the wilderness is this: He didn’t run away from wilderness seasons; He sought them out.

That’s the funny thing about the wilderness season of our faith. It’s hot; it’s difficult. We’re tested and face trials of many kinds, and honestly, we want out at the earliest opportunity. But what if the wilderness season isn’t a season of breaking, but a season of blessing, instead? Jesus shows us all that it’s the wilderness seasons of our lives where, though we may feel crushed, there’s still a sweetness that comes in the pressing found in the knowledge that we’re never in the wilderness alone. The Lord is near.

This thought took me back to Exodus 15. Just on the other side of crossing the Red Sea, Moses and the Israelites found freedom, but they also found the wilderness. In one moment, Moses and Miriam were singing songs of God’s provision, the next moment they were parched and in need of water. They came across a stream but, surprise: The water was bitter.

So, Moses prayed, and God led him to a piece of wood with the instruction to throw it in the water. When he did, that which was bitter became sweeter.

I love the heart of the Father. He takes bitter seasons of our lives and, through His goodness and provision, makes the bitter better. We just need to lean in and trust.

Friends, the best way to shorten the wilderness seasons of our lives is this: surrender. Open your hands and trust that the Lord is near and you’re not alone, no matter how dark the season may be.

— Mark