An ancient Chinese Taoist tale describes the circumstances of a farmer in a poor country village, who was considered very well-to-do, because he owned a horse, which he able to use for ploughing and for transportation. One day his horse ran away. His neighbours sympathised with how terrible this was, but the farmer simply replied, "Maybe."
A few days later the horse returned and brought two wild horses with it, so that the neighbours all rejoiced at his good fortune. But the farmer simply responded, "Maybe."
The next day the farmer's son tried to ride one of the wild horses; the horse threw him and broke his leg. The villagers all offered their sympathy for his misfortune, but the farmer’s response was, "Maybe."
The next week conscription officers came to the village to take young men for the army. They rejected the farmer's son because of his broken leg. The neighbours told the farmer how lucky he was, to which he replied, "Maybe."
Whether the event was seen as a blessing or a curse changed as the surrounding events placed it in a new light.
When Jesus died, the disciples were shattered. They scattered, heartbroken. Their dreams of a new kingdom established by Jesus were destroyed, their hopes taken away. When the news of the resurrection began to filter through, their who visage changed. They understood the death of Jesus in a new light, and realised it as a source of hope and not despair.
In the journey of faith, the tendency to quick judgment leading to despair or ecstasy often blinds us to the purposes of God, which are not limited to a single moment or event. Hosea’s tragic marriage became the basis of his ministry. In David’s military success the seeds for his own downfall and the death of Uriah were planted. From the heights of God’s victory on Mount Carmel Elijah sunk into deep despair… Whether in triumph or despair, we need to realise that God’s ultimate purposes are not linked to nor are the frustrated by our interpretation of any particular event. Over recent days I have been thankful for the rain which has renewed the earth, while I know of some who have found it to be inconvenient.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians, his words, “In everything give thanks” were not a blind affirmation, but born of the realisation that God’s ultimate purposes are never thwarted - the same point which Job affirmed. Let us keep our eyes on God, regardless of the circumstances.
September 18, 2005