The Back Page – We Shall See


A Chinese story suggests the danger of assessing too quickly the nature of changes that intrude into our lives.
An old farmer had a son and a horse. One day the horse ran off. His neighbors came to console him.
“What bad luck!” they lamented. “How will you ever afford another?” The farmer sat, smoked his pipe, and replied, “We shall see.”
A few days later, the stray returned, bringing two wild horses with him. The farmer’s herd suddenly tripled! The neighbors rejoiced. “What good luck!” they cried. Again the farmer sat and smoked. “We shall see.”
While the son was working to break the wild pair, one threw him from his back, badly breaking the son’s leg. The neighbors all arrived, calling out, “Your son will never walk again! What a great misfortune!” “We shall see.”
Wars were being waged in those days. One day the army stormed through the village, rounding up all the young men to press them into service far away in the frozen north. “What bad luck!” cried the villagers. But because the farmer’s son’s leg was so shattered, the army passed him by. “For you, what good luck!” they said. And indeed it was, because, crippled though he was, the son managed to care for his old father until his death many years later.
If we believe that a wise and loving God—not blind luck or fate—controls our lives, this truth is even more profound. Joseph was his father’s favorite, and dreamed that his brothers would one day bow
to him. What good luck! But these led only to jealousy and to his being sold into slavery in Egypt. What bad luck! The man who bought him was Potiphar, who put him in charge of his whole house. What good luck! But Potiphar’s wife, when she failed to seduce Joseph, falsely accused him. The young man ended up in jail. What bad luck! In prison, Joseph prospered, and correctly interpreted the baker’s and cupbearer’s dreams. What good luck! But the cupbearer forgot him, and failed to help him get out. What bad luck!
However, when the time was right, Joseph got his chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, and became Egypt’s vice-regent. It wasn’t just good luck—“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to preserve many people alive.”

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