There is nothing I love more than the excitement held in those last few seconds of the old year. We mark this occasion often alongside friends or family, suddenly paying micro attention to the very seconds on the clock as they pass from 11:59 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. During the year, there are so many seconds we ignore. Yet, we always remember to value them right as there is a shift into a new year.
In between those celebrations and parties, I catch myself reflecting about the past year. There are usually some great moments to remember alongside some tougher milestones I could not have predicted. And if I had to be honest, both can be equally wonderful to reflect about.
It feels like I can only see the big picture once I’m removed from it at the end of the year. In hindsight, there’s a chance for me to gain vision about where God has been at work in my life – something I can’t always see in the midst of the rough spots of the year.
The older I get, the more the word bitter-sweet takes on a new meaning during this reflection too. In 2018 I had so many wonderful, sweet moments. One of them (sappy as it sounds) certainly was getting engaged to the love of my life. On the flip side, a more painful bitter moment was seeing an uncle I’m extremely close to diagnosed with cancer and instantly started on surgery, chemo, and radiation treatments.
The list of memories that fit into both categories could go on, but my point is that each of us experience years intertwined with both the bitter and the sweet. Yet, just because something is bitter, doesn’t mean it can’t be transformed into a sweet outcome. This is something God is persistent in reminding me as 2018 ends. Humor me for a moment and consider the role of bitter and sweet in hands-on application, like baking.
Professional bakers often use semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in their creations. One professional explains, “Bittersweet and semisweet are the chocolates most frequently called for in baking, and can be used interchangeably, although bittersweet chocolate has a deeper flavor.”
With baking, using only a sweetened chocolate would create a dish that doesn’t taste quite right. It’d be missing some of the nuances of flavor. Whereas using nothing but unsweetened chocolate liquor could also create something inedible and less enjoyable. But the bittersweet chocolate is what creates a rich, balanced taste that is ultimately the perfect flavor in the end.
In our lives, the sweet and bitter moments can still result in a sweet outcome, even though that feels counterintuitive to us. We’re richer in the end for having both. God is showing me that just like each second counts to us at the end of the year, each moment of our year counts to him. It’s all about shaping us into his perfect creation. God can certainly use the bitter just as well as he uses the sweet to form us. We just need to have faith that as the master baker, he will adjust the recipe during each of the stages we experience.
No matter what types of moments you’ve had in this year, I want to remind you that God is faithful. In the end, everything you’ve dealt with this year, and in the next ones ahead, is part of your refining process. It’s part of your recipe. The Bible talks about God as a potter molding us. But I think he can also be a baker, adjusting and mixing everything to achieve the right balance in the very end.
Remember he did this for so many others before us. Joseph, Naomi, Paul, and so many others in the New and Old Testaments underwent their own refining processes. God was able to redeem bitter moments, mix them with the sweet, and achieve victory in the end. He knows what to do with the ingredients that feel counterintuitive to our success. After all, God promises he will work each ingredient together and redeem it for good (Romans 8:28) for his children.