Graduation season seems an appropriate time to reflect on the bittersweet nature of life. After all, many of life’s moments — and certainly most of the big ones — come with bitter and sweet.
Saying goodbye to friends, family and familiarity is sad and difficult. Looking ahead to new relationships, opportunities and possibilities is exciting and hopeful. Every team’s sweet victory comes with another team’s bitter loss. Grieving the death of a suffering loved one can be devastating, but trusting in the joy of his eternal home brings comfort. Life is bitter and sweet.
Bittersweet is an especially poignant word for those of us who proclaim the Christian faith. After all, many components of our faith come with bitter and sweet. Our most prominent symbol, the cross, is a bitter reminder of a painful and torturous death; but the empty cross reminds us of the sweet and jubilant news of Jesus’ resurrection. Death and sin have been defeated! Gifts of grace and eternal life are ours! Bitter and sweet.
The Bible is filled with poems, stories and examples of the bitter-sweetness of life, often expressed through the small but mighty conjunction:
Jesus said in Matthew 16, “All who want to save their lives will lose them. BUT all those who lose their lives because of me will save them.”
The Psalmist proclaimed in Psalm 31, “Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am depressed. My life is consumed with sadness ... BUT I trust you, Lord! How great is the goodness you’ve reserved for those who honor you.”
Bitter and sweet. It seems a life of faith requires we embrace the bitter so we can fully experience the sweet. We recognize the pain and sadness of this world so we can live in — and share — the joyful hope given by Jesus.
This Sunday, our church is joining the many others who have had the privilege of celebrating 100 years of worshiping, praying, serving and sharing all the bitter and sweet moments of life together. One family of God proclaiming: Life is hard. We make mistakes. Sometimes we disagree and argue. Sometimes we even hurt each other.
BUT we proclaim the same faith, serve the same Savior, believe the same grace is available to all, and work together to love the same God and share that love with others. Together we embrace the bitter and sweet.
Embrace the bitter BUT rejoice in the sweet — this is a beautiful gift of a life lived with faith. It has been true for the past 100 years and will be true for 100 more. Thanks be to God.
Wendy Ochs is pastor of Evangelical United Methodist Church in Billings.
The Faith & Values column appears Saturdays in The Billings Gazette. Pastors, ethicists, educators or others who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; The Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 5910, or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.