This too shall pass

Trials and difficult circumstances are difficult to bear and one comfort that many have come to share with friends assailed by trouble is the saying: “This too shall pass.” Though the possible origins of this saying are too many and varied to review in depth, one early reference comes from the Old English poem, Deor (c. a.d. 10th century).

In the poem, the ex-minstrel Deor laments recently losing his position of poet to the king. In his lament, he compares himself to a number of heroes from Anglo-Saxon folklore who experiences some trouble or other, always ending with the saying that Deor was hopeful would apply as well to his own present difficulty: “Þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!”—which paraphrases as something like “that was overcome, this may also be” or “that passed, so too may this.”

An adequate question for the believer to ask, though, is how biblical is the comfort found in the reminder that “This too shall pass.” Really we should be focusing on the promise of what awaits us who believe. Romans 5 reminds the believer that suffering produces hope for the kingdom of God; if we simply take heart in the temporary end of a given earthly trial, we are finding comfort in the wrong thing.