Our Struggles are Temporary
One of my favorite Biblical characters is Solomon and this is one of my favorite stories about him, although it’s just a tale and not actually in the Bible.
One day Solomon called for his minister, Benamiah Ben Yehoyada because he had a task for him. “Benamiah,” Solomon said, “I wish to wear a particular ring for the Jewish festival of Sukkot. I need you to find this ring for me. Since I want to wear it for Sukkot, I need it in six months.”
“Your majesty,” replied Benamiah, “If it exists upon the Earth, I will find it, but I must ask what makes this ring so special?”
“This ring is magical,” Solomon responded, “If it is seen by someone who is extremely happy, they will be filled with sorrow, but if seen by someone who is full of sorrow, they will forget their sorrows and be joyful instead.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed but instead desired to teach his servant a lesson in humility. Benamiah set out upon his task, seeking the ring. Spring would give way to Summer and Benamiah still had not found the ring.
It was the day before Sukkot, and Benamiah was walking through the poorest part of Jerusalem when he passed by an elderly merchant who was setting out his wears on a tattered, old rug. Benamiah figured that he had nothing to lose, and asked the man, “Do you know of a ring that if seen by one who is full of joy would suddenly be stricken with grief, or if seen by the heartbroken would suddenly forget their troubles and be full of joy?” The merchant thought on this for a moment, then pulled an old golden ring from his wears. He wrote an inscription on the ring, and gave the ring to Benamiah with a smile. When Benamiah read the ring, he broke out into a smile as well. His task was finally complete.
The next day Solomon gathered his advisors and called for Benamiah. “Have you completed your task,” questioned Solomon. His advisors began to belittle and mock Benamiah as they assumed he had returned empty handed. “Yes, your majesty,” Benamiah beamed, “I have search far and wide and have found your ring for Sukkot.” Benamiah produced the ring for Solomon, who snatched the ring from his minister. Upon reading the ring, Solomon stopped smiling, for it read “This too shall pass.” In that moment Solomon realized how ephemeral everything in the world is. Wealth or poverty, prosperity or difficulties, possessions or people, everything is temporary. Even his own wisdom and kingdom will one day be gone.
While this story is not in the Bible, it does remind me of these words written by Solomon that are actually in the Bible:
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. I have concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again. – Ephesians 3:1-14
Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes things go our way and everything is great, but other times life is difficult. As Christians we are never guaranteed that we will be free from struggle. Right here we are told that there will be difficult times, but we are also promised that there will be good times as well. Nothing lasts forever, our struggles, our brokenness, our sin, and out pain, but by the same token neither does our success, our prosperity, our happiness, and our excitement. These things are all temporary, but we do have one thing that is permanent, our Lord. Through all the ups and downs of life, our Father is there for us to comfort us and guide us. During this time of fasting and as you pray, I’d ask you to not so much pray that things always be positive and to never struggle, but instead pray that we would be reminded of our Heavenly Father’s faithfulness through it all and that we can always rely on Him. Pray that the struggles grow our faith and that the good times reward it. May the Lord keep us all.