I just finished Bittersweet: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way but Shauna Niequist and all I can say is wow. The epilogue left me in tears. It’s not a happy ending because it wasn’t really an ending at all. Shauna shares her story through a hard season of her life. She shares the concept that there is always life after death and that is the cycle of redemption. She shares that life wouldn’t be worth living if it was all sweet and it isn’t all bitter all the time. The bitter and the sweet are always there. A compliment of light and dark. The beautiful and the ugly. This is life. It’s good and bad and some seasons are harder than others. Some leave us in rough and raw places. But there is growth that come from these places. We can taste the sweet through the bitter. Sometimes only in hindsight and reflection to we see the balance. We learn, we grow, we understand that what we walked through wasn’t for nothing. Maybe in that moment the pain was so bitter that it felt like you couldn’t swallow, but it’s not always like that. Life won’t always be that way. I wrote down a quote from the prologue and added to my list that I’m keeping as a bookmark: “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” This is so crucial. This what makes the bitter worth it.
I appreciated Shauna’s honesty on topics like losing her job, leaving her church, selling her home, miscarriages, tension between her and her husband, how raw moments of stress can bring out the worse and leave us numb. She also talked a lot about food, family, friends and dinner parties. It’s so real. I think that is what I crave more than anything these days. I love it when people just share the truth. The gut level, painful, unglamorous truth of everyday living. They see it for what it is and they grow and they say thanks and they inspire me to take the mess and the ugly and to see beauty in all of it. Shauna is a PK (translation: pastor’s kid,daughter of Bill Hybels, the lead pastor of Willow Creek) and I expected her to be churchy. I don’t know why I expected that she would have it all together due to who her father was. My father is amazing and that doesn’t really help me have it all together. Her very candid writing style just breaks down barriers and shows us how human we all are and that we all struggle. Some days are good and some days are bad. Bitter. Sweet.
I read a lot. I’ve loved a lot of a books in my reading career. This one is right up there. It’s like One Thousand Gift by Ann Voskamp. The authentic faith of these women who live real lives and aren’t afraid to share where they’ve been and how they walked through it. The epilogue made me cry because Shauna found herself in a hard place again. She admits that writing this book helped her process that hard season of life and she thought that some how once the book was finished that the hard things would be finished too. But life keeps going. It keeps on being bittersweet. I think this was good for me to hear. I need to remember that even though I’ve pulled a lot of growth out of my own hard seasons, it doesn’t mean that it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows from now on. It’s going to be a life of good and bad. There are going to be moments to celebrate and moments to cry. We grow the most when we walk through the bitter moments and is grace straight from God. Each day is wonderful gift and I have a choice. Will I take the bittersweet and grow? I hope so!
Seriously, this is an amazing book! It’s worth the read! Trust me!
It sounds like a great book, I’m glad you enjoyed her honesty and found something meaningful in that. I have to disagree with the idea that life wouldn’t be worth living if it was all sweet. God made everything perfect in Eden, and that is what life what meant to be, perfect. I think it would be closer to the truth to say that life wouldn’t be worth living with all this pain, but this is just temporary as we pass through this world and into the next.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, God bless!
I guess you’re right in that regard. I agree that life was meant to be perfect, but it hasn’t been that way in a long time. I know that it will be that way again someday. Right now in the middle of this everyday life where there is pain, I find that I grow more out of the hardships then I do when everything is great. I also find a greater dependence on God when I’m in low moments where things are hard. I think that joy can come of the pain and that if life was perfect all the time in this current time then I would be out of touch and un-relatable to whole lot of people. I also wouldn’t daily need a savior if life was sweet all the time. I guess all that to say, the bitter can be good and that it makes the sweet that much sweeter. It’s the contrasts that can bring meaning.
I agree that people can make the best of tough times. I just don’t want to view my pain in a romantic way, as if it’s something wonderful. But you’re right, we can definitely grow stronger from overcoming obstacles. Learning how to avoid the problem in the future is also a big benefit if possible, but ideally, I want to know how to avoid the problem before it happens!
Thanks for the book review! :)
I totally agree with learning from mistakes and avoiding bad decisions and the consequences of them. However not all hard times are our “fault”. Like the death of a loved one or losing a job because of down-sizing or the pain that comes from watching those you love struggle. These things just happen and yes, you can grow from them, but they weren’t something you created or could have been avoided. That’s the kind of pain I was thinking off.
It sounds like you’re thinking about some agonizing stuff. I hate watching people suffer and not being able to do anything to help, those are some of the really difficult moments in life.
You’ve probably seen stuff like this before, but I just thought that while we’re on the subject I’d offer you this link to an article on the Problem of Evil. It’s intense, and it addresses the kind of situations you mentioned, those that aren’t your fault and that you can’t avoid:
I don’t know if you have time for the article or not, but in any case it has been nice having a Christian conversation with you, I look forward to more of your posts in the future! :) God bless!
[…] wrote a book review for Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist at the beginning of the month. I was really impressed with Shauna’s honest writing about […]
[…] Bittersweet: thoughts on change, grace and learning the hard way – Thoughts on one of the best books I’ve read this year […]