Good Medicine: Bitter? Sweet? Other?

My Medicine Cabinetphoto © 2008 Ted | more info (via: Wylio)

I’m having a cold. I guess that’s what it takes for me to write something in my blog again after a month’s absence.

Earlier today, Wendy gave me some bitter-tasting Chinese medicine tea to fight the cold. Later on she bought some American medicine (Alka Seltzer) for me and it tastes the opposite — it’s sweet and orangey. Should good medicine taste bitter or sweet? The answer could be influenced by your culture.

There’s an old Chinese saying — 苦口良藥 — which means: “Though it tastes bitter in your mouth, the medicine is very good for you.” This Chinese medicinal philosophy runs deep. Pretty much all serious Chinese medicine taste bitter. In fact, traditional Chinese people would be suspicious of the medicinal value of any medicine that tastes sweet.

However, in America, you often hear in TV commercials slogans like “It tastes good, and it’s good for you too!” Quite a different philosophy from Chinese medicine philosophy. Consequently, a lot of medicine have some sort of fruity flavor. It is believed that medicine can actually tastes good and tastes sweet and still be good medicine.

Who’s right? How about a third alternative?

Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” In the Bible, good medicine is neither sweet nor bitter. Good medicine is itself joy. What kind of joy? James 1:2 says: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” It is a joy that not only withstands the hardship of life, but also was “started” in the midst of hardships in life. This kind of medicine doesn’t need any “bitter taste” to ensure confidence, nor any “sweet taste” for it to go down easier. It is a joy that only comes miraculously from the enabling of God’s spirit, an act of faith in God’s providence and sovereignty.

Turns out the good medicine I need is to trust in God and to experience the joy that it brings.