Since today is Sunday, I've been trying to focus on the good things in my life, of which there are many. Here's the thing: sometimes, all the good stuff gets hidden behind the big old pile of bad things. When I do take the time to look, I realize that I have a lot of blessings and most of them have come from unanswered prayers.
There have been times when I've wondered why I've been disappointed by people, relationships, or even my own failures. A lot of the time when something "bad" happens, I will feel like God isn't paying attention to my prayers. That's why I like to think about this story someone emailed to me years ago. It's called "Two Traveling Angels":
Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement. As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it.
When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, "Things aren't always what they seem."
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest.
When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel, "How could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die."
"Things aren't always what they seem," the older angel replied. "When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it."
"Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things aren't always what they seem."
It's easy to wonder why we don't get a specific job we wanted or a relationship with a certain person. When we have these disappointments, we ask why without having the capacity to even understand the answer. (Think of the people who were late for work at the Twin Towers on 9/11.)
Right now, one of my worries is about my sister. She has been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She is very strong in her faith and her diagnosis seems only to be making her stronger. I, on the other hand, have been selfishly struggling with the news. After I had a little meltdown the other day, I was prompted to remember something a friend once told me: We are all dying, but what counts is how we live in the meantime. (This same friend, also a cancer patient, is the one who told me that everyone wants to meet Jesus, but nobody wants to die.)
For anyone else who may be sick, sad, worried, or disappointed by things happening in their life, I want to share one of my favorite passages from the Bible:
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18