One day several friends were discussing their thoughts about life. They each quoted the saying that meant the most to them. When it came his turn, a man who was known for his wisdom thought for a moment and then said that his favorite saying was a simple interpretation of 1 Cor.10:12 – from the Bible: “And this too shall pass.” The others were surprised that he had not chosen a more famous saying, such as “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” He replied: “This is what I try to remember whenever life gets me down. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I forget that things come and go, and that we’ve got to take the bad with the good and find the faith to keep going. That phrase is like a window that shows me there is life beyond my momentary problems, even though they feel like a prison. It helps me keep my head up and my spirit strong – there’s a path out there and it’s my job to find it.”
I have a suspicion that this story resonates with most of us. After all we’ve all experienced those moments that are confusing, those days that never seem to end, those situations that are unbearable. All of us have, at one time or another wondered why all the trials of life seem to come at the same time. And certainly we’ve all been tempted to give in and give up.
Perhaps the wisdom of the man in that story points us to the heart of the Good News even on the most trying of days. “This too shall pass” is, in reality, a ‘kingdom’ statement. So often in the Gospel accounts Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God; “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…the Kingdom of God is like a net thrown into the sea…the Kingdom of God is like a wedding feast. Jesus was constantly reminding his followers that the kingdom was something rare and precious, something that we could get a glimpse of right here and right now, but also something that was yet to be realized. In short the Kingdom is “here but NOT YET!” This sounds like a paradox doesn’t it? It is indeed!
In last months Column, I wrote of the challenge to live the present moment for all its worth. I wrote of the waning days of summer and the need to appreciate them and live them and cherish them. While this is true, there is a balancing statement that is equally true – we must realize that this moment is not all that there is, for “this too shall pass.” As Christians we always need to glance every so often at the horizon of the Kingdom of God. We must remind ourselves that the Kingdom of God is still waiting to be realized and that God is never done with us.
How often I need to be reminded of that when I am disappointed with my work as parent or pastor; when I have not been attentive to my role as husband and friend; when I have hurt someone I love or have been callous with those entrusted to my care. And not just in our normal everyday failures but on those dark and seemingly hopeless days this reminder will come as Good News. There is still life beyond our heart problems, our liver condition, our rebellious teenager, our dying parent, our dead-end job, our depression, our anger, our fears – you see the Kingdom of God means that there is always life beyond – beyond this moment, beyond our problems, and beyond death itself.
To live as a Christian is to live within the paradox of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is here in this moment; right now…BUT…the Kingdom of God is NOT YET. Whenever you’re feeling down remember: “This too shall pass.”