In John 6 we find the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes. When lunch is over he identifies himself as the Bread of Life. Then in a way that shocked the crowd, he goes on to tell them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Their response: Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” (John 6:60, The Message)
Too tough to swallow.
What do you find tough to swallow?
Has life handed you some bitter pills?
I always had a terrible time swallowing pills when I was a kid. All the way up through college, I would ask for a shot rather than have to swallow pills.
Penicillin was the worst. I couldn’t make those pills slide down no matter how much I drank. Nothing tasted worse. I would cry, beg, to not have to take the pills. My mom wasn’t very sympathetic. I know now she was “hard-nosed” about the whole thing because her ultimate concern wasn’t my immediate comfort but my eventual health.
Have you begged and cried out for God to remove some difficulty, an illness, financial challenges, physical limitations, or loss? But he lets it remain.
And that’s just pretty tough to swallow.
Doesn’t God care that you are suffering? Doesn’t he want you to be happy? Doesn’t he hear your pleas for relief?
Yes. But just like my mom, he loves you too much to leave you in your sin-sick condition.
There are so many stories in the Bible that are just heart-breaking. Widows who lose their only children. Poor Naomi and Ruth. And who can forget Job? But let’s consider Paul for just a moment.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church (See 2 Corinthians 12) he writes about his “thorn in the flesh.” Whatever it was, the apostle prayed on three occasions for God to remove it. And God said no.
He also said: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).”
As a result Paul declared: “I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weakness, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (1 Corinthians 12:10).”
Talk about a bitter pill. Paul endured much that we would find tough to swallow. But he also knew a strength and grace that enabled him to come through all the difficulty and in a way that brought honor and glory to the One who provided the strength and grace in the first place.
On the day when some of Jesus’ disciples found his message to be a bitter pill many left. Jesus turned to those who remained and asked if they were thinking of bailing, too. Peter spoke up for the remaining twelve: Where else can we go? You alone have the words of life.
Peter didn’t try to sugar coat it. Sometimes bitter pills lead to life.
Job, that persecuted and often misunderstood man from the Old Testament, grasped this one thing like nothing else in his ordeal. He summed up his ability to hang onto God in the midst of all his suffering this way: shall we take the good and not the bad? (See Job 2:10)
Paul went a step further and told the Roman believers that no matter how bitter the pill God was able to cause all the bad, the negative, the difficult to work for good. He never says that the bad is good, just that God can take all the negative and difficult and make them work for our good and his glory (See Romans 8:28).
Tough to swallow…perhaps. But remember, God knows what is absolutely best for you. You can trust him. It may be tough, but don’t walk away now. In him there is fullness of life, your life and mine, now and forever.