Our grandmother Owens was the source of much wisdom to her nine children and then to my generation, her twenty-nine grandchildren. She was a devoted pastor's wife and mother, and a quiet, spiritually mature example on the people entrusted to her influence. There were many occasions when her guidance steered me and my cousins through uncertain or uncomfortable times. Among them all, one stands out---her counsel in a middle school mess many years ago. She and grandfather Rev. O.F. Owens were baby-sitting Michael, Christie, and I while our parents were attending a business meeting out of town. I had been in a lunch time scuffle with another eighth grade student and had been to the Assistant Principal's office, Mr. Fricke. He was deciding whether or not to suspend me and the other agitator. I was troubled. No, worried. Being suspended from school wasn't in our family playbook. No telling what they would do when The Chester and Esther returned. Grandmother Owens saw my worry. Then she said, "This has come to pass...not stay. We'll pray you through it."
Grandmother Owens wasn't a secularist, didn't now about psycho-babble, and probably hadn't studied greeting card sentiment. She just knew about the workings and brevity of time and how the passing of it could be healing and restorative. The lens though which she observed life was a biblical one. So, her counsel was always an application of truth. Those words challenged me then in several ways. They give strong support now, fifty- six years later.
The origin of the phrase "And this too shall pass..." is debated. There are legends, factual accounts in the lives of historic people, and twists of Scripture that can take us to that conclusion. Google "And this too shall pass..." and you'll find 186,000,000 sights to explore them all. For my grandmother Owens it would have been a homespun adage with biblical roots. There's little doubt in my mind that she would have been able to quote chapter and verse about the passing of time, no doubt in proper King James English. Although the word translated "pass" is ample in the KJV, none of the usages specifically reference the passing of a critical moment or time of testing. Perhaps the most popular verse leading to a "and this too shall pass" conclusion is Matthew 24: 35--- "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Still, in many ways these five words may appear to be a simplism to give us hope and endurance when we're under some kind of dark cloud. Surely that moment has come to pass, but not stay.
They are five power words, however, based on biblical principles if not a verbatim of Scripture. Bible teaching clearly identifies these consistent themes---
1. The fleeting nature of life.
Dozens of Bible verses remind us of the brevity of life. It happens fast, like a vapor, shadow, grass that withers, flowers that fade, a wind that passes, and many others. James wrote this truth---
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that
appears for a little time and then vanishes.
James 4:14, ESV
Life is fleeting, momentary in every way. King David wrote about the speed of life in many Psalms---
O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how
fleeting I am.
Psalm 39:4, ESV
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, ESV
"And this too shall pass..." is a simple reminder of how fast life happens.
2. The certainty of trouble in this life.
Humans live in a broken world and will, without doubt, encounter that brokenness in daily life. Who can number the tests, trials, hardships, disappointments., mistakes, and other crises in the world around us? Again, note a couple of biblical reminders---
Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.
Job 14:1, ESV
In this world you will have trouble.
John 16:33, ESV
Time under a cloud seems stalled and slow. Crisis is one of our most severe tests. "And this too shall pass..." is the reminder that even those plodding moments are under the Sovereign control of our Creator God who calibrated our lives to pass as a breath.
3. The discipline of waiting on God.
"And this too shall pass..." is an adage of endurance. In the Christian mind it is the simple acknowledgement that God is in control and we should wait on him. Once again, waiting on God is a significant theme of Scripture---
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings
like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31, ESV
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for
the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27: 13-14, ESV
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
Lamentations 3: 25, ESV
They are just five words. But, they are five power words that can lift, encourage, and nourish us and those around us when we remember and repeat them.
And this too shall pass...