That’s how a friend had recalled an experience I’d asked him about, and I immediately understood. Don’t you? Haven’t we all had bittersweet moments?

It was good, but could have been better.
It was good, but didn’t last very long.
It was good, but had a negative side.
It was good but now gone, and missed.

We do understand because many of our experiences in a fallen world will be like this. We won the game, but lost our best player for the rest of the season. We had an opportunity, but didn’t take full advantage of it. We had time, but let it slip away. We had a possibility, but didn’t see its potential until after the fact.

In short, many wonderful experiences are simply not enough. They are good, but somehow, deep within ourselves, we remain unsatisfied. What causes the bittersweet moments of life? Why is it that we often are unhappy as soon as the happy moment passes?

The Scriptures teach clearly that sin has tainted all of our experiences and how we perceive them. That doesn’t mean that the experiences are evil, only that our ability to understand and enjoy them fully has been affected by The Fall. Pain interferes, health fades, time sweeps good things away, and all the while, Death waits in the wings for the final coup de grace.

This is why Jesus taught us that “in this world you will have trials,” but “fear not, I have overcome the world.” He taught us that we will bear fruit, but only as we abide in Him, the Vine. He taught us that real food is not our everyday meat and drink, but “to do the will of Him who sent me.”

In other words, Jesus taught contentment, which always helps us through those bittersweet moments. How does contentment do its work? By reminding us to be grateful for the joy, however momentary, but to view that glimmer of joy not as an end in itself, but as merely a stray spark from the glory-producing, energy-restoring life of God. And when we are finally in His presence, there will be no bitter, only sweet.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
Philippians 4:11

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