Good News? Bad News?
There is an old HeeHaw barbershop skit when the barber is telling his story about falling from an old open cockpit airplane. Every time his listeners respond with, “Oh, my, that’s bad.” He corrects them with, “No, really, that’s good.” And then he tells them why the circumstances are really good. At which point they respond with, “Oh, I see. That is good.” But at that point he corrects them with, “Well, no. That’s bad.” And back and forth they go with the good news/bad news as the confusion mounts.
That pretty much epitomizes how I’ve felt through-out this presidential campaign and election. Even the good news is wrapped in bad news. And then the bad news might temporarily seem not quite so bad considering the comparison to even worse news. Unfortunately, the fact that the election is over hasn’t seemed to stop the conflict between folks who see different sides of the good news/bad news debate.
Is the result of this election good news or bad news? Maybe this fable will help you decide …
The Old Man and the White Horse
Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before – such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.
People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend.” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.
One morning he found that the horse was not in his stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been to high. Now the horse is gone and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”
The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”
The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”
The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”
The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was a fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, and old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.
After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again, the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”
The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of one phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?”
“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is one fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”
“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned. With a little work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.
The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.
“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken both his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”
The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”
It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.
“You were right, old man,” They wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Your son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”
The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this. Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”
Max Lucado (In the Eye of the Storm)
Only God knows. After he tried to bring God down to a place where His ways could be understood, that was the conclusion Job came to. Only God knows.
I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You;
therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
This week it was good for me to take a minute and read how God reminded Job that He rules over all that transpires. You can read Job 38-41 here. It’s a great reminder that His ways are beyond our comprehension and He has our good in mind even when we cannot understand what He is doing.
Sooth your soul by reading part of God’s reminder to Job below:
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2 “Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Get ready for a difficult task like a man; I will question you and you will inform me!
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding! 5 Who set its measurements – if you know – or who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its bases set, or who laid its cornerstone – 7 when the morning stars sang in chorus, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Who shut up the sea with doors when it burst forth, coming out of the womb, 9 when I made the storm clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 when I prescribed its limits, and set in place its bolts and doors, 11 when I said, ‘To here you may come and no farther, here your proud waves will be confined’?
12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or made the dawn know its place, 13 that it might seize the corners of the earth, and shake the wicked out of it? 14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features are dyed like a garment. 15 Then from the wicked the light is withheld, and the arm raised in violence is broken. 16 Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea, or walked about in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the gates of deepest darkness?
18 Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know it all! 19 “In what direction does light reside, and darkness, where is its place, 20 that you may take them to their borders and perceive the pathways to their homes? 21 You know, for you were born before them; and the number of your days is great!
22 Have you entered the storehouse of the snow, or seen the armory of the hail, 23 which I reserve for the time of trouble, for the day of war and battle? 24 In what direction is lightning dispersed, or the east winds scattered over the earth? 25 Who carves out a channel for the heavy rains, and a path for the rumble of thunder, 26 to cause it to rain on an uninhabited land, a desert where there are no human beings, 27 to satisfy a devastated and desolate land, and to cause it to sprout with vegetation?
28 Does the rain have a father, or who has fathered the drops of the dew? 29 From whose womb does the ice emerge, and the frost from the sky, who gives birth to it, 30 when the waters become hard like stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen solid? 31 Can you tie the bands of the Pleiades, or release the cords of Orion? 32 Can you lead out the constellations in their seasons, or guide the Bear with its cubs? 33 Do you know the laws of the heavens, or can you set up their rule over the earth?
34 Can you raise your voice to the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? 35 Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go? Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the heart, or has imparted understanding to the mind? 37 Who by wisdom can count the clouds, and who can tip over the water jars of heaven, 38 when the dust hardens into a mass, and the clumps of earth stick together? 39 “Do you hunt prey for the lioness, and satisfy the appetite of the lions, 40 when they crouch in their dens, when they wait in ambush in the thicket? 41 Who prepares prey for the raven, when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? Job 38