by Tad Lindley
I want you to go get yourself a piece of chocolate if there is any in the house. Preferably it is a high quality dark chocolate. Take a small bite of chocolate and savor the rich flavor. Then consider the smell of the guts bucket at fish camp after three days in the sun: the overpowering stench of rotting fish. At first sniff, there is nothing in common. But take another whiff of that chocolate and see if what I’m about to tell you isn’t true. People love chocolate. For some it even becomes an addiction. Since there is money in chocolate, chemists have studied it. Like many foods, the flavor in chocolate is not simply from sugar, fat, and chocolate molecules. Instead, chocolate is a mixture of many different chemicals. That is why not all chocolates taste the same.
One of the chemicals in chocolate is pyridine. Pyridine has a powerful rotten fish odor that is sickening and nauseating. I know it’s not in your chocolate, but it is in everybody else’s. The strange thing about pyridine is that it plays together with the other fragrances in chocolate to produce that taste that we love so well.
Rotten fish and the Bible
What does rotten fish smells in chocolate have to do with the Bible? Quite a lot actually. In Romans 8:28 we read the following scripture: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Let’s read it again, more slowly this time. And we know that all things… Does it really say, “all things”? And we know that all things work together for good. That’s kind of hard to believe isn’t it? It doesn’t look like all things work together for good. It is hard to call drunkenness “good”. Suicide is not “good”. In fact it looks as if our world abounds in wickedness rather than good.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the verse. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God… There is a condition on it. All things work together for good, but only for certain people. Those people are “them that love God”. In other words, if we will love God, He will make all things work together for good.
Jesus is the master mixer
Just like God can take a foul smelling compound like pyridine, mix it with other chemicals in the cacao bean, and produce the wonderful taste of dark chocolate, he can take the hurts and embarrassments of our lives, and mix together a medley of joy. Reader, you might be thinking to yourself, “I’ve got too much rotten fish stink in my life for God to turn it into something beautiful”. If so, you underestimate God. We know from the New Testament that people came from all kinds of lifestyles and backgrounds (see I Cor. 6:9-11). When they believed the gospel, they were baptized in Jesus’ name and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Lord is able to take the greatest stink in our life and add in forgiveness and power, and create joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).
Could there be an exception? Could we imagine a case so bad that God could not turn it around? What about the person who has been neglected or abused? What about the child who has been in DFYS custody most of their days, because the parents loved alcohol more than they loved their children? Can Jesus really take a life like that and turn it around for good?
In our Bible we read about a young person who was forsaken by his family. He was taken into the custody of strangers. He was taken into a home where he was made to work while the family sat by and took their ease. Falsely accused of second degree sexual assault, he received a life sentence. He had no access to an attorney. There was to be no appeal except to God.
A life full of pyridine
Joseph had every right to dwell in the stink of what life had handed him. But he had a love for God. He never gave up on God. So when Joseph was immersed in pyridine, instead of sinking into depression, he realized that the Lord was getting ready to make chocolate! Joseph loved God. We know this, because while other prisoners were discouraged and hopeless, Joseph’s attitude and behavior allowed him to rise to the top, until he was the warden’s chief trustee.
Now look what God did with all the disappointments in Joseph’s life. He made them all work together for good. Because when the Master Mixer was done, we find that Joseph emerged as the prime minister of Egypt, and his entire family was saved from death by starvation. And it all happened because a man was willing to love God in the face of frustration. Remember, when we are in the pit of pyridine, if we will love the Lord, he can turn it all into chocolate! Because we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.