Bitter Ingredients, Good Outcome

Bitter Ingredients, Good Outcome June 20, 2024

Like many psalms, Psalm 71 contains both complaint and praise:

Even when I am old and gray,

do not forsake me, O God,

till I declare your power to the next generation,

your might to all who are to come.

Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God,

you who have done great things.

Who, O God, is like you?

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter,

you will restore my life again;

from the depths of the earth

you will again bring me up.

You will increase my honor

and comfort me once again.

I will praise you with the harp

for your faithfulness, O my God;

I will sing praise to you with the lyre,

O Holy One of Israel.

My lips will shout for joy

when I sing praise to you—

I, whom you have redeemed.

—Psalm 71:18–23

The unknown psalmist speaks on behalf of God’s people of all times, declaring that God has done great things while honestly affirming, “You have made me see troubles, many and bitter.” Notice he recognizes not merely that bad things have happened but that his good God has had a hand in them.

No sooner does God’s child say this, then he declares his confidence that his destiny lies not in his many bitter troubles, but in God’s sovereign and gracious plan for him: “You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.”

He knows that as surely as God is God, his Redeemer will not forsake him. For the God of purpose has written a grand story, and the final glorious chapter, one that will never end, has not yet been acted out on Earth’s stage.

Psalm 71 joins countless Scriptures in assuming the truth revealed in Romans 8:28—that God will, in the end, bring a magnificent outcome to what now, at times, seems dismally bitter.

There is an all-inclusiveness in the “all things” of Romans 8:28. No translation says each thing by itself is good, but that all things work together for good, and not on their own but under God’s sovereign hand. Romans 8:28 declares a cumulative and ultimate good, not an individual or immediate good.

Before my mother would make a cake, she used to lay the ingredients on the kitchen counter. One day I decided to experiment. I tasted the individual ingredients for a chocolate cake. Baking powder. Baking soda. Raw eggs. Vanilla extract. I discovered that almost everything that goes into a cake tastes terrible by itself. But a remarkable metamorphosis took place when my mother mixed the ingredients in the right amounts and baked them together. The cake tasted delicious. Yet judging by the taste of each component, I never would have believed cake could taste so good.

In a similar way, the individual ingredients of trials and apparent tragedies taste bitter to us. Romans 8:28 doesn’t tell me I should say, “It is good,” if my leg breaks or my house burns down or I am robbed and beaten or my child dies. But no matter how bitter the taste of the individual components, God can carefully measure out and mix all ingredients together and regulate the temperature in order to produce a wonderful final product.

When Paul says, “for the good,” he clearly implies final or ultimate good, not good subjectively felt in the midst of our sufferings. As his wife, Joy, underwent cancer treatments, C. S. Lewis wrote to a friend, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Father, the psalmist and Lewis didn’t deny the painfulness and bitterness we must swallow in this fallen world. Neither do we. But with them we affirm both your power and your commitment to us, your children, to do what will ultimately be best for us. Despite the repulsive flavor of some of its ingredients, give us a foretaste of that delicious chocolate cake you have promised. Thank you that though we could never turn the bad into good, you can, you do, and you will. It is why you are called the Redeemer.

Excerpted from 90 Days of God’s Goodness.

Photo: Unsplash


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