Last summer I came across a blog by Sara Hagerty. Her words on finding God in the midst of the hard immediately attracted my attention. THIS IS A SISTER WHO SPEAKS MY SOUL.
Her writing style, so vivid, is like honey to read: rich, inviting and the kind you take your time with. When I saw she had a book out, so astutely titled Every Bitter Thing is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things, I was eager to place my order.
But I was also eager to do one other thing: I wanted to send a note to Sara.
Words of affirmation is my love language, and as much as I love to receive those words from my own readers, I also feel compelled to speak affirmation to other writers whose words have enlivened my dry bones.
To my delight, and very real surprise, Sara wrote back.
What’s more, she gifted me a copy of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, confirming what I suspected was the bent of her heart.
As I wept – yes, wept, as in a whole mess of emotions – my way through the book, I KNEW I wanted to hear more from Sara.
She graciously agreed to do an interview. What follows is verbatim, because I honestly could think of no way to improve upon her answers.
1. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet documents well your journey in discovering how to taste the goodness of God in difficult circumstances. When do you find it most difficult to taste the goodness of God today? How has your past experience affected how you seek His goodness now?
In some ways, I’m still like a little girl. When my hope and my expectations for a certain outcome are threatened, I can default to believing that I’m alone and I need to fend for myself. It’s an old habit that surely is dying but there are still times when I find myself subtly thinking thoughts about His goodness (or lack thereof) that just aren’t true, that aren’t in line with His Word.
The Word has taken on new significance to me. I need it. I need this Truth in order to see clearly, think clearly, understand a goodness that feels so “other” from one I can contrive. My experiences drove me there – delay and disappointment and heartache led me to fall in love with God.
2. You clung to hope despite significant odds against you. It is inspiring. How do you keep from surrendering to fears your hope is actually foolishness?
That’s a real struggle for all of us, isn’t it?
The Bible is full of the “crazies” who believed against all odds and were acclaimed by Him – both at the time, and in surprising ways in later days. The more I am in the Word, the more that this type of person (hopeful, expectant, bold) feels more real to me than the one I so often migrate toward being (fearful, anxious, cynical).
I also think our own personal histories of seeing God come through, when we even had the smallest inkling of hope in Him, are ones we can build upon over time. We went to Uganda and adopted two children against all odds. At nearly every juncture in our adoption, it appeared as if it wouldn’t go through. I was fearful the entire time. Uganda certainly didn’t see the most glorious side of me. But I came home changed. And now I bring that story to the things I face moving forward that might otherwise give me reason to fear (if I look with my eyes). I get to build on what He has already done in my life and hope starts to feel less and less foolish.
3. What was your most vulnerable point in pouring out this story?
I didn’t imagine what having my story out there for others to read might do to some relationships. I found myself wanting to explain myself and the back-story to the book to every new friend, fearful that I might be misunderstood as one who was chasing fame or “needing” to have my name on a book to feel confident. It was terribly vulnerable to acknowledge that sharing my story meant that more eyes could misread it and more people could judge me.
BUT … this also became a sweet avenue for exposing how much I’d been chasing being “understood,” in some ways, more than I’d been seeking His eyes upon me. Pouring out this story has sent me searching for what He alone thinks about me, in new ways. And His eyes never fail.
4. You walked a very hard road to get where you are in spiritual maturity. What advice would you give to women who are facing uphill battles in their spiritual or personal battles?
This uphill battle truly feels universal – it just looks different for each of us. For one friend, it’s having four children under the age of six. For another, it’s a serious physical injury. For still another, it’s not being able to connect with her husband emotionally as she’s hoped.
God breathing on the Word has been a lifeline to me – giving perspective when I had none and meeting me, even when I didn’t feel like opening it. Adoring Him through His Word, even when I didn’t feel like it (especially when I didn’t feel like it) and allowing myself to admit my gross unbelief gave me an inroad to have God breathe upon that unbelief with the Truth of who He is.
I’ve also benefited greatly from a variety of mentors, speaking into a handful of different things about my life. In a day when we can be tempted to find our discipleship in social media memes and pithy blog posts, I think there is nothing more significant than having ones with grey hair in our lives. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
5. You speak repeatedly and highly about your quiet time with God and how it has changed over time, beginning as more or less an obligation and turning into something deeply meaningful. What does your quiet time look like now, amid the busyness of motherhood and career? What are the essential elements of your quiet time?
It changes in form frequently based on schedule and time of year and the number of children we have and their ages.
As far as the heart behind it, my desire began to shift when my external life was pressed. This is much of my story. I found God and fell in love with Him when life stopped working for me – AFTER being a diligent rule-follower and Bible-reader and gospel-sharer for many years. This is when everything changed for how I saw Him and related to Him. I found a garden in my barren years. And it contained His presence. I slowly moved from seeing my quiet times as a task to be performed and more as an invitation to sit with the God who loved me so tenderly.
In terms of practicals, a dear friend and I choose a book or books of the Bible to study together (but, really, independently in parallel study) each year. This year it’s Romans and Proverbs. I’m loving reading both of these books and a few commentaries I’ve chosen to help me dive in.
Another part of my time with God that does change in form but which is generally consistent is adoration. Each week I choose an aspect of God, from His Word, to adore and spend about 10 minutes a day writing out my thoughts to Him in the form of adoration as I read and pray. This aspect of my walk with God could be seen as a spiritual discipline, but really it’s been a lifeline. I’ve needed to have my naturally cynical perspective reoriented towards what is true about Him and adoration seems to bridge that for me.
6. Can you give us a glimpse into your new book?
This book feels so near to my heart. It’s called Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed and is coming out in August via Zondervan. This book is for all of us who have experienced being misunderstood or mistreated or unknown …who have wanted to change the world but found ourselves changing diapers or tires or paying our taxes and wondering what to do with those minutes (or long seasons) of our life and days when no one is looking and no one is noticing.
This book is about finding God in the hidden pockets of our life, when we feel hidden from the world, and seeing His eyes upon us there – and ultimately coming alive, when no one is looking.
In a culture so oriented towards being seen and “liked” and celebrated, with opportunities abounding to show our best moments and peer into the lives of others’ very-bests, this book is about growing deep into God independent of the praise of others (that, if we’re honest, we so often crave).
A huge thank-you to Sara Hagerty for taking time for this interview.
Friends, I just received an advanced reader copy of her newest book, Unseen. It is soooooo good, and hits me at the perfect time. I plan to write to you more about the themes of this book.
Unseen releases Aug. 29 through Zondervan, and pre-orders are being taken.
Meannwhile, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet is available through major booksellers.
(PS – I receive no compensation for this post. All opinions are truly mine, as my Amazon review can attest.)