10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.
It is called…“The Tingler.” It is a tiny parasite that lives in the spine of every person. It curls up, feeds, and grows stronger when its host is afraid, effectively crushing the person's spine if curled up long enough. The only way to be cured of the deadly menace is by screaming. Screaming causes it to weaken and relax its grip.
The parasite was discovered in 1959 by pathologist, Dr. Warren Chapin, while investigating the death of Mrs. Martha Higgins. Mrs. Higgins, a deaf-mute, had died while strange, spooky events were happening in her house. Her husband, theater owner Warren Higgins, was acting suspiciously, and Dr. Chapin suspected foul play.
During Martha’s autopsy, Dr. Chapin removes a vicious centipede-creature from her spine. Dr. Chapin identifies it as a “tingler,” though one of abnormally large size. The furious creature escapes and begins to terrify local business establishments. The only way those it encounters avoid certain doom is by screaming as loudly as they can.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chapin determines that Higgins has known about “the Tingler” and has elaborately frightened his poor wife to death, as she had been unable to scream. Dr. Chapin recaptures the creature, and trapping Higgins with it in a locked room, sees that justice is done.
Ashamed of murdering his helpless wife, and shocked that his perfect crime had gone awry, Higgins is unable to scream and so succumbs to the terror of…”The Tingler.”
Do you have a tingling feeling in your spine? Then you too can feel The Tingler!
Oh come on, don’t look at me that way. It was a classic movie made in 1959!
It had Vincent Price in it!
Well, I was allowed to stay up past 9PM to watch it, so for ten-year-old me it was a cinematic masterpiece. It even came with a very serious medical disclaimer at the beginning of the movie:
"Ladies and gentlemen, just a word of warning. If any of you are not convinced that you have a tingler of your own, the next time you are frightened in the dark... don't scream.”
Solomon may have been no Vincent Price, but he knew a thing or two about fear, and the expression of thoughts and emotions. The book of Proverbs is a catalog of wisdom and a blueprint of how you respond to your world and the sinfulness of your heart.
In chapter 14 of Proverbs, Solomon reveals the inner workings of your heart:
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.–Proverbs 14:10
Like the woman who was unable to scream in a 1950’s B-movie, do you sometimes feel as if you cannot fully express yourself, or that no one really knows the real you deep down inside?
You cannot fully share in the joys and pains, or truly know the thoughts of another person. Likewise, there are endless corridors in your own mind and heart where your thoughts and memories go on and on, and someone else–even one of those closest to you–can only catch a glimpse.
Verse 10 is not a proverb about self-expression or being “true to yourself,” it is wisdom to see yourself and others in the light of what it means to not fully know or be known–except by God. As commentator Bruce Watlke summarizes:
The proverb implies the dignity of each individual, teaches to accept being misunderstood, and cautions against evaluating others by outward appearances.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”
The first part of the passage speaks of the hidden bitterness that can creep into your heart. The bible is filled with people who experience bitterness in its various forms and reasons, and often suffer quietly. There is Hannah, who loved the Lord but suffered with heartbreaking barrenness. Despite her godly patience, Hannah was provoked by a rival woman, and her frustrated husband seemed not to care.
Hannah’s husband harangued her with sensitive comments like, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”(I Samuel 1:8)
How many times has someone who should have known you better, caused you more pain due to comments such as these–instead of offering sympathy and kindness? In her pain, Hannah cried out to God:
10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.–I Samuel 1:10
Of course, the Lord hears Hannah and grants her a son, Samuel–but not before she had to walk her long and broken road of bitterness.
Perhaps you have felt this way about something in your life, and when others tried to help, they only made things worse. As a guy, maybe you have made such comments to your own wife, being more concerned about having dinner ready on time, or making sure that your needs were met, despite her having “emotional stuff” going on.
If you hesitate to share what is truly in your heart, it may mean that you feel that you would overwhelm everyone around you if they truly heard what you were really thinking. You keep your thoughts to yourself because you are certain your words will come flowing out like water from a firehose, and wash your listener down the street.
Men, one of your temptations is to be a “lone wolf.” A lone wolf does not admit his pain, but resolves to soldier on and suffer silently. Job frustrations, marriage disappointments, and unrealized dreams can all cause you to withdraw from others.
Job must have felt this way in his sufferings. As calamities came upon him in an avalanche of pain, he withdrew inside himself, feeling the bitterness steeping in his very soul:
20 “Why is light given to him who is in misery,
And life to the bitter of soul,–Job 3:20
Are you “bitter of soul?” Your pain may be real or simply imagined due to perceived problems–but it exists in your heart nonetheless. This is because, as Solomon has illustrated before, you are a complex being. As Bruce Waltke describes further:
One’s emotional-intellectual-religious-moral motions are too complex, deep-seated, and individualistic to share with others.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”
Simply put, you are a many-faced gem, created by God, and all sides of you cannot be viewed at once. The Apostle Paul knows this and he explains spiritual wisdom to the church in Corinth:
11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.–I Corinthians 2:11
Even if your husband, wife or BFF cannot truly know everything about you, your creator does. The Spirit of God–meaning the Holy Spirit–knows all of those hidden caves and bunkers in your soul.
Think about this for a moment. How do you present yourself to the world? Your Facebook page is likely a collection of good memories, and family photos with happy, smiling faces. You and your family know that that vacation was fraught with bad tempers, poor attitudes, emotional blowups, and small disappointments. And yet, you choose the very best for people to see.
Part of this reason is because you know, deep down, no one really wants to see that side of you, right? You feel, or assume, that the ugly side of your life, or what you feel, will be too much or even unpalatable for others to see.
This is partly because you know that they know that life is not always pleasant and never perfect–but no one wishes to be reminded of this. Maybe you have even revealed a little too much, or “overshared” your troubles to others–only to have them withdraw from you in awkwardness or shock. This fear of rejection can fuel the issue and make it worse.
Ian Maclaren, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland has been mentioned here before. He is author of the cheerful little book, “Beside the Bonny Briar Bush.” In it is found the daily travails and triumphs of a simple Scottish village. The novel highlights characters both noble and impoverished as they interact in each others’ lives. Maclaren coined a phrase that captures good advice on how to live life amid the pain of others:
Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.–Ian Maclaren
This is a call to be patient with those you encounter, for you may not truly know what they are dealing with or what they have experienced in life. Tim Keller offers good advice:
From the outside, never be completely assured that you could absolutely predict or understand the behavior of another person. You may guess wrongly.–Tim Keller
Since you cannot truly know another person, the first step in showing Christ’s love to them is to show the patience and kindness of Jesus in your interactions. This can especially apply to those closest to you who may simply not understand what you are going though or why you may be struggling at that moment of life. Keller continues:
From the inside, remember that no one can read your mind. If you don’t want to be terribly lonely, you will have to open your heart and reveal yourself.–Tim Keller
Do you snap at loved ones sometimes? Has your husband or wife ever asked “what’s wrong” or made a comment in an effort to help, only to step into your emotional bear trap? This particularly applies to how you relate to others in the Body of Christ. Many issues in the church arise when, you allow emotions to rule, or when feathers are ruffled over careless comments.
The problem is, if you do not allow others to know you, then it is difficult to show Christ to them. People are impacted for Jesus when they see and understand how He works in your heart and in your life–even in the midst of your troubles.
Do you see how this drives you to Jesus? You have a “compassionate high priest” who knows you better than you know yourself (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Jesus knows and has experienced it all, everything you can go through and more. You may have loved ones and lifelong friends, but your only true friend in life, and for all eternity is Christ. Can you enjoy Him?
You have a precious union with Christ through His death on the cross and resurrection. Jesus has won you for the Father and you are joined with Him through the work of the Holy Spirit. If you are in Christ, then you are never truly alone–and never without the One who knows you best.
Simply put, you can defeat loneliness by spending time with God. You can reveal your innermost thoughts to Christ in prayer, without fear of reprisal. He knows your heart, your deepest thoughts, and your worst fears–and can overcome them all for you (John 1:47).
There is an old song, a spiritual that comes from the period of slavery. Originating among slaves in the American south, the song “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” perfectly captures your own struggles–and the solution to them. Listen HERE to a version with Louis Armstrong:
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Are your tormented by your own B-movie “tingler” of unresolved bitterness, fear, or frustration? If so, give these to God, for His Son knows your afflictions, and is always there for you to come to him for comfort and a listening ear.
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.