Who Knows – Our Daily Bread ODB + Insight: 5 February 2021
By Poh Fang Chia for ODB
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.
Read: Ecclesiastes 6:12; 7:13–14
Bible in a Year: Numbers 34–36; Mark 9:30–50
According to Chinese legend, when Sai Weng lost one of his prized horses, his neighbor expressed sorrow for his loss. But Sai Weng was unconcerned. He said, “Who knows if it may be a good thing for me?” Surprisingly, the lost horse returned home with another horse. As the neighbor congratulated him, Sai Weng said, “Who knows if it may be a bad thing for me?” As it turned out, his son broke his leg when he rode on the new horse. This seemed like a misfortune, until the army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight in the war. Because of the son’s injury, he wasn’t recruited, which ultimately could have spared him from death.
This is the story behind the Chinese proverb which teaches that a difficulty can be a blessing in disguise and vice versa. This ancient wisdom has a close parallel in Ecclesiastes 6:12, where the author observes: “Who knows what is good for a person in life?” Indeed, none of us know what the future holds. An adversity might have positive benefits, and prosperity might have ill effects.
Each day offers new opportunities, joys, struggles, and suffering. As God’s beloved children, we can rest in His sovereignty and trust Him through the good and bad times alike. God has “made the one as well as the other” (7:14). He’s with us in all the events in our lives and promises His loving care.
Reflect and Pray
Can you think of an example where a misfortune turned out to be a blessing? How can you keep your focus on God in good times as well as in bad times?
Today’s text might make us conclude that the author of Ecclesiastes, the “Teacher” (1:1), is a fatalist. Gloomy thoughts seem to dominate his writing: Life is “meaningless” and our days pass like a “shadow” (6:12); good and bad stuff happen (7:14). But some Bible scholars offer another perspective by pointing us to the writer’s call to “consider what God has done” (7:13)—reminding us to look carefully at how He works and has worked in the world. “Who can straighten what [God] has made crooked?” (v. 13). Who can fix the difficulties in our lives? No one except God. When we consider His character and acts, we see that “in all things” He works “for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). When we trust in God’s goodness, we can be happy (joyful) “when times are good.” And when “times are bad,” we can remember that God has given us those days as well (Ecclesiastes 7:14).
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