Authored by Peter van Gorder (a guest contribution)
Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion.1
I have found that there is a big gap between secondhand and firsthand knowledge. The difference between hearing about someone else’s experience and it happening to you is as different as reading about famous bungee jumpers and taking the leap yourself.
It makes all the difference when you are the protagonist on life’s stage rather than the spectator in the audience munching popcorn. By the time the credits roll and the lights come on, you realize that your character has grown and you’ve developed a deeper level of understanding.
This happened to me not too long ago. My daughter has a friend named Sameer. He was booked to give a talk on entrepreneurship at an international conference in another city. He was looking forward to this, as it was a good business opportunity for him. A week before his flight, my daughter had prayed that God would give Sameer a sign to show him how much He cared about him.
Booking a flight in India can be complex, as it proved to be this time for Sameer. He arrived an hour early to the airport, but the line was so long due to overbooking that the airline would not give him a ticket, no matter how much he pleaded.
There stood Sameer, stranded at the airport, bitterly disappointed at a lost opportunity. His first reaction was to sarcastically joke about his bad luck. He could see absolutely no higher purpose in his misfortune.
I must tell you here that Sameer is a bit of an atheist. I say a bit of one, because although he argues against the existence of a Creator, when he gets in a real bind, he sometimes asks for prayer “just in case.” He commented, “If there is a God, hypothetically, He would have much more important things to do than to be bothered by what one little person like me does or doesn’t do and what happens to me.”
Later, my daughter tried to console Sameer that God was in control and that all things work together for some good,2 although we may not see it right away. And in answer to my daughter’s earlier prayer, Sameer found out that Someone must have cared for him. He later heard that the car that he would have been in after being picked up from the airport crashed through a barrier, flew off the road, and flipped over three times. All the passengers were critically injured. That canceled flight began to look a lot better and it made more sense to Sameer.
Nice story. I’m sure he learned something from that event, I thought as my wife and I drove to the airport to catch a flight for our much-awaited vacation to a tropical paradise for a week of snorkeling and fun.
“All flights from our airline to that city have been canceled today,” the lady at the airline desk told me with a frigid apathy for my plight.
“Can I get another flight?”
“Could I cancel the whole trip, and get a refund, and rebook it for another time?”
“Maybe. You’ll have to call your travel agency, but it could take months to have it refunded.”
After informing the airline of my displeasure at their lack of empathy and courtesy and making some long-distance phone calls to the travel agency trying to straighten out the mess, we drove back home. Our vacation would have to be postponed.
Now it was my turn to try to see the good in this situation, just as I had a few hours before thought of how Sameer was taught the importance of doing just that. I wondered if any good would also come out of my “dead end.”
You might be expecting me to tell you that the airplane that we would have taken burst into a ball of flame and crashed into the ocean, or that on the day we would have arrived to our vacation location, a huge tsunami swept the beach, leaving a swath of destruction in its path. No, I can’t tell you any of that.
I still don’t know why our plane and vacation plans were canceled. I have to wrap it all up in my “bundle of faith” and trust that it is all for some good.
Hey, wait a minute! Come to think of it, I never would have written this piece if I was sitting on that beach now, soaking in the rays. And I would’ve also missed out on an important appointment for an opportune career job. It looks like I have been given a few pieces to this puzzle after all.
All the pieces are not in place yet; that will take some time and patience—something that God specializes in and that I sometimes lack. But it makes me wonder if what we sometimes take for a dead end is just a new beginning of something better.
As I was writing this, I puzzled over a riddle in Ecclesiastes: “A live dog is better off than a dead lion.” I would venture that it is saying something along the lines of where there is life, there is hope. And as long as we don’t give up, God will eventually work out our problems some way for the best, even if the reason is unseen to us.
After all, that is what having faith is about, isn’t it?
1 Ecclesiastes 9:4 NIV
2 Romans 8:28
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2012 by The Family International