The Fortune Cookie

Photo of an open fortune cookie

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Over a year ago, I opened up a fortune cookie after a Chinese lunch. It was one of those “how telling” types that seemed to fit at just the precise moment. I tucked it away in my wallet and occasionally look at it from time to time. Every time I look at it I have the same response “huh…. I’m not sure about that.” And every time it leads me down a contemplative path.

Today, I happened upon the fortune again: “Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” I want this to be true. It would balance out so many of the injustices and yuck that seem to be around. If someone could hold on to this it would make the adversity bearable. But how long do you have to wait for the benefit to come about? I would settle for “close to benefit” and be most content with it. Years after my adversity struck, I am still waiting for my benefit to shine like a beacon. I still know it is around the corner. But then I start to consider that perhaps the benefit is not to be that direct. Maybe all the wonderful help and knowledge that has stemmed from my own tragedy and adversity is the benefit?

My story, as many of you know, starts about 4 years ago, but came to a major turning point about 2 years ago. My husband had been ill and struggling to regain his up-to-that-point very healthy body. But about 2 years ago, our life took another nosedive when my husband had to have a tracheostomy and feeding tube inserted to help him breathe and regain weight. Although he is alive (something many physicians said would not come to pass after 6 months) and although he was able to return to work for a year, he is still so ill and struggles daily to breathe, walk, and many other things we all do so easily.

Through all this, my husband and I have both held the belief that there must be a reason for all this. We know that he can pull out of this and believe that he is being cured and will one day be more like his old self. Still, I wonder why it has to take so long. I feel like I have learned many lessons through this health hell journey and that my faith has grown stronger and strengthened over the years. So why still the suffering? I especially get confused when it comes to my husband. I can handle this, in part by focusing on the knowledge that this is temporary, and I can do well to balance things for our two small children, but why the long, long suffering for my husband? He too has learned a lot as a result of all this and we have grown stronger as a couple in many ways. So what else is there left to learn? Maybe we are supposed to teach others some of the lessons we have learned? I would argue that we can do that even if my husband were well. So then I return to my original question – when will our “equal or greater benefit” arrive?

Benefits have arrived in small ways. We have people helping us constantly and for that, we are most grateful. We have family staying with us for blocks of time to help in a variety of ways, friends bringing us food and walking the dog, people praying for us, and I believe our kids have learned some valuable lessons. My husband and I have had to face things that I never thought I would be facing as someone in her 40s with two small children. As a result we know more about each other in many ways and we have a stronger unity in many ways. However, if all these benefits add together to be “equal or greater” to the adversity, what does that mean? Would I agree that these benefits have equaled the adversity and by default that the adversity was bearable as a result?  I do not know.  I see the good out of the tragedy, but I do want my husband to have his health back.  I want my children to have their father back.  I want to have our family back. 

Maybe as the fortune said the adversity is a “seed” to an “equal or greater benefit.” In this sense, maybe the seed is planted and one day soon my family’s tree of victory will grow fully and many will come to bear witness to it.

English: Sheltering from the sun A large, beau...

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Your story was my story so many eons ago that I had forgotten the pain,the questions and uncertainty that these trials bring to a family. My husband started getting sick on our first year of marriage, 21 years ago, and I was pregnant with my first daughter then. One day he is ok, and then upon waking up, he cannot stand anymore and move his lower legs as if paralyzed.

    We found out he is having potassium loss due to his thyroid. But it was a difficult process, expensive and heartbreaking for me and my children.

    What was the lesson…and what was the benefit? Looking back, i understand now that once someone is sick especially our spouse, it becomes your sickness too. It is especially hard when our children are without the other parent. I learned more compassion for others and for myself. I learned that there is a God who will go with me the extra mile. I learned to search for other women who had undergone this kind of hardships and one came to mind: Laura Story, a Christian woman who made beautiful music because of her husband’s illness.

    I cannot see my life apart from God’s design now.
    ..and I keep this verse close to my heart:

    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

    Praying for you and your family Erica..don’t lose hope. This, too shall pass.
    At the end of my trial, I found my Lord….that was the lesson for me…that was my benefit.



  2. Thank you so much for this post. I have not heard of Laura Story, but I plan to seek her out and find out more. In addition to Jeremiah 29:11, I also find myself returning to this verse Matthew 17:20 “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” These two verses help me a lot.

    I am thrilled to read that your husband is well. Sometimes the exploration phase is the worst part – the not knowing. I will share your story with my husband and I hope it will bring him some inspiration as well.


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