A good ruler of an Eastern kingdom once asked the wise men of his realm to formulate a truth that would be easy to understand, and that would apply to all times and situations, no matter what they were. After much study, passionate debate, and careful consideration, they returned to the king with a single sentence: "And this too shall pass away."
When I was a young priest on my first parish assignment, a small room that I used as an office had a framed embroidery of that very sentence. I looked at it often in the year I was there, and I think it helped me to be a better Christian and wiser person than I might otherwise have been.
In those times when all was going well, when it seemed that nothing could go wrong and when I thought that I was doing a wonderful job, I would look up at the saying and I would be reminded that this too, shall pass away. I was chastened by the thought that I was becoming self-assured, self-centered, and full of pride for what I thought were my many accomplishments. I was reminded that it is God who gives the increase.
In the hours of difficulty and doubt, in times of sadness and tragedy, and when it seemed that what I had to offer as a young man and priest would never be enough, I would sit at my desk, look up, and be reminded once again that this time of trial would also pass away. How consoling it was in the hour of my affliction, and how much it quieted my restless heart, to be reassured that nothing earthly goes on forever.
On a deeper level, this piece of wisdom serves as a wonderful reminder that we are never the ultimate arbiters of the events of history. God alone is the sovereign of history. We cannot control all that happens either for our benefit or to avoid all suffering.
What are we to do? We ought to learn how to do our very best, and with faith and trust leave everything else to the loving providence of al mighty God. Only He does not pass away.