The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.
Only you know your own sadness and joy. Others may care for you or say they know you, but they truly cannot and do not. And for you to sympathize with others and help them, you must slow down and look deeper. Finally, Jesus knows His friends perfectly.
You are a unique individual, just as every snowflake is different. The depths of bitterness and heights of joy that you feel cannot be fully known or appreciated by others. Your heart, soul, mind, and conscience create a private set of feelings and thoughts that are known only by you and your Creator. Others cannot discover or define your true feelings.
Anguish and pain in your soul from circumstances, fear, guilt, or hopelessness are your personal property and cannot be felt or understood by a stranger, anyone outside you. Neither can a stranger, anyone outside your soul, grasp and appreciate the joy of your heart, when you are enraptured by circumstances, hope, love, or success.
No friend fully knows your feelings, regardless of how sympathetic. No psychologist can measure your grief or happiness, or their causes. No pastor can fully explain your doubts or desires. You are alone in the universe with your own soul. The combined factors that form another’s feelings and thoughts are quite different from yours, or anyone else’s.
The proverb is an observation by Solomon about human existence. Paul confirmed it, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” (I Cor 2:11). Each person is a unique individual with feelings, both negative and positive, unknown to others. Careful study will reveal three lessons from this general observation.
The first lesson is to accept that others cannot fully grasp your grief or happiness, which may cause confusion or neglect. Forgive them. And the opposite is also true: you cannot truly know or sympathize with others. Forgive them as well for their intense feelings that alter their appearance or conduct. Wisdom makes allowances due to this individuality.
Therefore, there needs to be a great deal of sensitivity and tolerance in dealing with others, for you do not know the cause, nature, or depth of feelings that may be affecting them. Thus, Biblical charity is essential (I Cor 13:4-7), the golden rule is indispensable (Luke 6:31), and sympathetic empathy must be practiced (Rom 12:15; Heb 10:24; 13:3).
Consider examples. Eli missed Hannah’s bitter soul (I Sam 1:10-16). Gehazi could not see the Shunamite’s vexation (II Kgs 4:27). Job’s three friends were miserable comforters (Job 13:4; 16:2). The Lord’s three chosen disciples neglected the Man of Sorrows in His deepest grief (Mark 14:32-42). And Paul had to defend himself to Corinth (II Cor 12:15).
Michal despised David for his uninhibited worship, because her carnal and shallow soul could not grasp his joy and love for God (II Sam 6:16,20). She loved the military hero (I Sam 18:20), but despised his religious zeal (I Sam 13:14). She lost her husband and position by her insensitivity (II Sam 6:21-23). She should have valued his intense praise.
Think about others and be sensitive to their feelings and thoughts, negative or positive. There is more than what meets the eye. Look closer! Woe to the man whose wife sheds tears outwardly or inwardly for marital pain (Mal 2:10-16; Col 3:19; I Pet 3:7)! Woe to the woman whose husband is denied the love and intimacy his body craves (I Cor 7:1-5)!
Woe to critical and overbearing parents (Pr 4:3; 31:2; Col 3:21)! Woe to insensitive employers (Pr 29:21; Deut 24:14-15; Eph 6:9)! Woe to pastors that roughly treat church members (I Thess 2:7; I Pet 5:3)! Woe to a man ignoring the poor (Pr 21:13; 29:7; Job 31:13-22)! Woe to a man failing to think about offences and correct them (Matt 5:21-26)!
Christian, there is a better lesson! Though no other person can relate to your spirit, there is a Friend that can. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, feels all your infirmities, and He has experienced all the temptations you face (Heb 4:12-15). He can help you in your darkest hour (Heb 2:18), and He can give peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7).
The only true joy man can experience is God’s gift by His Spirit (Gal 5:22-23; Rom 15:13; Eccl 5:20). There is no foolish grinning or foaming froth with this joy, for it is God speaking directly to your soul at a level no one else can detect. This seal of His adoption of you as His child includes filling your soul with His love (Rom 5:5; 8:15-16).
Men walking with God can dance in economic disaster (Hab 3:17-19), and they can sing in an inner prison, after being stripped and beaten (Acts 16:22-25). They can find internal encouragement, even when friends want to stone them (I Sam 30:6). God’s presence and communion with the human heart can overcome anything (Ps 27:1-6; 46:1-5; 73:23-28).
Consider Hebrews 4:12 about the Word of God. Most falsely assume this speaks of the written word, the Bible. But nothing in the verse is true about the Bible, and the context proves it is speaking about Jesus Christ (Heb 4:13-14). He can divide between your soul and spirit. He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart. Go to Him (Heb 4:15-16).
Do you have cares? The proverb teaches that others cannot know them. But if you cast your cares on Him, He cares for you like no other (I Pet 5:7). Are you laboring? Others cannot help carry much. But He can give rest for your soul (Matt 11:28-30). He can be your exceeding joy and your exceeding great reward (Gen 15:1; Ps 43:4). You can talk to Him at any hour of the day or night, and He will always listen and help (Ps 62:8; 142:2).
When you are overwhelmed, then God Himself will be your Friend (Ps 61:2; 142:3). He has all your tears in a bottle: He does not miss one of them, either inside or outside (Ps 56:8). You can pour out your heart to Him (Ps 62:8). Since He can help in the bitterness of your soul, and He can provide heavenly joy, whom else do you need (Ps 73:25-26)? Do not trust in others for your comfort or joy, for only He truly knows and loves you.