There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to plough his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"
Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck? Who knows?
When we look back over our life, whether it be long or short, I think many of us have regrets and there have probably been many disappointments: relationships that didn’t work; marriages that broke up; careers that fell apart; unexpected sickness that changed everything. We think that ‘If only things had gone differently…’ While it is normal to experience disappointment I think the eyes of faith can help us to see it differently.
In the story it talks about ‘good luck, bad luck’, but we call it providence. The Lord provides. As humans we continually make mistakes, but the wonderful thing is that the Lord can and does bring extraordinary good even out of our mistakes. In the book of Genesis we read that Moses actually murdered a man and then in fear of the punishment he fled the country. That was his life written off you’d imagine. Yet years later God appeared to him in the burning bush and sent him to rescue his people from slavery. King David committed adultery and then had the woman’s husband murdered to cover his tracks. This was a terrible double crime. Eventually he took this woman Bathsheba to be his wife. However, the second child born to Bathsheba was the future king Solomon who was considered probably the greatest king of Israel because he brought peace and rebuilt the temple. God can bring extraordinary good out of our worst mistakes. God is not put off by our mistakes.
Many of the things that went wrong for us that we look back can seem quite different if we look on them with the eyes of faith. I don’t mean by that that it’s good that they happened, but sometimes they also lead us to other unexpected good things. That is what we call providence. This also gives us great hope because it means that even when things do go wrong it’s not the end of the line.
I always find it inspiring to see the great goodness that comes out in people when someone experiences tragedy or when a natural disaster occurs. People come out of the woodwork to help and often the charity shown in turn brings more goodness out of people. It is contagious.
So we are wise when we leave it to God to decide what is good fortune and what misfortune, and thank him that all things turn out for good with those who love him.
Who can know God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the Lord intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and unsure are our plans.