Bitterness and Joy of Heart
1.) The Heart: inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding; seat of inner emotions and passions; inner reflection;
a. The term is also used in the sense of “in the midst of” or “in the depths of”… as in the depths of the sea.
b. It has the sense here of “deep down inside” a man… the depths of our inner man… the deep recesses of our heart.
c. Psalm 9:1 – translated “whole heart” = from the depths of my heart.
2.) Knows: to perceive and see, find out and discern; to discriminate, distinguish; to know by experience; to be acquainted with;
a. It is used of the most personal and intimate of human relations… (Adam knew his wife…)
b. It used in Prov. 14:10 of a deep, personal, intimate, experiential knowledge.
3.) His own: nephesh – the word for soul… though not translated in the King James Version.
a. It is the word for one’s own life… a living being… a soul… or the person himself… your SELF.
b. I Kings 19:3, 4 – used 3 times: life; himself; my life… Elijah had bitterness in his soul… in the depths of his heart… and as a result, wanted to die!
4.) Bitterness: mara – bitterness; grief; (as the city in the wilderness where the water was bitter)—the bitter herb myrrh is derived from this word…
a. This is the only time this exact form of the word appears in the Bible.
b. The term speaks of a literal bitterness to the taste—but most often is used of emotions.
c. The sense is that we FEEL similar to what bitterness tastes like.
d. A similar term is used in Gen. 26:35 – of the grief of heart that came to Isaac and Rebecca because of their son Esau’s foolish choices in marrying a Hittite woman.
e. This bitterness speaks of the feelings that arise because of difficulty, hardship, stress or strain of life, the dark valleys, the deep waters, the tragedies and trials of life.
f. We all face such times of bitterness… grief… sorrow… loss…
g. We all have to deal with our emotions… feeling the grief, bitterness, frustration, disappointments.
h. These feelings are all common to man (I Cor. 10:13).
5.) The heart knoweth his own bitterness… (putting all these concepts together)
a. Solomon is saying that the emotions and feelings that accompany life’s bitter experiences are felt DEEP within a man’s heart… in his innermost being.
b. Solomon is saying that only the man himself can really feel and experience this bitterness. It is his OWN unique bitter experience.
c. These are the gut feelings going on inside this man’s own life… deep in the recesses of his heart.
d. This is where such emotions are felt… in his own private life… deep down inside his heart.
e. That’s where man knows his bitterness. That’s where he feels and suffers and KNOWS experientially that kind of pain and grief and sorrow.
6.) In other words, this deep grief is his own experience… felt deep in his gut.
a. Prov. 17:25 – a similar term is used here—sorrow; grief; bitterness of heart. This is a grief that cannot possibly be communicated accurately or completely. It is one that is felt… experienced… only the parent of that son really knows what he is going through.
b. Nobody really knows the bitter experience that a young man with a growing family is feeling when he just looses his job.
c. Nobody really knows the bitterness of heart that is endured by a widow with the loss of her husband of many years…
d. Outsiders can’t really know the fear or anxiety that a young person experiences when the family moves and they have to enter into a new school…
e. Nobody knows what you are going through on the inside when diagnosed with cancer.
f. Your friends may not know how it feels to face racism every day and the sneers of hateful men.
g. Others don’t know the bitter experience of loneliness that some folks have to deal with each day…
h. This is the main point of this proverb—it is quite similar to that the old saying, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”
i. Nobody CAN know… but that person himself…
7.) We can and should TRY to relate to others… but we can not really fully enter into their bitterness or grief. It is theirs alone.
a. Rom. 12:15 – we are to weep with those who weep.
• We can feel sorrow for them and with them.
• But Solomon’s point is that even those who weep with you don’t know experientially the depth of your grief.
• Sympathize = to share or understand the feelings or ideas of another.
• Sympathy = sameness of feelings.
• Try as we may to sympathize—we cannot possibly feel the SAME things they are feeling.
• Empathy = the projection of one’s personality into the personality of another in order to better understand that person and identify with him.
• Solomon’s point in Prov. 14:10 is that there isn’t any such thing as TRUE and COMPLETE sympathy or empathy among men.
• We can and should try… but our best efforts fall short.
• Nobody else can really know fully what YOU are feeling and experiencing… but you yourself…
b. II Cor. 1:4 – we get much closer when we have experienced a similar thing.
• We go through common experiences in life… the trials we face are “common to man.”
• Someone who breaks their leg can enter into more fully what a person with a broken leg is going through.
• Someone who has lost their job knows what it’s like to lose a job and is able to minister to someone else in the same boat.
• Someone who has had cancer can minister to someone who is going through chemo-therapy better than someone who has just read about it.
• While what Paul says is perfectly true—Solomon’s point is that no matter how similar our experiences may seem—NOBODY really knows what kind of emotions another person is experiencing deep down in his or her soul.
• We try to help by saying, “I know how you feel.” But we really don’t!
• No two individuals have the same life-experiences… the same feelings… carry the same burdens… the same perception of things…
8.) Sooner or later we will all face a bitter experience in life… and discover what Solomon wrote to be true: nobody really knows what I’m going through… nobody understands.
a. Some folks discover that nobody understands what they are going through, so they decide to go into seclusion over this… and stay away from people… Poor me… nobody understands.
b. Others may get angry at people… “How come nobody knows what I’m going through? Don’t they care about me?”
c. Don’t get mad at others. Realize the truth of this proverb—nobody knows but you! Nobody COULD know but you!
• I Cor. 2:11 – what man knows the things of that man except that man himself? Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Nobody knows what you are feeling deep down inside…
• So don’t get angry at others because they don’t know. They CAN’T know!
9.) But we do have a Great High Priest who does FULLY and COMPLETELY understand and know what we are experiencing.
a. Heb. 4:14-16 – Christ knows our feelings… our emotions… As the omniscient God He knows them all… and as the God-Man, He knows them experientially…
b. And we are invited to come to His throne of grace… to find the grace to help in time of need.
c. Solomon never knew Christ in this way.
d. Bring your troubles and the bitterness of your soul to Him!
1.) A stranger: a stranger; foreigner; alien; one not acquainted.
2.) Intermeddle: exchange; engage; fellowship.
3.) The second part of the proverb states the same as the first part, but relates it to JOY rather than to bitterness.
a. Only the man himself can fully experience and understand the grief he faces… and so too with joy.
b. An outsider—stranger—cannot fully participate in or even understand his joy.
c. I saw pictures of the Curds jumping in the streets when they heard that Sadaam was captured… I understand that they were happy—but I cannot really understand what it feels like to live in a region where thousands of your people were gassed and buried—some buried alive—and to hear that the perpetrator of it all was captured.
d. Gracie Burnham was rescued after having been held captive by the Filipino terrorists for a year… starved… sick… traipsed through the woods for a year… seeing her husband killed… and then to be rescued… we know that she had experienced something bitter… and we can imagine her joy when the soldiers rescued her…
e. But Solomon’s point is that we can only DIMLY enter into what was really going on in that woman’s heart… in the deep recesses of her soul… a stranger could never know the JOY of the day she looked up and saw the face of a friendly soldier to take her home…
4.) Hab. 3:17-18 – A believer experiences the joy of the Lord—and a peace that passes all understanding.
a. The unsaved man is a stranger to such emotions.
b. How a man could have joy under such circumstances is an enigma to him. He cannot fathom it… he cannot enter in…
c. This kind of joy is spiritually discerned and thus foolishness to one who cannot understand it.
d. The unsaved cannot relate to them… cannot possibly participate in them…
e. There is a peace and joy that “passes understanding.”
5.) In a sense, we all stand alone in our deepest inner feelings—either grief or joy.
a. Solomon is not saying that we therefore shouldn’t TRY to sympathize with others…
b. He simply states that there are limitations on the ability of one person to fully share in the life experiences of another.
c. There are secret joys and secret griefs that we all bear… because we chose NOT to share them.
d. But there are also griefs and joys that are simply incommunicable… inexpressible… too deep for words…
e. Some joys are too great to be expressed in words: Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!