Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life is bittersweet

“And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering.” Romans 8:17

Life is bittersweet for we are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. St Paul in his letter to the Romans draws attention to a very important truth – that if we are to share God’s glory, we must also share the suffering of Christ. Enjoying the rights and privileges of being the children of God and heirs of His Kingdom comes from living out our responsibilities to honor God’s Name and to do His will on earth as it is in heaven.

Shaun Niequist described bittersweet as “the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.” She noted that it is only when one has faced some kind of death and has our heart really broken – the loss of a beloved, broken dreams and fractured relationships – that one can appreciate the gospel of death and rebirth.

Ron Dunn rightly described the mystery of good and evil as the mixture of good and evil. We "idealize life" when our faith is based on our thinking that "if God is really working in our lives, nothing but good will come down." When our lives become stormy, we tend to react like the disciples who found Jesus sleeping at the back of the boat when they encountered a fierce storm. In our despair, we cry out, "Lord, don't you care that we're going to drown?" (Mark 4:35-38).

But the good news of Easter is that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to face the trials and tribulations of life with the peace that is beyond human understanding. We will be like Peter who was able to sleep even though he was fastened with two chains between two soldiers waiting to be tried and put to death (Acts 12:6).

All of us will have both sweet and bitter times in life. The question is how we are living through such times. We can become addicted to the sweet times and seek to make our lives sweeter even at the expense of others. Or we can celebrate our sweet times with thanksgiving and use our blessings to be a blessing to others.

We can live in fear of bitter times and let our bitter times turn us into bitter persons – we can be like Naomi who changed her name to Mara when she felt that God had made life very bitter for her (Ruth 1:20). Or we can build our lives on the Rock of Christ so that we will be prepared to face the storms of life. Only then will our faith not collapse like a pack of cards in the storms of life. Instead, in bitter times we can pray as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

"My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done. (Matthew 26:42)

Hannah Whithall Smith lamented that "it really would seem as if God's own children were more afraid of His will than of anything else in life….. If we but for one moment get a glimpse into the mighty depths of His love, our hearts would spring out to meet His will and embrace it as our richest treasure; and we would abandon ourselves to it with an enthusiasm of gratitude and joy that such a wondrous privilege could be ours."

True faith is not about what we believe in but about the faithfulness and everlasting Love of God. We will never be able to understand God’s ways but we can hold fast to our belief that His ways are far beyond anything we can imagine (Isaiah 55:8). The devil will seek to convict us of our unfaithfulness but the good news is that Christ died to set us free so that we can walk in newness of life as children of God in both the sweet times of life as well as the bitter times.

Shaun Niequist gave the following wise advice:

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”

The hymn, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, was written by George Mathieson when he lost his eyesight as well as his fiancée. May the following verse inspire us to live the bittersweet life:

"O joy that seekest me through pain,

I dare not shut my heart to Thee

I'll trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not in vain

That morn shall tearless be.

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