It’s a classic entry science experiment for kids, assembled thousands of time a year in classrooms across the country. A bit of baking soda, some vinegar, and a touch of food coloring and you have all the ingredients for some frothy, messy, hands-on fun for kids of any age…their very own volcano. But there is a science lesson behind this eye-catching activity. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a base; vinegar is acetic acid. When a base and an acid are mixed, a somewhat violent chemical reaction occurs due to the production of gaseous carbon dioxide. Although the child’s volcano simply produces some red, frothy lava, in the right amounts and containers, the mixture can be downright explosive and dangerous.
In Old Testament days, reference is made to a very similar chemical reaction. The Hebrew word nitre is equivalent to our bicarbonate of soda, baking soda, mineral potash, so named due to its effervescing reaction with acids, aka, it bubbles! That’s half of our volcano. The Hebrew word translated vinegar was applied to a beverage consisting of wine turned sour, a liquid that could be artificially produced by adding barley to fermented grapes. That’s part two of our science experiment. When the two are combined “as vinegar upon nitre” the end results are not pleasant, but destructive and explosive.
The writer of Proverbs exhorts us with this carefully worded piece of advice, “as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.” In simple language, be cautious when dealing with one who has a grief-stricken heart. I have been on both ends of that equation. I have been the one in the throes of grief and heaviness, feeling as though my world had ended, my eyes soaked with tears and my spirit crushed. Many words were spoken in love, but some of those words inadvertently added vinegar to my nitre. I have also been on the other side of grief, speaking well-meaning words of comfort, but words that may have been better left unsaid.
When a friend’s heart is heavy, I have found that it is often better to hold my tongue and to extend my compassion instead. It’s okay to be silent when someone sobs, sometimes a reassuring touch is much more effective. Don’t avoid the bereaved, be there for them, check in on them often, listen with an uncritical attitude, and don’t rush their grieving process. Be mindful that they may not be ready for a cascade of spiritual platitudes, just in need of someone to weep with them. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; let’s be sensitive and learn the difference. Allow the kindly compassion of Christ to work through you as you weep with them, hear them, pray for them, and point their eyes upward to the only One Who can truly comfort.
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Lord, help my words to be measured, bathed in compassion and empathy, filled with Your love. Never allow me to add nitre to the vinegar of someone’s life, but instead, be the encouragement that they need.<div class='sharedaddy sd-block sd-like jetpack-likes-widget-wrapper jetpack-likes-widget-unloaded' id='like-post-wrapper-164683012-2708-6332d98ce36e9' data-src='https://widgets.wp.com/likes/#blog_id=164683012&post_id=2708&origin=grandmasgleanings.com&obj_id=164683012-2708-6332d98ce36e9' data-name='like-post-frame-164683012-2708-6332d98ce36e9' data-title='Like or Reblog'><h3 class="sd-title">Like this:</h3><div class='likes-widget-placeholder post-likes-widget-placeholder' style='height: 55px;'><span class='button'><span>Like</span></span> <span class="loading">Loading...</span></div><span class='sd-text-color'></span><a class='sd-link-color'></a></div>