Finding Hope in Dark Times

Fred Smith shares three examples of finding the good.

By Fred Smith

C.S. Lewis said that any speaker or writer has only a few themes in his life. I think all of us, whether speakers or writers, have but a few themes. I feel sorry for those whose only theme is money or fame or social position. It is a good work of introspection to list the major themes of our life. One of mine is "don't lose the good from a bad experience." I held a men's retreat in Dallas and then headed to a Sacramento men's retreat of 350 men. In each case I was asked to emphasize hope because men were hurting. It hasn't changed much. We are still in need of hope. Let me give you three examples out of this past week. One was a friend who has gone through a divorce. I asked him what good he learned from it. He said, "Well, at least two things: 1) I'm happy that I did all I could, and 2) I have learned the strength of forgiveness. It isn't necessary that I be forgiven but that I ask for forgiveness. When I tried to pray the Lord's Prayer I realized that I could not ask for forgiveness that I had not given." Next was a man who's pushing into his sixties who originally meant to be a preacher but found he had a tremendous gift for making money. He made a lot of it but has now lost it. When I asked him about the good, he thought a bit and then said, "It has helped me to re-focus my life." He is finding excitement in that re-focus. He followed up by saying, "Also, I find that I have been tied by a gold chain." You've heard me say before that I feel the danger of a golden chain is tremendous, whether we're dealing with our children, each other, job or whatever. We are loath to break the chain. We'll break an iron one or we'll break a plastic one, but we don't find the strength within us to break a golden one.

The third one is a younger man who had made several million dollars and has totally lost it——not a matter of being in chapter 11, but of being wiped out. When we had breakfast I asked him if he could list the good that has come from the bad experience. In fact, I asked if I could write down the points as we talked. 1) He found that a great many of the things he had accumulated had become idols, for he cried when he lost them; 2) he found out how few friends he had. Too often we treat a person who's failing as if they had a communicable disease. We need to be realistic about our life and realize that if we have two or three really close friends who'll stick with us through thick and thin we're fortunate. Then he added that 3) he found that his family was solid. His children and his wife stood with him; 4) he discovered the danger of flattery. Much of his business expansion came because people bragged on him. They were telling him he was good and he got to believing it and felt he could do more than he could do and so he over-expanded; 5) he now believed that he was less able to read the will of God in the minutia. It always disturbs me to hear people say that they know what God is doing and what he wants and what his will is; and 6) if you're going to take a moral stand it helps to be rich. He said some of the things he had stood for in his wealth were accepted but now unacceptable because he had lost his money. That is an indictment against our material society. Good and evil should not be listened to according to the financial status of the person doing the talking. The prophets would have a small audience in modern day America, wouldn't they?

These are three everyday examples of finding the good in a bad experience.