When your life is engrossed in worries, you spend valuable time and effort looking around. Sorrow, on the other hand, makes you look back, taking from you the opportunity of living for now or planting seeds for the future. Faith, however, lifts you up above worries and sorrows. Faith helps you to be alive at the present time while looking up to the beauty of tomorrow.
Sorrows in life are unavoidable. How could one who has not gone through sorrow know the deep meaning of hope or how to empathize with those afflicted by grief? Sorrowful experiences connect us with the realities of our vulnerability. Focusing on our vulnerabilities or sorrowful event(s) is what takes away the courage and resolve we need to live up to our potential in those times in our lives when living is a struggle.
Worry is a strange experience that may result from real or perceived interference with how we live or would like to live our lives. Excessive worries may lead to illness, broken relationships and fumbled careers. Of the two (worry and sorrow), worry is largely controllable with our thoughts, associates, and ability to evaluate one’s situation and plan for the future.
Naomi experienced, no doubt, the worst of sorrows (Ruth 1:1-5). It has been said, when one loses a spouse, a part of his/her present is gone. When he/she losses a child, a part of his/her future is gone. A part of Naomi’s present left her forever with the death of her husband, and two parts of her future literally got lost with the death of her two boys. The depth of her grief can only be imagined from her words, “… the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” (Ruth 1:13)
The famine she left in her country was a reality — a sincere cause for worry. Her life as a single woman in a land of strangers and now with two widowed daughters-in-law who looked up to her was an additional burden that could lead to worry. Based on the prevailing circumstances, the instance of the daughters-in-law to be with desperate Naomi seems illogical.
But with all her suffering, Naomi teaches us how to deal with bad times and thereafter. When there was famine, she and her husband recognized its severity and left their country. To let go of the past, one must recognize what has happened and then act. When her husband and sons died and with news that the famine in her homeland had ended, Naomi recognized her situation and wanted to go back to her people. When pestered by Ruth, Naomi was flexible enough to accommodate Ruth in her future. In those moments of drastic change, flexibility is an alley.
There is a metaphor I love about turning bad experiences into opportunities. It’s a story of a donkey that had given its owner, a farmer, service for many years. When it was too old to do anything, the farmer thought of putting it to permanent sleep, but he was not ready emotionally.
However, as the donkey was grazing, it fell into a pit. The farmer thought, “Oh, well, since the donkey is just waiting for death, I will just cover it with soil instead of trying to help it out of the pit.” He shoveled soil into the pit. When the donkey felt something strange on its back, he shook his body and the soil fell off. The farmer continued shoveling soil and the donkey continued shaking it off its back. Soon the donkey, stepping on the soil that was supposed to bury it, got from the pit and lived its full life.
In life, setbacks are sometimes setups for a new beginning. Storms of life make us develop wings to fly above the clouds. The bottom of the valley in our life is where we learn how to build a ladder to climb to the mountain peak. It’s that deep darkness of the night that causes us to search for and light a candle.
Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at 208-376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.