March 19, 2006, Observation:
Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?
There is a Chinese story (author anonymous) of a farmer who used an old horse to til his fields. I first heard it from my son-in-law, Matt Riley, who first heard it in a World Religions Class at Brigham Young University. I think it is a story worth sharing and remembering. 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?
I think the old Chinese farmer had a very sage philosophy of life. At any given moment of our lives it is extremely difficult to accurately judge whether the things that are happening to us are "good luck" or "bad luck". Usually only the passage of time will reveal how good or how bad some event or nonevent in our lives has actually been.
Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brothers is a great example of the wisdom contained in the old Chinese story. I have often tried to put myself in Joseph's sandals which is really impossible, but in trying to do so my admiration and respect for him always intensifies. He was 17 years old when his brothers sold him as a slave to a camel train owned by some hairy Ishmaelites, journeying toward Egypt -- "good luck" or "bad luck"? I can envision him with a rope around his neck being led through the desert sand having no idea what his fate would be. If he were at all human like I am, he was probably a tad discouraged wondering why this had happened to him. He may even have muttered in Hebrew, "What bad luck", as he staggered forward behind the camels. His life had been very good up to that time as the favored son of Jacob, and now to be torn from the love, security, and society of his father and family I'm sure he could not at that moment see any good in it.
Upon arriving in Egypt he was sold as a slave and in maintaining his virtue and seeking to be a true and faithful follower of Jehovah, the God of his fathers, he was cast into prison from which he would not emerge until he was 30 years old. I have often wondered if during those 13 years as slave and prisoner he could ever see the good in what had happened to him. I don't know that we will ever know the answer to that question. The one thing I think we do know is that this Joseph was a man of great faith, and I get the feeling from reading the text that his faith never wavered for as it is recorded "... the LORD was with him." I believe he was willing to wait on the Lord and trust in Him before rushing to judgment as to whether his fate was "good luck" or "bad luck" as bleak as it may have seemed at times. It may not have been until he had finally put his brothers to the test, which they thankfully passed that he could clearly see for himself and say to them: "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life...And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." [Genesis 45:5, 7-8] [emphasis added]
When I had my accident 17 years ago I believe as a family we couldn't help but think it was such "bad luck". Nothing like this had ever happened in our family and to think that I would be paralyzed from the neck down and on life-support forever was just almost more than we could take in. We frankly could not see any "good luck" in it or why the Lord would allow this to happen to me. 17 years later we still probably do not have all the answers but in my own mind so much good has come from what at one time seemed so bad. There is no way, for example, that I could ever express to anyone verbally what I have learned about the power of the Atonement through my experience with paralysis. I have learned things about myself and been strengthened in ways that perhaps could never have been without this challenging experience. And then I will always believe that especially my younger two daughters have been blessed with a level of maturity and spirituality that may not have been theirs had they not had so much responsibility thrust upon them at such a very tender age. I have also witnessed Jo Anne shoulder a monumental responsibility and grow spiritually and emotionally powerful in the process.
I think one of the things we need most in life, and often must struggle to obtain, is an eternal vision accompanied by complete trust and faith in the ultimate goodness of God and his love for, and desire to bless each one of us. The Lord wisely counseled all of us: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another." [Doctrine & Covenants 90:24] [emphasis added]
So you really won the lottery? Good luck -- bad luck -- who knows?