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Limiting Factor in Human Relationships
Proverbs 14:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 The heart knows the bitterness of its soul,
and no stranger shares its joy.
Proverbs 14:10 is a stunning emotional feeling expressed of the ultimate solitude of each man’s soul throughout his life, and not simply in the last moments of his death. Something there is in every moment of grief and anguish and in every joyful moment, which no other can share. Beyond that extent, we must keep in mind that there is the one true God of Sympathy, combining accurate and complete knowledge with perfect love.
The heart knows the bitterness of its soul: Heart: (לֵב leb; καρδία kardia) In biblical Hebrew, the word for heart (leb) has twenty-four different meanings. Generally, it is a reference to the center of feelings. As in many cases, in Hebrew, the heart here refers to the mind. The sense is the place of the person’s thoughts (mind), volition, emotions, and knowledge of right from wrong (conscience), translated by some as mind. However, it can refer to the whole person: the mind (knowledge), emotions (feelings), and awareness (knowledge or perception of a situation or fact). That is the case here in Proverbs 14:10, a reference to the whole person. Bitterness (מֹרָה morah) is a human condition of misery and mental distress, and anguish. (Prov. 14:10) This is an ongoing bitter feeling or situation or time in a person’s life. The expression bitterness of its soul refers to the inner anguish that each individual person experiences in their life.
and no stranger shares its joy: Line (b) of 14:10 is not a contrast of line (a) but rather a further development of it. The Hebrew term stranger (זֵר zer) is generally a reference to an outsider, a foreigner, or someone who is unfamiliar or unknown, previously unencountered. Also, it was applied to those who forsook what was in harmony with the Mosaic Law and so were estranged from God. However, here it is a simple reference to “another person.” Share (עָרַב arab) means to have in common, to have fellowship with another or to experience something together with another person, as well as an event with another person who participates in that experience. Here, joy refers to a joyful heart. In other words, joyful happiness is felt in the person’s heart, just as was the case with bitterness.
Considering that our deepest feelings cannot be expressed explicitly in all moments of our life nor always be understood by observers, the warm, loving, soulful comfort that others may be able to offer has its limitations. We may often have to undergo some of life’s difficulties by relying entirely on God. Solomon is indicating a limiting factor in our human relationships. We cannot always share explicitly what our innermost feeling is, be it bitterness or joy, with others, giving them a sense of what we are going through. Further, no one, not even a close spouse or even a mother, can fully understand how their loved one feels all the time.
An incredibly sad example would be the feeling of suicide. The person who is plagued with these constant feelings struggles to be open and communicate them with their loved ones, be it family or friends. Worse still, it is impossible to always recognize suicidal signs of such feelings in their family member or friend, regardless of how close the bond is. Therefore, it would be a mistake to blame ourselves if we do not see the signs in time to act. Proverbs 14:10 also shows us that although it is heartening to seek out a friend that can empathize with us for emotional support, imperfect humans are not filled with an infinite amount of comfort that they can offer. There will be times when we might have to rely on God alone when we are trying to endure some difficulties. Thus, the need for an in-depth understanding of God’s Word to appropriately apply it in our lives and a personal close relationship with God.
Every one of us is impacted differently by our burdens, especially that which weighs on our spirits, for many are suffering from some distress and anguish, all the while trying to conceal it from others, keeping it to themselves. We must not ignore the grief of others if it is within our power to do something, for the person’s suffering may very well be heavier than they express.