May 01, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

Hebrew for "This Too Shall Pass," read, of course, from right to left.

The quote, in itself, is simple. The true wisdom to be found in its meaning is revealed in the story from which the quote originates. I have no idea if you know where this quote came from, but I shall tell the story here. I think you will find it incredibly wise, whether it serves as a reminder or this is the first time you hear it....

King Solomon, feeling blue, asked his advisors to find him a ring he had once seen in a dream.

"When I feel satisfied I’m afraid that it won’t last. And when I don’t, I am afraid my sorrow will go on forever. Find me the ring that will ease my suffering." he demanded.

Solomon sent out all of his advisors, and eventually one of them met an old jeweler who carved into a simple gold band the inscription, "this too shall pass." When the king received his ring and read the inscription, his sorrows turned to joy and his joy to sorrows, and then both gave way to equanimity.

You see, the great King found himself unable to be content.

He felt sorrow when he was happy, and sorrow when he was not, because he was unable to see his way forward. The ring served to cancel out his sorrow. By constantly having something to look forward to, he found himself content. What he previously thought was satisfaction was only a superficial feeling that was brought on by his great wealth, which was only temporary, thus his satisfaction could not last forever. True satisfaction could only be found when he recognized his wealth for what it was.

The preceding story is a condensed version, and there are other origins attributed to the phrase.

Abraham Lincoln said, in an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, WI, on September 30, 1859:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

(The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin" (September 30, 1859), pp. 481-482.)

Another version of the story from The Way of the Sufi by Idries Shah:

A powerful king, ruler of many domains, was in a position of such magnificence that wise men were his mere employees. And yet one day he felt himself confused and called the sages to him. He said: "I do not know the cause, but something impels me to seek a certain ring, one that will enable me to stabilize my state. I must have such a ring. And this ring must be one which, when I am unhappy, will make me joyful. At the same time, if I am happy and look upon it, I must be made sad."

The wise men consulted one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally they came to a decision as to the character of this ring which would suit their king. The ring which they devised was one upon which was inscribed the legend: "This, too, will pass."

Another origin of the phrase is the story of a Middle Eastern potentate and his sons.

Once there was a Middle Eastern potentate who wanted his two sons to become the most intelligent people in the world. In order to do this he called a meeting of all the wise men in the Kingdom and ordered them to gather all the world's knowledge together in one place so his sons could read it. The wise men returned in a year with twenty-five volumes of knowledge. The potentate told them that it was far too long and asked them to condense it. The wise men left and returned a year later, but this time with only a single volume. The potentate told them that it was still too long for his sons and ordered them to condense it further. The wise men left for another year and returned and gave the potentate a piece of paper with a single sentence on it. That sentence was "This too shall pass."

"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
Phillipians 4:11-12 KJV

I'll just sum it all up by saying this: "Life has its ups and downs."


povertyflatsusa said...

Jan, I can always count on your posts to provide an early morning boost. Isn't it amazing how the different versions of this tale, from different corners of the globe, all agree in lesson and unity with the original?? This whole concept, together with daily communication with God has served to sustain me the past few months. There is a time, a season, for all things. And this too shall past. Have a great day DM

Lydia said...

How true this saying from the bible is Jan. Nothing ever stays the same in anyone's life. There are forever ups and downs for everyone of us.
Have a great day,

kat said...

I taught my son that he could put up anything/ get throough anything for a while because This too shall pass. -When he returned from his first tour in Iraq, he thanked me profusely and said that this lesson got him through an otherwise insufferable time. There was that and a whole lot of prayer...

Jan said...


Yes, it is amazing.

It is comforting to know that, just as scripture says: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

Jan said...


Yes, it's true that we all have our ups and downs, but how comforting to know that we are not alone, especially in the 'down' times!

Jan said...

kat..thank you so much for dropping by!

I'm glad that your son returned to you safely, and I'm sure that what you taught him, and all the prayer helped to bring him home to you again.

I know you've been through a lot, and no doubt you've held on to that expression, and prayed much to get yourself through it.

We serve a mighty God.

Anonymous said...

I'll just sum it all up by saying this: "Life has its ups and downs."

LOL you are a wise woman and a doll. :o)


Jan said...

Mocki..well, I don't know about all of that, but thanks! :)