By: Scott Armstrong
I recently came across the following African folk tale shared by Tami Matheny in her book This is Good: A Journey on Overcoming Adversity:
There was an African king who had a best friend with whom he kept close to him.The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that occurred in his life as positive and he would often say, “This is good!” Because of this, the king took his friend with him wherever he went.
One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition.The friend loaded the rifle for the king and when the king fired it, it backfired and blew off his thumb. The friend as usual said, “This is good!” to which the king replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and angrily sent his friend to jail.
All the way to jail, the friend said, “This is good.” Once in jail, every day the friend continued to say, “This is good.” The other people in jail would reply, “You’re crazy. Your best friend threw you in jail. This isn’t good.” But the friend would smile and again say, “This is good.”
A year and a half passed, and the friend was still in jail. In the meantime, the king goes on another hunting party, and they are captured by a band of cannibals. The cannibals began to kill and eat the hunting party one by one. However, the cannibals were extremely
superstitious and would not kill nor eat anything that wasn’t whole. When they got to the king and saw he was missing a thumb, they immediately let him go.
The king rushed to the jail where his friend was imprisoned, got on his knees and said, “Please forgive me. You saved my life! Thank you, thank you.” To which his friend replied, “This is good!”
“Yes, this is good for me, but I’ve wasted a year and half of your life. I am so sorry,” replied the king. “No,” his friend explained, “This is good for me too!”
“What do you mean?” asked the king. “How is it good that I sent you to jail for over a year?”
“If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you and killed by the cannibals.”
“Although the story is a bit dramatic compared to what most of us face on a daily basis,” Matheny maintains, “this story illustrates the point that regardless of what happens in life, we have the opportunity to choose our perspective. We can prevent ourselves from enduring worse or allow something better to occur. Having a ‘this is good’ mindset doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges. It means you’ll use those challenges to push you to something greater.”
There is a lot of truth in this story, especially for Christians. God truly created all things and called them good (Genesis 1). Followers of Jesus Christ should be characterized by optimism. After all, look what his grace has done to us: undeserving and many times ungrateful, we have somehow exchanged despair and received hope, death and received life.
What are you up against today? Could it be that a “This is good” attitude could change your perspective, and even your circumstances, for the better?