Sweet and Bitter
You are good, and what you do is good. Psalm 119:68
Some people like bitter chocolate and some prefer sweet. Ancient Mayans in Central America enjoyed chocolate as a beverage and seasoned it with chili peppers. They liked this “bitter water,” as they called it. Many years later it was introduced in Spain, but the Spaniards preferred chocolate sweet, so they added sugar and honey to counteract its natural bitterness.
Like chocolate, days can be bitter or sweet as well. A seventeenth-century French monk named Brother Lawrence wrote, “If we knew how much [God] loves us, we would always be ready to receive equally . . . from His hand the sweet and the bitter.” Accept the sweet and the bitter equally? This is difficult! What is Brother Lawrence talking about? The key lies in God’s character. The psalmist said of God, “You are good, and what you do is good” (Psalm 119:68).
Mayans also valued bitter chocolate for its healing and medicinal properties. Bitter days have value too. They make us aware of our weaknesses and they help us depend more on God. The psalmist wrote, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (v. 71). Let us embrace life today, with its different flavors—reassured of God’s goodness. Let us say, “You have done many good things for me,
Psalm 119 expresses a deep longing to be transformed by the riches of God’s truth. The psalm echoes the theme of Psalm 1—that walking with God in integrity results in being “blessed,” having a flourishing life (v. 1).
Yet even as the psalm vividly describes pursuing God wholeheartedly, it also emphasizes that a rich life with God isn’t based on us. We are always in desperate need of God’s loving guidance to lead us into ever-greater depths of His truth (119:35–37, 88). The beauty of life with God is always based on His goodness (v. 68).
That is why—even in hard times—we can still find joy and hope. Even when our struggles are caused by our own sin (vv. 67, 71), we can trust in His mercy (v. 132). Because He is good and does what is good (v. 68), we can trust that He is always at work, drawing us closer to Him (v. 58).
Reflect on the intimate way Psalm 119 unites our calling to pursue God with our complete dependence on Him. Are you prone to emphasize one over the other? How might God be calling you to a deeper walk with Him?