The Buck Stops Here: Bitterness, Joy, and the Choice

Thanksgiving on the road 010

The Buck Stops Here:
“Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.”
(Proverbs 14:10)

“The buck stops here”…this was my first thought as a buck literally stopped directly in front of me along a hiking trail one morning. Although I can’t say exactly who was more startled, I can tell you that it was a moment I won’t soon forget for a couple of reasons. First, at the time, I wasn’t a “happy camper”- no pun intended.  Shortly before our camping trip, I had fractured my foot in several places thus limiting my activities due to the constraints of a huge shoe boot. Even as I hobbled down the path on this particular morning, I was asking God to deliver me from the temptation to cast blame for my predicament in addition to protecting my family from the rising poison of my own bitterness. The ugly truth is I was feeling sorry for myself because while everyone else was having the time of their lives hiking, riding bikes, exploring, etc. – I could only watch from a safe distance. Secondly, it is not every day you find your ramblings to God interrupted by the sudden appearance of a buck. I was hardly finished praying; yet, the message was clear enough: the buck stops here! “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.” (Proverbs 14:10)

In this moment, God reminded me that it is not our circumstances that define us as much as how we choose to respond to them. As we turn our attention from ourselves to Him, God is more than well able to transform our bad attitude into one of gratitude.

Along with a new attitude, my prayer time brought to mind some wise counsel I once heard: “Ultimately, we can choose to be bitter or better. Note there is only one letter difference between the two. Those that become bitter focus on the “I” – I should have, I could have, and I feel sorry for myself. Whereas those determined to become better will focus more on the “E”- Emmanuel- God is with us.” God promises to be with us in every circumstance and then leaves the choice in how to respond up to us: “Your joy is your own; your bitterness is your own. No one can share them with you.” (Proverbs 14:10) Choose joy!