Of What Is, and What Only Seems to Be

Sometimes things happen in life that make it seem as if we are the helpless victims of a cold, dark, impersonal, and merciless fate. The inevitable consequence of such a belief is despair, a point made very poignantly in this medieval poem, O Fortuna, set to music in 1936 by Carl Orff. The video below is a powerful performance. I’ve watched it a dozen times at least in the last six months. If you’ve experienced tragedy and loss, you’ve no doubt felt what it describes, a sense of utter helplessness in the face of forces beyond your control.

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
ever waning;
hateful life
first oppresses
and then soothes
playing with mental clarity;
poverty
and power
it melts them like ice.

Watch it. Listen to it. Ponder the words carefully. (You can find the full lyrics here). And then remember that it’s all wrong. There is a vast difference between what is and what only seems to be. In all the fluctuations of life, especially when things turn dark, it only seems that we are the victims of cold, impersonal forces.

Fate – monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,
you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,
shadowed
and veiled
you plague me too;
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

The truth is that we are the special objects of God’s loving care, and he is working out his wise and holy purposes for us in such a way that he makes all things—pleasant and unpleasant, joyful and sorrowful—work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). At times it might not look like it, nor feel like it; but then again, “we walk by faith, not by sight” or by feeling (2 Cor. 5:7). Be encouraged by these from Moses, which give us a better picture of what is.

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms
– Deuteronomy 33:27


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