Flour, baking powder, salt, butter, vanilla extract, raw eggs, and cinnamon. Each of these ingredients, if eaten alone, is terrible, almost inedible. Only think of the last time you tasted pure cinnamon or downed a raw egg! However, we know that once these ingredients are blended and baked, a delicious, complete cake emerges from the oven, ready for birthday parties and celebrations.
In the Christian life, parts do not define the whole. If we find a few of life’s ingredients bitter or hard to swallow, we must not forget that those ingredients weren’t meant to be consumed by themselves, but as part of a complete, whole cake.
In Scripture, this truth is found in Romans 8:28, which tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” In this promise from God, we find no guarantee that all individual parts will be good, but that all our separate experiences, even the most bitter ones, “work together” for good.
It’s our natural inclination to want a life of nothing but sweetness, but it’s doubtful a cake missing all those bitter ingredients would even come together in the oven. As Jesus compared himself to a vine and his Father to a vinedresser, he said, “…and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) Just as certain strong ingredients are needed to make a cake edible, painful pruning is needed for a vine to bear edible fruit. Christians are part of that vine with Jesus – and we sometimes must endure God permitting unfavorable things, experiences, even relationships, all to increase our growth in the future.
It’s tempting to view one bad life experience, or even a hard season, by itself, and declare, “My life is terrible.” In all honesty, that’s like swallowing the teaspoon of cinnamon or biting into a stick of cold butter; it tastes terrible not because it’s a terrible thing, but because it was meant to be mixed in with other life experiences and enjoyed as a fully-baked cake. Once again, the part does not define the whole.
Finally, and most importantly, we should remember that we’re not the Baker, but a collection of ingredients – and ingredients don’t determine what type of cake they’ll be, how many layers they’ll have, or the cooking time. Since the Baker will decide those important things, we can relax, even if some of our elements don’t taste the best on their own, trusting that God Himself has promised that the final result will be good.
If you’re still on this earth, it means you’re still being mixed in the bowl or baking in the oven. He’s not done with you. Trust His recipe. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)