While this phrase has probably been re-quoted millions of times since its first utterance as a light-hearted assessment of the uncertainties of life, we are going to explore what the Bible has to say on this subject.
Is life always sweet?
If life is truly like a box of chocolates, then surely everything it offers should be sweet? Yet experience demonstrates that this isn’t the case. The Bible clearly testifies that life isn’t always sweet, even for those who trusted in the almighty God.
Joseph is a prime example. Perhaps more than anyone else in the Bible, his history shows what a rollercoaster life can be. Starting as his father’s favourite, he was sold into slavery by his brothers. Worse still, just when he seemed to be gaining the respect of his Egyptian master he was thrown into prison under false accusation. Nevertheless, he eventually rose to be the second most powerful man in Egypt! Just as Joseph’s life had moments both sweet and sour, so the same can be said of ours.
How can life be sweeter?
Because of Adam’s fall, we all inhabit a world ravaged by sin which taints every part of life. The bitter moments in Joseph’s experience had sin at their root, for his brothers were motivated by envy and hatred in selling him into slavery (Genesis 37), while Potiphar’s wife’s lust and lies caused him to end up in prison (Genesis 39).
If we are honest, we have to admit that the sadder parts of life stem from sin, whether in ourselves or others. A sin-sick world makes for sorrowful lives.
We can, however, learn an important lesson from Joseph’s attitude to his trials. When he was reunited with his brothers, he said to them, “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Despite the hardships he endured, Joseph recognised that, because God was in control, his difficult times had a part to play in God’s plan. Such an attitude can help make our experience so much sweeter.
Another biblical example is in Psalm 34. When David encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in him” (Psalm 34:8), he is telling us that true blessedness is found in depending on a trustworthy God rather than on changing circumstances. Having endured his own ups and downs, David came to the same conclusion as Joseph.
"True blessedness is found in depending on a trustworthy God rather than on changing circumstances."
If we want lasting peace and joy in life, we need to put our faith in the same God as Joseph and David.
But we ourselves can influence the lives of others for good or ill. David’s son Solomon offers the following advice: “pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). This may not initially sound like a great revelation. However, there is so much negative communication around us today that we often can’t help but be infected with other people’s bitterness. We need therefore to be mindful that our words can have a huge impact on others.
James also warns of the dangers of unwise talk. In asking the question, “does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” (James 3:11), he implies that it is possible for our conversation to be both beneficial and harmful. He therefore exhorts the recipients of his letter to be consistent in their speech: “these things ought not to be so” (v 10). If we want our life to be positively encouraging to others, we must heed the biblical warnings and control our tongue.
How then can life be sweeter? Well, first and foremost we need to trust Christ for salvation, “to taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psa 34:8). Further, if like David and Joseph we are contented with God's will for us, we shall find happiness is not dependent upon circumstances. Finally, we can learn from Solomon the importance of guarding our tongues so that we promote sweetness rather than bitterness in others.
The uncertainties of life
We have concluded that life will not always be marked by the unvarying sweetness of a box of chocolates. But what about the uncertainty that comes when a box of chocolates has no menu to consult?
The Bible testifies that life is indeed uncertain. Consider this inspired statement: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). In the New Testament, James impresses upon us the importance of acknowledging “if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (James 4:15). The key lesson from these verses is that while we may not know in detail what lies ahead, God does, and we therefore ought to bring our plans into line with His will.
To those who question why they should trust God’s plan, the Bible says this: “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
So, yes, life is full of uncertainties. However, those who have put their faith in God can rest in the knowledge that not only does He know what each day will bring, He has our best interests at heart.
What certainty can I have?
Having established that there is very little certainty in life, an even more pertinent question concerns death. Yes, the Bible teaches that life is uncertain, but it also teaches that some things are sure.
According to the Bible, God is loving, kind and compassionate. However, He is also just, righteous and holy. Therefore, as a holy God He must judge sin. This means that we can be confident God will judge the sin of those who have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. In Hebrews 9:27 the writer affirms that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”.
There is, however, no need to face the judgment of God, because He offers a way of salvation and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke’s account of the crucifixion records a conversation between the Lord Jesus and one of the thieves crucified alongside. Once the thief understood to whom he was speaking, he asked, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). In response, the Lord Jesus gave him this wonderful promise: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Despite his sinful lifestyle, the thief now had the certainty of enjoying the Saviour’s presence for eternity. It is important, though, to understand on what basis the Lord gave this promise.
In Luke 23:42 the thief acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord. This is what Romans 10:9 says we must do to be saved, for “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. As well as confessing Christ as Lord, the thief believed what Christ said as the truth.
We established earlier that true sweetness in life is the blessing only of those who have faith in God. The same is true if we want the assurance of a glad eternity in His presence. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Is life really like a box of chocolates? Do we never know what we’re going to get? As we have learned from the Bible, life is not always pleasant, but those who trust in the living God find strength even in their trials. Although we don’t always know what we’re going to get, there are some cast-iron certainties. For example, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
The true answer to this iconic statement, and indeed to every other dilemma of life, lies in one, unchanging person, the Lord Jesus Christ. God tells us that “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). To put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord of our lives is to be sure of a sweeter life experience on earth and the certainty of an eternal home in heaven.