It is not uncommon for those who travel abroad to make it a must to pick up a few souvenirs and memorabilia to remind them of their trip, whether on business or vacation. We might also do a bit of shopping for family and friends. After all, how can we boast that we have been to this and that place and have nothing to show for it?
But in recent times, I noticed that our loved ones who live down south have been targeting a different type of product whenever they visit us. They stock up on a popular cold medication and decongestant that bears the slogan, “It tastes awful, but it works.” And truth be told, it does!
In many ways, this awful-tasting cold medication is archetypal of life. The things that work to make us better people are not always pleasant to the taste but are yet necessary to bring us back to mental, spiritual, and physical wholeness.
We live in a time when humanistic and relativistic thinking is the order of the day. We want to determine what is right for us and to be able to do what makes us feel good, so we attack and destroy everything that threatens our independence and inhibits our desires. Respect for authority is trampled underfoot and rules intended to keep us safe are thrown out as obsolete and oppressive. The irony is that when lawless behavior gets us in trouble, we blame everyone but self for our problems and expect the system to bail us out.
Earth is a battleground. Forces of good and evil, both visible and invisible, are in constant struggle for domination, and so everyone who arrives on this planet is really being sent to a war zone. To think then that life is meant to be one of ease and pleasure is as ridiculous as a soldier in a foxhole playing video games while bombs are exploding, and body parts are flying all around him. We were made for conflict and it is conflict that makes us. “For You, O God, have tested us; you have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out to a wealthy place (Ps.66:10-12).
The apostle Paul had his ‘thorn in the side.’ It was so awful, he prayed thrice for its removal, but to no avail. Jesus then explained to him why he did not answer his prayer. “My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Paul realized awful was not that bad if it produces power, and so he changed his response. “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2Co.12:9).
So, whenever life throws some bitter experiences at you, don’t shy away from it, or think it is there to destroy you. It might taste awful but remember, while “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb.12:11). Get accustomed to awful. It’s not that bad!